Morning Word

“Rust” Jury Finds Armorer Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter

NM nuclear survivors to attend State of the Union tonight

Rust jury finds armorer guilty of involuntary manslaughter

A jury yesterday afternoon after less than three hours of deliberation found former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the Oct. 21, 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. First Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer remanded Gutierrez-Reed into custody at prosecutor Kari Morrissey’s request. Sentencing is slated to take place in April and could result in up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. The jury acquitted Gutierrez-Reed on a charge of evidence tampering that stemmed from a co-worker who alleged Gutierrez-Reed had handed her a bag possibly containing cocaine after the shooting. “We’re obviously disappointed in the verdict,” defense attorney Jason Bowles told reporters. “But we are disappointed with a lot of things that happened in that courtroom, and we plan to appeal. 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 Morrissey and Jason Lewis “for their tireless efforts to reach today’s resolution,” and thanking the jury for its service. From the start, she said, her office’s goal was to “bring justice to Halyna Hutchins’ family and friends and to ensure that those responsible for her death were held accountable.” Rust actor and producer Alec Baldwin also faces an involuntary manslaughter charge in Hutchins’ death; his trial is slated to start July 10.

Gov signs budget, tax bills

On her final day to act upon legislation, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday signed a $10.21 billion 2025 Fiscal Year budget—a 6.8% increase from last year’s budget—as well as a $1.8 billion capital outlay spending bill for projects statewide. “The budget I signed today represents a strong investment in New Mexico’s future with funding to improve literacy, help keep New Mexicans safe, expand affordable housing, raise teacher pay, assist tribal governments and much more,” the governor said in a statement. Lujan Grisham yesterday also signed an omnibus tax bill, whose amendments include new income tax credits for residents who buy electric or plug-in electric hybrid vehicles beginning this year, as well as for purchase and installation of charging units, ranging from $2,000 for a used plug-in hybrid electric vehicle to $3,000 for a new electric vehicle during the first three years. The bill also creates a credit up to $400 for residential electric vehicle charging units and up to $25,000 for commercial scale direct current charging units. “With these new credits, we address both affordability and infrastructure at the same time,” Sen. Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque, one of the credit’s sponsors, says in a statement. The tax bill also restructures the state’s personal income tax brackets, increasing the number of tax brackets from five to six, and reducing taxes in all, but “especially for those at the low- and middle-income levels,” a news release notes. A new Gross Receipts Tax deduction for childcare services also is part of the package.

Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon survivors sound alarm

The Federal Emergency Management Administration’s claims office for the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon aid distribution will hold a meeting in Las Vegas today to discuss flood insurance for residents, and yesterday announced two upcoming events “to promote services and information to the community and provide one-on-one assistance and resources to support recovery efforts.” But over the past year, Source New Mexico and ProPublica have interviewed dozens of survivors of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire and found FEMA “provided little temporary housing to victims and has so far paid a small fraction of a roughly $4 billion fund to make the community whole and restore the landscape.” In a story also carried this week by SFR, victims discuss their experiences navigating FEMA and attempting to access the congressional funds approved for their recovery. “The people from FEMA, I mean, they came in and they were all very kind,” Jane Lumsden says. “The kindness was there. They were just inept at what they were doing. It’s a year and a half later, and people haven’t gotten anything. " And navigating the system takes a toll, they say. Former local police chief Donato Sena, who died in November still waiting for money to rebuild his home, told reporters: “There is so much red tape. It just gets so complicated, so discouraging. It’s even getting between me and my wife. We made a deal between the two of us that if we argue over an issue…at the end of the day, we will give ourselves our sorries if I said anything I shouldn’t have said. That’s already helped us be able to deal with it. We’ll apologize to each other or we go for a walk, but we try not to even talk about it right after.

Biden administration supports aid for NM downwinders

Another vote on expanding the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include New Mexico’s downwinders and uranium miners, as of press time, had been set for 2:15 pm EST today, according to information provided to SFR from the offices of US Sen. Ben Ray Luján and Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-NM. Both have been pushing for the law’s expansion, and will be bringing radiation survivors to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union this evening (see brief below for more details). A statement from Biden’s office issued yesterday said the president supports extending RECA’s expiration and claims filing date, and expanding coverage to include uranium miners and other New Mexico victims. “The President believes we have a solemn obligation to address toxic exposure, especially among those who have been placed in harm’s way by the government’s actions,” the statement reads. “The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to ensure sufficient resources are made available to cover the costs of administering the expanded benefits program to ensure we can honor that obligation.” In December, an amendment that would have expanded RECA was stripped from the national defense bill, even though the US Senate had approved the measure for the first time last summer. “I am hopeful that this will pass with a bipartisan coalition of senators just as it did last year,” Luján said in a news release.

Listen up

Missing Halloween season? You’re in luck. It’s always Halloween on the Jean Cocteau Cinema’s horror film podcast Splice and Splatter. The most recent episode delves into the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, and then takes a deeper dive into George A Romero canon: Hosts Al LaFleur and Siena Sofia Bergt share the “gruesome alternate ending originally planned” for Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead and uncover Romero’s “own undead appearance” in Day of the Dead in 1985.

Oppenheimer fever

Interest in Christopher Nolan’s film Oppenheimer continues to escalate as the forthcoming March 10 Oscars ceremony approaches, with the biopic of physicist R. Robert Oppenheimer up for 13 awards and favored to win in what the Independent unfortunately calls an “Oppen and shut case.” Less punnily, National Geographic former Expeditions Editor Bill Newcott “traces Oppenheimer’s footsteps” from New Mexico to the Caribbean, starting in Los Alamos, “strolling along the tree-shaded ‘Bathtub Row’—so named because these were the few houses on campus equipped with full baths—I walk past the squat bungalow Oppenheimer shared with his wife, Kitty, and their two children. At one end of the street, I nearly brush shoulders with a pair of life-size bronze statues: Oppenheimer—resplendent in his famous wide-brimmed hat—consulting with the project’s military head, General Leslie Groves.” And so on. Newcott then visits the Trinity Site at White Sands Missile Range, normally open twice a year to the public, including on the first Saturday of April, but that date has been canceled “due to unforeseen circumstances.” The next open house is scheduled for Oct. 19. On a different note, the New York Times looks at the film’s sound design component; The Washington Post includes Oppenheimer in its story on Oscar-nominee-related recipes (the real-life Oppenheimer apparently liked nasi goreng, an Indonesian fried rice dish; and even McSweeney’s has something to say about the Oscar favorite via Pat Cassels’ satirical essay, “J. Robert Oppenheimer is Gonna Party His Ass Off at the Oscars.”

A push for justice

As Oppenheimer the film continues to draw attention, a push for New Mexico’s nuclear victims—unseen in the film—also escalates. Several of the Oppenheimer cast members have joined the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s anti-nuke campaign USA Today published an op-ed by Downwind producer Mark Shapiro that calls out that absence of recognition for the people harmed by Oppenheimer’s atomic tests, namely the New Mexico downwinders and uranium miners, who have never received any compensation and have suffered decades of cancers and other illnesses. Frontline magazine also delves into the plight of downwinders ignored in the film. One of them, Wesley Burris, was 4 years old on July 16, 1945 when the atomic blast occurred. He’s 83 now and unimpressed by Christopher Nolan’s film, which he calls “a bunch of lies. How many people died out here? They never said nothing about that.” Director Lois Lipman’s documentary First We Bombed New Mexico also features downwinders, with Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium co-founder Tina Cordova front and center. Cordova will be the guest of US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, at President Biden’s 2024 State of the Union address tonight. Luján has introduced Radiation Exposure Compensation Act legislation in every Congress since being elected in 2008 to the House to expand its coverage to include New Mexico downwinders. A vote has been scheduled for this afternoon (see brief above). “Last year, Tina Cordova was with me when President Biden voiced his strong support for passing RECA into law and providing justice for New Mexicans,” Luján says in a statement. “Generations of New Mexicans, including Tina and her family, have been impacted by the lasting impacts of the Trinity Test. It’s far past time to do right by these families who sacrificed for our national security.” To that end, US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-NM, recently presented Nolan’s film an award for “the most incomplete story.” Leger Fernández has invited Phil Harrison, (Navajo), a former uranium miner suffering from radiation exposure as her guest to the SOTU.

Make hay while the sun shines

The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day, with a high temperature near 49 degrees and north wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the morning. Tonight holds a 30% chance for precipitation via possible rain and snow showers between 8 pm and midnight, then scattered snow showers. Smoke may be visible from Santa Fe today, Santa Fe National Forest managers say, as they will begin ignitions on 2 to 3 acres of the Hyde Park pile burn project located near Black Canyon Campground in the Española, marking the end of SFNF prescribed pile burn projects for the 2023-2024 winter season.

Thanks for reading! The Word has succumbed to Oscar season madness and is now reading Print Magazine’s presentation of the Best Picture nominees as typefaces.

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.