Jury selection complete for Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial

Sixteen jurors were seated Tuesday for Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial in New Mexico, where opening statements are set to start Wednesday.

Five men and 11 women were chosen by Santa Fe County special prosecutors and the actor’s team of defence attorneys. Twelve will be designated as the jury and four as alternates by the court, only after they hear the case.

They’ll be tasked with deciding whether Baldwin committed the felony when, during a rehearsal in October 2021, a revolver went off while he was pointing it at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza. They were on the set of the Western film Rust, at Bonanza Creek Ranch some 29 kilometres from where the trial is being held.

The selection got off to a slow start Tuesday with a delay of over two hours due to technical problems, but the panel was selected in a single day, as expected.

When Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer asked the pool of 70 possible jurors if they were familiar with the case, all but two raised their hands to indicate they were.

Two others indicated they would not be able to be fair and impartial and were excused.

WATCH | Video released from Rust on-set shooting: 

Video released from Baldwin shooting on Rust movie set

The sheriff’s office of Santa Fe County, N.M., has released officer body camera footage of the aftermath of the deadly shooting on the set of the film Rust. Video of actor Alec Baldwin rehearsing with his gun has also been released.

Baldwin, 66, could get up to 18 months in prison if the jurors unanimously find him guilty. 

Baldwin, the star of 30 Rock and The Hunt for Red October and a major Hollywood figure for 35 years, sat in the courtroom with a team of four of his lawyers, dressed in a grey suit, dark tie, white shirt with glasses and neatly combed hair.

His wife, Hilaria, and his brother, The Usual Suspects actor Stephen, were seated in the back of the courtroom.

Potential jurors questioned

Under questioning from prosecutor Kari Morrissey, a potential juror said she hates firearms, but many others acknowledged owning them and few people expressed strong opinions about guns.

Baldwin’s lawyer Alex Spiro in his questioning highlighted the gravity of the situation — “Obviously, someone lost their life” — and asked jurors to come forward with any reservations about their own ability to be fair and impartial.

“Does anyone have that view, even in the slightest?” Spiro asked the group.

A woman leans over while gesturing with her hands.
Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey speaks during a pretrial hearing for Alec Baldwin on July 8, in Santa Fe, N.M. The actor’s involuntary manslaughter trial began July 9 with jury selection. (Ross D. Franklin/The Associated Press)

He asked them to come forward if they’d shared opinions about the case online. None did.

Spiro asked if any of them had strong opinions on gun safety, and whether a person can rely on an expert to ensure the safety of a gun, not just themselves.

Several said they always treat a gun as if it were loaded. One man said he was taught to respect and treat guns the same way, but also deferred to an instructor during instruction he got for a concealed-carry permit.

Spiro also asked whether jurors were comfortable questioning the judgment of law enforcement officials, even those testifying under oath.

He asked whether any knew potential witnesses, and several said they knew Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza, who is on the prosecution’s witness list.

Getting chosen to serve in a trial of such a major star accused of such a major crime would be unusual even in Los Angeles or Baldwin’s hometown of New York. But it will be essentially an unheard-of experience for those who are picked as jurors in Santa Fe, N.M., though in recent years the state has increasingly become a hub of Hollywood production.

Baldwin and his wife arrived at the courthouse early with their youngest child, Ilaria Catalina Irena Baldwin. The couple have seven children, ranging in ages from 1 to 10.

Baldwin has said the gun fired accidentally after he followed instructions to point it toward Hutchins, who was behind the camera. Unaware that the gun contained a live round, Baldwin said he pulled back the hammer — not the trigger — and it fired.

Hutchins was considered a rising star in film photography when she was killed at age 42. She was the mother of a young son who grew up on a remote Soviet military base and worked on documentary films in Eastern Europe before studying film in Los Angeles and embarking on a movie-making career.

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