Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin, who's at the centre of the fatal shooting trial on the sets of his upcoming movie 'Rust'.
Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin. Image Credit: AP

The woman who was overseeing the use of weapons on the movie set where Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer agreed on Aug. 3 to forgo a preliminary hearing that would have provided court testimony from dozens of people, including eyewitnesses to the shooting.

Arizona-based armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, in a court filing, waived her right to a courtroom review of evidence on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the 2021 shooting of Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Western movie ‘Rust’. Gutierrez-Reed also waived her right to a review of charges by a grand jury.

Defence attorney Jason Bowles has described Hutchins’ death on Oct. 21, 2021, as a tragic accident and says that Gutierrez-Reed committed no crime. Gutierrez-Reed has not entered a plea to charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence-tampering. If convicted, she faces up to three years in prison.

‘Rust’ safety coordinator and assistant director David Halls has pleaded no contest to a charge of unsafe handling of a firearm and received a suspended sentence of six months’ probation.

In April, prosecutors dropped charges against Baldwin, who was pointing a gun at Hutchins when it went off, killing her and injuring director Joel Souza.

That left Gutierrez-Reed as the sole remaining defendant.

Baldwin has said the gun fired accidentally after he followed instructions to point it toward Hutchins, who was behind the camera. He said he pulled back the hammer — but not the trigger — and the gun fired.

Prosecutors have reserved the right to refile charges against Baldwin and commissioned additional weapons testing to investigate whether the gun’s hammer was intentionally modified.

Authorities have not fully explained how live ammunition found its way onto the film set and into the .45-calibre revolver.

Authorities say Gutierrez-Reed loaded the gun before a lunch break with what should have been inert dummy ammunition. Prosecutors say the armourer was negligent amid a breakdown of safety protocols as cast and crew began rehearsing with the weapon — containing a live round — in the early afternoon.

Prosecutors have recently filed the evidence-tampering charge on allegations that Gutierrez-Reed handed off a small bag of illegal substances to a colleague amid police interviews on the day of the shooting.

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A portrait of Halyna Hutchins Image Credit: AP

Bowles says prosecutors are engaged in “character assassination”. Gutierrez-Reed will undergo regular drug testing at her own expense under new terms of pretrial release approved Thursday by a New Mexico judge.

The filming of ‘Rust’ resumed in April in Montana under an agreement with the cinematographer’s husband, Matthew Hutchins, that makes him an executive producer.

Rust Movie Productions, the company that originally bankrolled the movie, has paid a $100,000 (Dh367,300) fine to New Mexico workplace safety regulators who issued a scathing narrative of “serious”, but not wilful, safety failures, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set before the fatal shooting.

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The sets of the movie 'Rust', where the shooting took place. Image Credit: AP

With major productions on hold during the Hollywood writers and actor strikes, no weapons of any kind are being used on those sets for the time being.

Since the fatal shooting on ‘Rust’, there has been a significant industry shift toward replacing real guns that fire blanks with replicas and digital-effects gunfire. But moves that some supported — including gun bans via legislation, studio requirements or union demands — have not happened.