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Alec Baldwin's involuntary manslaughter trial for 'Rust' death starts in Santa Fe


Alec Baldwin is in court in Santa Fe today. Jurors are hearing opening arguments and testimony in the first day of his trial for involuntary manslaughter. Baldwin has been charged in a fatal shooting on a New Mexico movie set back in the fall of 2021, and NPR's Mandalit del Barco is covering the trial. She joins us now. Hi there.


SUMMERS: So hey, for folks who don't remember all the details, could you just start by reminding us what happened in the shooting?

DEL BARCO: Sure. Well, nearly three years ago, Baldwin - Alec Baldwin - was working out a scene for the film "Rust" outside Santa Fe. He told authorities at the time he'd been practicing pulling a Colt .45 out of his jacket and pointing it toward the camera, where cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was standing. Baldwin said he was told the prop gun was cold - meaning it was not loaded with live ammunition. But a real bullet fired off, killing Hutchins and wounding the director, Joel Souza. Here's how he described it to ABC News.


ALEC BALDWIN: Well, the trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger. I was told I was handed an empty gun.

DEL BARCO: And Baldwin has maintained his innocence ever since.

SUMMERS: Right. And OK, Mandalit, what did you hear from prosecutors today?

DEL BARCO: Well, you know, prosecutors plan to argue that he did not pay attention to safety training on set by the film's armorer, who was responsible for weapons on set, and they say Baldwin didn't inspect the gun before he pointed it. Here's prosecutor Erlinda Johnson in opening arguments this morning.


ERLINDA JOHNSON: The defendant didn't do a gun safety check with that inexperienced armorer. He pointed the gun at another human being, cocked the hammer and pulled that trigger.

DEL BARCO: Now, prosecutors are also - they also questioned a Santa Fe officer who arrived on the scene, and they showed video from his lapel camera that showed medics attending to the victims, Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza. At one point on the video, someone inside the church refers to Baldwin as, quote, "the one who pulled the trigger."

SUMMERS: OK, so that's the prosecution, but what about Baldwin's attorneys?

DEL BARCO: Yeah, this morning, Attorney Alex Spiro argued that Alec Baldwin was an actor who relied on other people on the set to check the safety of the prop gun that he was using - mainly the film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. We just heard the prosecution call her inexperienced. And she's already been convicted of involuntary manslaughter in this case, and she's serving prison time.

And during his opening argument, Baldwin's lawyer also referred to the assistant director, David Halls, who admitted in court that he handed Baldwin the gun and was negligent in not checking it more closely. And Spiro also showed the jury footage from the film's rehearsals, and he played the 911 call from the script supervisor reporting the shooting as an accident.

You know, I should note that Baldwin's lawyers have tried to get this case dismissed several times. Obviously, that didn't work. We're here right now. And actually, Baldwin's team got a big win earlier this year - this week, that is - when the judge ruled that he can only be tried in his role as an actor on the film. He was also a producer on "Rust," but now prosecutors cannot argue that that meant he was even more responsible for safety on the set.

SUMMERS: OK, still a lot to learn here - but if Baldwin were to be found guilty, what could he be facing?

DEL BARCO: Well, in New Mexico, involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence of up to 18 months in prison. In court today, he was supported by his brother, Stephen, and his wife, Hilaria. But, you know, Baldwin's legal troubles have not stopped him from working in Hollywood. He's starring in a new movie called "Clear Cut." That film comes out in theaters on July 19, the same day the judge wants this trial to end. And Baldwin and his wife announced that they and their seven young children will be in an upcoming reality show on TLC.


BALDWIN: We're inviting you into our home to experience the ups and downs, the good, the bad, the wild and the crazy.

DEL BARCO: We'll see if Alec Baldwin's trial is just as chaotic as he says his home life is.

SUMMERS: That's NPRs Mandalit del Barco. Thank you.

DEL BARCO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition,, and