'Rust' trial: Baldwin's culpability in shooting disputed in opening statements

Prosecutors argued Alec Baldwin behaved recklessly and "violated the cardinal rules of firearm safety" during the filming of Rust, while the defense said the actor "committed no crime" in the "unspeakable tragedy," during opening statements Wednesday in the manslaughter trial over the fatal 2021 on-set shooting.

Baldwin was practicing a cross draw in a church on the Santa Fe set of the Western when the Colt-style revolver he was holding fired a live round, fatally striking 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin was indicted by a grand jury on involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with Hutchins' death earlier this year. He pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutor Erlinda Ocampo Johnson told jurors that they will hear about "numerous breaches" of firearm safety regarding Baldwin, like putting his finger on the trigger when he was not supposed to.

"The evidence will show that that third and fatal time ... he cocks the hammer, points it straight at Miss Hutchins and fires that gun, sending that live bullet right into Miss Hutchins' body," she continued.

"After the shooting, the defendant began to claim he didn't pull the trigger. The evidence will show ... that's not possible," Johnson insisted.

Defense attorney Alex Spiro told jurors the "most critical issue" in the case is how the live bullet got on set.

"On this set, there was a real bullet, something that should never be on a movie set," Spiro said, insisting Baldwin had nothing to do with "that real bullet being brought onto that set."

He said it was the armorer's responsibility to ensure the firearm was safe.

Spiro said when the gun was handed to Baldwin, "cold gun" was announced, indicating it was safe. When it fired, everyone on set was "shocked," he said.

"Alec is startled. He immediately says, 'I didn't mean to shoot. I didn't pull the trigger,'" Spiro said.

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