Rust on Trial

As armorer faces involuntary manslaughter charges for movie-set death, some testimony focuses on Alec Baldwin’s role

As testimony for New Mexico’s case against Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed continues, DNA and fingerprint evidence presented in court suggests the blame could be spread around among multiple members on the production team.

Prosecutors contend that Gutierrez-Reed, who faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, was negligent in her duty to ensure prop guns and ammunition on the set were safe. Rather than using dummy ammunition as expected, she allegedly loaded a live round into the Colt-.45 revolver used by actor and producer Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal.

Baldwin maintains he did not pull the trigger before the weapon discharged, but also faces an involuntary manslaughter charge in a separate case scheduled for trial beginning July 9. Nonetheless, several hours of witness testimony have already focused on forensic analysis of the weapon Baldwin held, and his attorneys’ suggestion that the gun may have been damaged in some way.

In a status conference last week, Baldwin’s attorneys pressed for a speedy trial and indicated the state had not followed previous judge Glenn Ellington’s jury instructions when it convened the grand jury that indicted Baldwin a second time. Lawyers for the Rust actor have raised ongoing objections to the state’s handling of the case under District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, who stepped down and brought on Special Prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis in March of 2023 after a initial special prosecutor withdrew.

Investigators sent evidence to the FBI for analysis, and some of the agency’s personnel have already taken the stand.

Jerrilyn Conway, an FBI forensics and DNA examiner, recounted to jurors on Feb. 26 how, as a case manager, she reviewed serology and DNA testing of the revolver. The test, completed by a team of biologists in the FBI lab, typically refers to the identification of body fluid such as blood on items of evidence, she said.

Biologists used a reference sample from Gutierrez-Reed, Baldwin, Props Master Sarah Zachry and First Assistant Director David Halls to look for similarities in DNA between the samples and residue on the tested item. The comparison for Gutierrez-Reed, she said, was inconclusive.

However, the test did indicate Baldwin as a likely contributor, which stands to reason because he’s never contested that he held the weapon.

Later that day, however, another forensics professional said it’s clear to her Gutierrez-Reed touched a box of ammunition that was labeled as containing only dummy rounds but actually contained a live round as well.

Shannon Prince, a physical scientist forensic examiner with the FBI, testified on Feb. 26—the third day of the trial following jury selection—and cited the difficulty of finding conclusive evidence on props like those used on the Rust set.

“There’s a very low chance of getting prints on firearms or ammunition based on size, texture and overhandling of those items,” Prince told jurors.

As a physical scientist forensic examiner with more than 19 years of experience in her field, however, she told jurors she developed 10 latent fingerprints on a box labeled “45 Long Colt Dummies” discovered in a prop truck on the set.

Law enforcement interviewed Seth Kenney, who supplied ammunition and guns for the film from his company PDQ Arm and Prop. Investigators also executed a search warrant on his business, but he faces no charges in the case.

Prince said two of the prints she discovered belonged to Gutierrez-Reed, while the remaining prints couldn’t be linked to Halls, Zachry or Baldwin.

Halls, who signed a plea agreement admitting to negligence use of a deadly weapon early in the investigation process, and Zachry are expected to testify on behalf of the state in Gutierrez-Reed’s case, as is Kenney.

But the fingerprint evidence also introduced some doubt into the state’s case. Tests on a second box of dummy rounds turned up three latent fingerprints. Prince said she was able to exclude Baldwin and Zachry, yet Halls and Gutierrez-Reed “were inconclusively compared to these prints.”

“There are several circumstances where you can touch an item and not leave a latent print,” she noted, such as wearing gloves; if there’s too much sweat or too little sweat on the hand; or if a surface may be dirty or textured. “There’s also environmental conditions…that could play a factor: wind or rain.”

Ross Addiego, a member of the set’s camera crew, also testified about the responsibilities of an armorer based on his 30 years in the industry and recounted his experience within the church when the shooting occurred. He stood next to Director Joel Souza and Hutchins as the camera crew framed a shot where Baldwin was supposed to pull the Colt from a holster.

Addiego told the jury he recalled hearing the word “cold,” a typical indication that the gun on set is safe and ready to use for a scene. However, he added that he didn’t remember seeing Gutierrez-Reed on set during the “95% or more” of takes for the movie he was present for, something that was “unusual” to him.

“In my experience the armorer is never out of eyesight of whatever weapons and ammo they are in charge of,” he said, but “it was not the case” with Rust.

Addiego also told jurors about several instances in which guns accidentally discharged during the less than two weeks of filming for Rust, which he complained about to higher ups in production in the early stage of filming. He filed a civil lawsuit against the Rust production company arguing it failed to follow industry safety protocol.

District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer expects the trial to last until March 8. If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Gutierrez-Reed faces up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Prosecutors added the evidence tampering charge because another person from the movie production claims Gutierrez-Reed handed off suspected narcotics before investigators questioned her.

As of press time, 17 witnesses had testified for the state and prosecutors anticipated as many as 29 more taking the stand before their arguments are over. Watch a livestream of the trial every day at

Tuesday’s five witnesses included Lucien Haag, owner of an Arizona-based consulting firm for forensic science services; Heather Jarrell, the chief medical examiner at the Office of the Medical Investigator; Corporal Alexandra Hancock, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department lead investigator in the case. Testimony lasted over eight hours.

Haag reviewed the revolver used in the shooting and found it to be in working order. Given it is a single-action revolver, he said, the trigger does only does one thing: “It fires the gun.”

Jarrell, who classified the cause of death as an accidental gunshot wound, detailed to jurors the autopsy report which she completed on Hutchins’ body with photo evidence introduced by the prosecutors. The projectile entered Hutchins’ right armpit and exited through her back, suffering injuries to her internal organs including her right lung and chest cavity.

Hancock told jurors live ammunition found on the set did not match live ammunition from PDQ Arm and Prop, which led investigators to believe he was not the source of the live bullet that ended up in the revolver. She also added that she conducted two interviews with Gutierrez-Reed following the shooting. In video footage of those conversations, Gutierrez-Reed told investigators she had brought two boxes of dummy rounds from a different set and mentioned “loose dummies” at the bottom of her bag. Hancock’s testimony will continue tomorrow morning at 8:30am.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.