Alec Baldwin’s Manslaughter Trial Opens in Santa Fe; Jury Selection Underway

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Actor Alec Baldwin’s trial for involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins is set to begin Tuesday with the selection of a jury in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The proceedings will be unusual for the small city, which has seen a surge in Hollywood productions in recent years, making it an uncommon experience for those selected to serve on the jury.

If found guilty, Baldwin, 66, could face up to 18 months in prison. The incident occurred on October 21, 2021, during a rehearsal for the Western film “Rust” at Bonanza Creek Ranch, 18 miles from the courthouse. Baldwin claims the gun fired accidentally after he followed instructions to point it towards Hutchins, who was behind the camera. Unaware of a live round in the gun, Baldwin pulled back the hammer, rather than the trigger, causing the shot.

Lawyers Alex Spiro, from left, actor Alec Baldwin, Luke Nikas and Heather LeBlanc participate in a pretrial hearing in Santa Fe, N.M., on Monday, July 8, 2024. Baldwin is facing a single charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a cinematographer. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

In court on Monday, Judge Mary Marlowe Summer ruled in favor of the defense, stating that Baldwin’s role as a co-producer on “Rust” is not relevant to the trial. The judge also indicated that she does not expect the special circumstances of the celebrity trial to hinder the selection of a jury, aiming to have opening statements by Wednesday.

Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey expressed skepticism about the defense’s ability to quickly select a jury, while Baldwin’s attorney, Alex Spiro, remained confident, citing his previous experience with successful jury selection.

Dozens of prospective jurors will be questioned Tuesday morning, with cameras turned off to protect their privacy. Jurors will receive the case after a nine-day trial, and attorneys will be able to request dismissals for conflicts or other reasons. The defense is entitled to dismiss up to five jurors without explanation, while the prosecution can dismiss three. More challenges will be allowed when four alternate jurors are chosen.

The judge also granted permission to show graphic images from Hutchins’ autopsy and police lapel camera footage during her treatment.

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