Will Rust Armorer Testify in Baldwin's Trial? Legal Expert Weighs In

Rust armorer's legal battles cast shadow over trial

by Zain ul Abedin
Will Rust Armorer Testify in Baldwin's Trial? Legal Expert Weighs In
© Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer on the "Rust" film set, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison following her involvement in the tragic accidental shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in New Mexico back in 2021.

Despite her incarceration, she remains a key figure in the forthcoming involuntary manslaughter trial of actor and producer Alec Baldwin, scheduled for July. Baldwin, 66, who was handling the prop gun that discharged and resulted in Hutchins' death and the wounding of director Joel Souza, was indicted earlier this year.

As he prepares for his trial, where he could face a similar sentence, Gutierrez-Reed's potential testimony looms large. Although she did not testify in her own trial, her name surfaced on a February witness list from the prosecution, suggesting she might yet play a role in Baldwin’s legal proceedings.

The situation took a contentious turn when Gutierrez-Reed, in a phone conversation from prison with her mother, declared her refusal to testify if subpoenaed, expressing frustration over Baldwin's absence at her trial. This sentiment was detailed in court documents released by prosecutors Kari T.

Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis, highlighting the armorer’s reluctance to participate further.

Testimony Tensions Rise

Legal experts weigh in on the complexity of the situation. Emily D. Baker, a former L.A. Deputy District Attorney and now a legal analyst not directly involved in the case, explained that despite Gutierrez-Reed's wishes, she could be compelled to testify.

"Transportation from prison is possible if required for her testimony," Baker noted. Moreover, while Gutierrez-Reed’s defense team has signaled plans to appeal both the judgment and sentence, Baker pointed out that Gutierrez-Reed could still invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination if her appeal remains unresolved.

Jason Bowles, representing Gutierrez-Reed, remains non-committal on whether his client would plead the Fifth, adding a layer of strategic ambiguity to the prosecution’s potential decisions. "Her prior statements could become pivotal if she chooses not to testify," Baker added, underscoring the tactical considerations at play.

The case against Baldwin hinges significantly on whether he was responsible for pulling the trigger of the prop gun, a claim he has consistently denied. A forensic analysis led by experts Lucien Haag and Mike Haag, commissioned by the State of New Mexico, contradicts Baldwin’s assertions, concluding that the gun’s trigger had to have been engaged to release the hammer and cause the discharge.