“Rust” Armorer Guilty

Jurors deliberate for less than three hours before finding Hannah Gutierrez-Reed guilty of involuntary manslaughter

Jurors found Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed guilty of involuntary manslaughter for her role in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, but not guilty of evidence tampering. The verdict came after a 10-day trial, which concluded after 1 pm Wednesday.

Less than three hours later, the 12 jurors had returned to the courtroom.

Officers took Gutierrez-Reed into custody immediately following the verdict and she was later booked into the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center. Sentencing is slated to take place in April and could result in up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Gutierrez-Reed’s defense attorney Jason Bowles issued a brief statement to reporters outside the courthouse.

“We’re obviously disappointed in the verdict. But are disappointed with a lot of things that happened in that courtroom, and we plan to appeal,” he said. “We believe we have got a number of issues that we will be asserting.”

First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies released a statement thanking special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis “for their tireless efforts to reach today’s resolution,” and thanking the jury for its service.

“From the outset of this case, the FJDA’s sole pursuits were to bring justice to Halyna Hutchins’ family and friends and to ensure that those responsible for her death were held accountable,” the statement read. “In order to do so, the prosecution team exhausted investigative efforts which proved pivotal to successfully moving forward with this tragic and entirely preventable case.”

Carmack-Altwies foreshadowed the forthcoming trial for Alec Bladwin, also facing an involuntary manslaughter charge in the Oct. 21, 2021 shooting, noting she “supports the special prosecutors as they continue to fight for justice in this matter.”

Prosecutors contended Gutierrez-Reed was negligent in her duty to ensure the safe use of prop guns and ammunition on the Rust set. Rather than using dummy ammunition as expected, she loaded a live round into the Colt-.45 revolver used by actor and producer Baldwin in the incident. Baldwin maintains he did not pull the trigger before the weapon discharged, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. Baldwin’s trial in the same courthouse is slated to begin July 10.

First Judicial District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer told jurors they could choose to not convict Gutierrez-Reed of involuntary manslaughter and instead consider a reduced charge for   negligent use of a deadly weapon.

Before the verdict, attorneys debated culpability in closing arguments.

Morrissey began her statements with a photo of Hutchins.

“I want to start by just generally outlining, Hannah Gutierrez failed to maintain firearm safety. If we fail to do something that we should do and that failure results in someone’s death, that too can be willful,” she said. “You can’t tell a dummy round by simply spinning a cylinder unless they are dummies without primers. Six dummy rounds without primers were not loaded into that weapon. Interestingly though, she had five dummy rounds without primers in her pocket…And she didn’t use them.”

Morrissey told jurors Gutierrez-Reed exhibited “constant, neverending safety failures” during her time on the Rust set, even prior to the day of the incident. The prosecutor introduced video evidence from state witnesses that showed negligent use of firearms by actors between scenes while Gutierrez-Reed was present. She also presented photo evidence of what she suspected to be live ammunition on the set days before PDQ Arm and Prop owner Seth Kenney, who supplied weapons and ammunition for the movie, even had dummy Colt-.45 rounds in his possession.

Kenney told jurors during his testimony March 4 that he was in Texas working on another movie and did not deliver dummy rounds for the revolver to props master Sarah Zachry—who also testified in the trial—until Oct. 12.

The special prosecutor also touched on the evidence tampering charge, for which the state relied on a single witness. Rebecca Smith, who worked in key craft services on Rust, alleged the armorer handed off a bag of suspected narcotics shortly after learning that Hutchins died from the gunshot wound.

“In the mind of Hannah Gutierrez, this investigation [became larger] because the difference between shooting someone and them living and shooting someone and them dying is a big difference,” she said. “[Smith has] used cocaine. She knows what it looks like. She knows how it’s packaged…I don’t have to prove to you by some scientific drug test…it’s gone. That’s the point of the charge.”

But Bowles argued the state had not proven the charge, and the jury ultimately agreed.

Bowles opened his closing arguments with a focus on reasonable doubt, saying investigators botched the case when they waited a month to execute a search warrant of Kenney’s business, did not investigate the rounds’ manufacturer Joe Swanson and did not follow up on when Zachry told them she discarded ammunition following the on-set shooting.

“It is extremely important that the government rule out every reasonable doubt in this case,” Bowles said. “If we have any reasonable doubt, we cannot convict people in this country.”

He later noted that Zachry entered into an immunity agreement with prosecutors to avoid charges under the stipulation that she testified against Gutierrez-Reed.

“If Miss Zachry doesn’t tell the version of the truth that is the government’s, she could be prosecuted,” Bowles said.

Bowles also used reasonable doubt to argue why jurors should not convict Gutierrez-Reed of evidence tampering, saying Smith’s claim was only a guess as to what the substance could’ve been and furthermore, the state had “to prove first that it was evidence.”

“It’s not enough to say it’s probably something on a criminal standard. We don’t even know this happened,” Bowles said. “They have a burden to rule out beyond a reasonable doubt that it couldn’t be something else.”

The government also has to prove proximate cause, he added, or that the death was a foreseeable result. Bowles argued investigators focused solely on Gutierrez-Reed and “rushed judgment…from the very beginning.” Furthermore, he alleged other Rust cast and crew used the armorer as “a convenient fall person.”

He concluded his argument saying that there was no way Gutierrez-Reed could’ve known “that live rounds were going to be on that set,” because nobody did.

“The truth is important because justice for Halyna does not mean injustice for Hannah. It does not mean they get to steamroll her and spin their version of facts and they get to call it truth, because that’s not truth,” Bowles said. “Truth is bringing you everything they can. Justice is bringing you everything they can.”

Gutierrez-Reed did not take the stand.

The trial drew national and international media to Santa Fe, with outlets including the New York Times, Variety, NBC, CBS and others. Court TV livestreamed the proceedings.

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