Explained: What we know so far about the ‘Rust’ case

It has been a little over a year since cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died on the sets of ‘Rust’ when a prop gun misfired. On Thursday, New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies will announce whether charges will be pressed in the case. There will be no press conference regarding the announcement. “Regardless of the District Attorney’s decision, the announcement will be a solemn occasion, made in a manner keeping with the office’s commitment to upholding the integrity of the judicial process and respecting the victim’s family,” Heather Brewer, spokesperson for the office of the First Judicial District Attorney said in a statement. 

Alec Baldwin was practising a scene on October 21, 2021, on the sets of ‘Rust’ which was Baldwin’s passion project. The crew along with the actor was rehearsing in a small church on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set. Baldwin says he did not pull the trigger. As the gun discharged, it left Hutchings dead and Joel Souza injured.  The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department has spent investigating the case for the past year and understands how live rounds made it to the movie set in the first place. Initial investigations revealed that only armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and assistant director Dave Halls had handled the gun on the said day before the fatal accident. 

So should Baldwin be implicated in Hutchins’ death? Or would the court press charges on Dave Halls and Hannah Gutierrez Reed for not adhering to safety measures? The case has over the past few months become more complex than what appeared. 

Here’s what we know so far: 

What happened on the sets of ‘Rust’

October 21, 2021 was the twelfth day of filming of the Indie-film ‘Rust’. The cast and crew were rehearsing a gunfight scene inside a church at the Bonanza Creek Ranch. Firearms and ammunition were retrieved from a locked safe and Hannah had placed three guns used as props on a cart. One was a plastic gun, another modified weapon and a solid frame .45 Colt revolver replica made by Pietta which was ultimately fired accidentally by Baldwin. 

Reports stated that a new box of ammunition had arrived from an uncertain source earlier that morning. 

Baldwin was reportedly handed the gun by assistant director Halls who took it from the prop cart and handed it to the actor. The scene involved Baldwin’s character removing a gun from its holster and pointing it toward the camera. Halls reportedly had mentioned to Baldwin that it was a cold gun. When Baldwin removed the gun from the holster, B-camera operator Reid Russel, director Joel Souza and Hutchins were huddled behind the monitor position about two feet away from where the shot was filed. 

The projectile flew towards the three behind the monitor, striking Hutchins in the chest and Souza in the shoulder. Hutchins was flown by helicopter to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where she was pronounced dead. Souza was treated by EMS and transported by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, where he was admitted and released by the following morning.

Legal case against Alec Baldwin and crew of ‘Rust’

Multiple lawsuits have been filed following the incident. A month after the incident which led to Hutchins’ death, the film’s gaffer Serge Svetnoy filed a lawsuit against the production for general negligence. The same month, script supervisor Mamie Michell claimed that the script did not require discharging of a firearm, raising questions about Baldwin’s rehearsing the scene. On January 23, 2022, Baldwin and other producers filed a memorandum that asked a California judge to dismiss the November 17, 2021 lawsuit by Mitchell.

In January 2022, Gutierrez-Reed filed a lawsuit against armourer Seth Kennedy and his company PDQ Arm and prop for providing live rounds on set. Lawsuits were also filed against the crew for negligence on set. On February 15, Hutchins’s family filed a wrongful death suit against Baldwin, Halls, , Gutierrez-Reed, prop master Sarah Zachry, and others as defendants and sought unspecified damages. 

In October 2022, the Hutchins family settled the lawsuit. 

Filming of ‘Rust’ to resume 

It was announced in late 2022 that the filming of ‘Rust’ was to resume in January with Matthew Hutchins as an executive producer. “The production of ‘Rust’ will not return to New Mexico,” Melina Spadone, attorney for the film told news channels. “The production is considering other locations, including in California, but no decisions have been made.”

It isn’t yet clear if Baldwin would rejoin the production although it is being claimed that the original principal players would resume their work on the project. 

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