Who is who in Alec Baldwin's 'Rust' shooting trial

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) -Nineteen months after charges were first filed against actor Alec Baldwin over the death of "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins the case reaches a climax this week when the actor faces a criminal manslaughter trial in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The following are key individuals:


The Ukrainian director of photography grew up on a Soviet naval base, watching Russian films and dreaming of making a documentary on nuclear submarines. Known for her passion, creativity and command on over 30 productions, Hutchins was named one of the American Society of Cinematographer's rising stars of 2019 in Los Angeles. She was shot from less than four feet by a .45 caliber bullet fired from Baldwin's gun as they set up a camera angle on the New Mexico set. She left behind her husband Matt Hutchins, young son Andros and parents and a sister in Kyiv.


The son of a high school shooting coach, Alec Baldwin prides himself on his knowledge of guns and ability to handle them safely. Those skills go on trial when a jury will judge Baldwin's argument he did not pull the trigger of the revolver that fired the fatal round. Responding to the statement on Fox News, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza, a defense witness, said "guns don’t just go off." Baldwin's statement also prompted prosecutors to file charges.


Twenty-four at the time of the shooting, the rookie weapons handler was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in March for loading the live round that killed Hutchins. Live rounds are banned from movie sets and prosecutors accused Gutierrez of inadvertently bringing six .45 caliber Colt rounds onto the production and mixing them with dummies, an accusation she denied. At trial, her lawyer unsuccessfully tried to blame a breakdown in firearms safety protocol on Baldwin's rushing and bossing of the crew during filming, as well as his "off script" use of guns.


The veteran first assistant director is the only person in the case to take a plea deal from prosecutors. Halls, a witness at Baldwin's trial, has stood by the actor and taken the blame for not checking the rounds in his gun.


A veteran Albuquerque, New Mexico, defense lawyer, Kari Morrissey successfully went on the attack as New Mexico's lead special prosecutor at Gutierrez's trial. She and fellow special prosecutor Erlinda Johnson now face Baldwin's large legal team led by New York City attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro.


The relatively inexperienced FBI firearms specialist performed his first "mallet" test outside training when he hit the hammer of Baldwin's gun to make it fire without pulling the trigger, destroying integral components of the weapon.

Baldwin's lawyers will grill Ziegler on the damage he caused and his inability to say whether its trigger and hammer were modified to allow it to fire without a trigger pull.


An independent firearms expert paid by the state of New Mexico to examine Baldwin's gun, Lucien Haag last year issued a report confirming Ziegler's findings that the revolver would not fire without the trigger being pulled.

Baldwin's defense team will try to sow doubt among the jury about Haag's testing, given the gun was broken when he got it from the FBI and he made what they call contradictory statements on the origin of marks on it.


The state's movie set firearms safety expert told prosecutors in April 2023 that the full-cock notch of Baldwin's gun appeared to have been filed down, based on pictures of the revolver's hammer. He said it was unclear why the modification was made, who did it and it remained to be seen whether it compromised the safety of the gun. Four months later Haag said the notch was rounded-off by FBI testing.

Baldwin's legal team will try to use Carpenter's comments, including his statement at Gutierrez's trial that it is "rare" for actors to inspect guns after they are checked by safety experts, to show contradictions in testimony from state firearms experts and prosecutors' court filings.

(Reporting By Andrew Hay; editing by Donna Bryson and Aurora Ellis)