Alec Baldwin manslaughter trial revolves around Wild West gun

ROSS D. FRANKLIN/ POOL/ AFP

The inner workings of a Colt .45 "Peacemaker" revolver, a symbol of the American Wild West, have become the focus of Alec Baldwin's trial for the 2021 fatal shooting of "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a New Mexico movie set.

Jury selection was set to begin on Tuesday nearly three years after Baldwin was directed to point his gun at Hutchins as she set up a camera shot inside a movie-set church about 20 miles southwest of Santa Fe.

Hutchin's 2021 death was Hollywood's first on-set shooting fatality in three decades and momentarily sparked calls to end the widespread use of real firearms on movie sets.

Baldwin's involuntary manslaughter trial in a modern, brown-stucco courthouse in downtown Santa Fe is expected to last eight days and run to July 19.

The 30 Rock actor could be imprisoned for up to 18 months if found guilty.

In March, Rust armourer Hannah Gutierrez, the set employee in charge of firearm safety, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by a Santa Fe, New Mexico, jury for mistakenly loading a live round into Baldwin's gun. Gutierrez received the maximum 18-month sentence.

Legal analysts and firearms specialists had long expected Baldwin's case to hinge on whether he should have inspected the gun after he was told it was "cold," an industry term meaning it was empty or contained inert, dummy rounds.

But in a pivotal interview in December 2021, Baldwin told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos he did not pull the trigger, sending prosecutors and defense lawyers into the world of forensic firearms testing.

Baldwin, 66, said he cocked the reproduction 1873 Single Action Army pistol before it fired a live round that killed the rising-star cinematographer and wounded director Joel Souza.

Santa Fe police set out to test Baldwin's claims. An FBI examination found the gun was worked normally and would not fire at full cock without the trigger pulled. State prosecutors filed charges thereafter, alleging Baldwin was lying about the trigger.

Baldwin's legal team last year countered with photographic evidence the Italian-made Pietta gun's full-cock notch had been filed down, making it easier to fire. That allowed a mechanical failure or "accidental discharge" without a trigger pull, they said.

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