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“Rust” Heard ‘Round the World

Highlights from CourtTV’s livestream commentary in the ongoing case against movie-set armorer

Prosecutors rested on March 4 after seven full days of testimony against former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed for her role in the 2021 shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The next day, defense attorneys began their arguments.

Special Prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis contend Gutierrez-Reed was negligent in her responsibility to ensure prop guns and ammunition used on set were safe, plus the state added an evidence-tampering charge because another person from the movie production claims Gutierrez-Reed handed off suspected narcotics.

Defense attorneys counter that Gutierrez-Reed was working in a chaotic situation and Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office investigators and the FBI botched the case. If convicted of both charges, she could receive up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

While the length of the high-stakes trial isn’t uncommon, the fact that it’s been livestreamed on Court TV’s YouTube channel from gavel to gavel makes it novel for Santa Fe’s First Judicial District Court. For those watching along, the commentary from other viewers provides an experience that blurs the line between analysis and entertainment.

CourtTV launched in the early 1990s, making early waves with its coverage of the Menéndez brothers, found guilty of killing their parents in 1994, and the OJ Simpson trial in 1995. The public fascination with the wheels of justice—or at least the horrors of the day—persists.

In 2022, people watched, commented on and generated memes from Johnny Depp’s defamation case trial against Amber Heard. As the frenzy reached New Mexico for the Rust trial, so far, an average of 118,000 people have tuned in to daily livestream videos of court proceedings for Gutierrez-Reed, with even more publicity expected when actor and producer Alec Baldwin’s trial begins over the same incident this summer.

Baldwin maintains he did not pull the trigger before the Colt-.45 revolver discharged, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. Court TV viewers who mostly use anonymized handles have weighed in on Baldwin’s legal prospects, along with myriad facets of the case and the players. Here are some highlights from their commentary:

READY FOR THEIR CLOSEUPS

Cameras positioned on the defense table capture every blink of the eye by Gutierrez-Reed, and viewers didn’t spare her, or any other court participants, in their analysis. “I’m here for the hair and make-up,” wrote MerryBee on Day 6.

Though she’s spent the duration of the trial next to Gutierrez-Reed at the defense table, paralegal Carmella Sisneros found herself at the center of criticism for her flashy court attire and makeup.

“Who is that Elvira cosplayer next to Hannah?,” viewer Rainy asked as the camera showed Sisneros.

When she sported a pair of glasses the following day, the comments section remained at odds.

“She’s really something over there with those foolish lashes. They must rub on the new specs,” another person wrote.

Others touched on Morrissey, who punctuates statements to the jury and questions to witnesses by raising and lowering her own glasses repeatedly. “Oh Lord…the glasses on/off again,” wrote Violet Hastings, and “A bit annoying with her glasses, but doing a good job…,” another comment read.

Though she appeared for court with styled brown hair, spectators tag-teamed the defendant’s appearance in footage from her initial interview with investigators when Gutierrez-Reed sported a wild purple and yellow ‘do.

When user “embarrassingstories” commented, “The purple hair did her no favors. Just saying,” David M. swiftly followed up with a zinger: “Whoever did Hannahs hair on set is guilty !!!”

DRUGS, GUNS AND MONEY

The comments section went wild during testimony related to improper use of weapons and ammunition.

“That ain’t your daddy’s shotgun cowboy,” one viewer wrote as Morrissey showed footage from the set that demonstrated mishandling of firearms even prior to the day of the shooting.

When Rust line producer Gabrielle Pickle testified during Day 5, others made reference to Gutierrez-Reed’s evidence tampering charge. “Coke no sleep and guns sounds bad,” wrote a person with the handle Hunt, and “‘Line pruducer’ is going to be Hannah’s next profession,” wrote Don Moore.

“We are all guilty for funding the liberal movie industry. BOYCOTT MOVIES NOW,” Howard Edward wrote.

TESTING THE TESTIMONY

Spectators also spent time comparing witnesses’ testimony to one another, and speculating on validity. One person referenced Santa Fe Countt Detective Alexandra Hancock—the lead investigator in the case—while praising armorer Bryan Carpenter’s testimony.

“The best witness yet! He knows his stuff, is objective, fair, and, by all accounts, honest,” viewer Melinda commented. “He is not biased like yesterday’s plumpy lips.”

Cross examination from defense attorney Jason Bowles also received vitriol—and a suggestion for a game: “Drink every time Mr. Clean says OK,” Teance Blackburn commented, making reference to Bowles’ bald head during Carpenter’s time on the stand. Hancock’s testimony also accompanied hours of interrogation video captured by the sheriff’s department, including footage of Gutierrez-Reed removing ammunition from her pockets, prompting one commenter to later posit: “Sir, do you generally carry rounds in your MaryKaye bag?” and another to write “‘I don’t know if I am a certified firearms instructor or not’ - Hannah.”

BLASTING BALDWIN

Baldwin has not been in the courtroom, but has been hyper-present in testimony and attorney questions.

“Sadly I think Baldwin is getting away with murder 1...this was no accident,” wrote one person on Day 3. Another replied, “IMO - Baldwin, HGR and the Production company all share the guilt.”

“Not an accident. He intentionally pointed the gun and pulled the trigger like pranks with guns are okay. It’s not okay,” wrote someone identified as “Whoopsy Daisy.”

When prosecutors showed footage of the Rust star pressuring Gutierrez-Reed to load a weapon rapidly before a scene on Day 6 of court proceedings, judgment and comedy found an equal playing field.

“Rushing to load from a smorgasbord of fanny pack ammo is super negligent,” wrote Mike.

Others speculated on his fate: “Alec booking a spot on next Oceangate submersible,” wrote Shannon[igains], and “Free advice for Mr Baldwin: do not take the stand, ever,” another viewer chimed in.

ON NEW MEXICO TIME

From a juror who was late to Day 1 to the number or length of breaks Marlowe Sommer ordered throughout the trial, viewers have had plenty to say about the pace of the trial.

“This must be the pre-break break,” a viewer commented as Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer called for what’s become a routine morning bathroom break.

A viewer with the handle Paro Netti chimed in the following day at the same time, saying “I think it’s time for the judge to take a break and light the first Cohiba of the day.”

Marlowe Sommer said Tuesday afternoon she expects closing arguments to begin Wednesday morning.

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