‘Rust’ Armorer Trial Opens With Defense Calling Hannah Gutierrez-Reed a ‘Scapegoat’: ‘Least Powerful Person’ on Set

“They are trying to blame it all on Hannah,” attorney Jason Bowles says, “because she is an easy target”

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed sits with her attorney Jason Bowles.

The manslaughter trial of “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed began Thursday in New Mexico with opening statements before a Santa Fe jury that will determine whether the 24-year-old bears responsibility in the 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Prosecutor Jason Lewis asserted that Gutierrez-Reed’s “unprofessional and sloppy” conduct was a contributing factor, saying that her “failure to adhere to safety protocols directly contributed to the loss of Halyna Hutchins,” according to multiple media reports.

Lewis said Gutierrez-Reed failed twice to properly check ammunition loaded into the replica Colt .45 wielded that October day by Alec Baldwin, who is expected to also stand trial later this summer on separate manslaughter charges.

“The defendant treated safety protocols as if they were optional rather than as if people’s lives counted on her doing her job correctly,” Lewis said, adding later: “We intend to call several witnesses to give testimony that she regularly failed to properly carry out her duties as an armorer.”

Gutierrez-Reed faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering, with a potential prison sentence of up to three years.

During his turn, Gutierrez-Reed’s defense lawyer Jason Bowles laid the blame on Baldwin, the low-budget Western film’s producer and star. It was Baldwin, he argued, who “really controlled the set.”

“They are trying to blame it all on Hannah,” Bowles said, “because she is an easy target – the least powerful person on that set.”

The trial, expected to last at least two weeks, will feature key witnesses including Joel Souza, the film’s director who was also injured in the shooting, and David Halls, the first assistant director.

Bowles emphasized Gutierrez-Reed’s limited experience and the demands placed on her during production, as well as broader safety and managerial issues brought to light even before Hutchins’ death. He called his client a “scapegoat,” asserting that the accidental shooting does not necessarily imply criminal intent.

The prosecution argued that Gutierrez-Reed was knowingly in possession of live rounds in addition to the dummy rounds used during production. Bowles countered by saying that “you cannot tell a live round from a dummy by a picture.”

He also argued that Gutierrez-Reed was unfairly targeted after refusing a plea deal, saying her refusal not to accept was based on principles of truth and justice, rather than an attempt to evade responsibility.

“Ms. Gutierrez-Reed has maintained her innocence from the beginning,” Bowles said. “She refused to accept a plea deal because she believes in her innocence and is determined to clear her name.”

Bowles stressed that Gutierrez-Reed had received thorough training and guidance from her father, an esteemed Hollywood armorer, underscoring her commitment to safety on set.

State lawyers did not bring up allegations of Gutierrez-Reed being hungover or using marijuana on set, which were raised in pretrial filings. However, those issues could come up later at trial.

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