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Alec Baldwin ‘Rust’ trial: Experts reveal key misstep that could blow up actor’s defense


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Alec Baldwin could be “a liability” for his own defense, but compromised key evidence could help him beat the case, legal experts tell Fox News Digital.

A gun Baldwin was holding discharged on the New Mexico set of the Western film “Rust” in 2021, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.

Baldwin is facing an involuntary manslaughter rap and up to 18 months in prison if convicted. Jury selection is slated to begin Tuesday, July 9.

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New Mexico prosecutors allege Alec Baldwin was “reckless” on the “Rust” film set. (Derek Shook for Fox News Digital | Court TV)

Should Baldwin testify? 

Lawyer Todd Spodek said the “30 Rock” star could well blow his top — and his defense — if he takes the stand.

The attorney represented Genevieve Sabourin, who was convicted of stalking Baldwin after an explosive Manhattan trial that saw the actor and his wife, Hilaria, step into the witness box.

“It’s incredibly risky if he testifies,” Spodek told Fox News Digital. “He’s always having outbursts. He’s someone who isn’t in control of his emotions and is extremely volatile.”

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Attorney stand with his client at the defense table.

Defense attorney Todd Spodek is shown with his client, Genevieve Sabourin, who was convicted of stalking Alec Baldwin in 2013. (Steven Hirsch/Splash News/Pool)

Spodek cross-examined Baldwin, grilling him about an affair he’d allegedly had with Sabourin. Baldwin denied anything more than a professional relationship with the French Canadian actress as he repeatedly attacked the attorney.

The actor, Spodek said, can easily be provoked.

“My experience with him was when you get under his skin, you get him worked up, he lashes out,” noted Spodek, who also represented fake heiress Anna Sorokin. “He’s a liability and jurors could see him as reckless and impulsive.”

Alec Baldwin leaves Manhattan Criminal Court after testifying against stalker Genevieve Sabourin on Nov. 12, 2013, in New York.

Alec Baldwin leaves Manhattan Criminal Court after testifying against stalker Genevieve Sabourin on Nov. 12, 2013, in New York. (STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images)

Defense attorney Mark Bederow agreed with Spodek and added that prosecutors will seek to tear Baldwin apart for the contradictory accounts of the accident he gave in interviews to the media and police.

“He is in New Mexico, which is a long way from Hollywood and New York,” Bederow noted. “There is a real risk that a New Mexico jury may find him insincere and insufferable.”

Damage to the weapon

The actor insisted in a televised interview that he cocked the gun’s hammer but never pulled the trigger, arguing that it fired accidentally.

Prosecutors have countered that the pistol could not have discharged absent Baldwin squeezing off a round.

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The Colt .45 Army revolver Alec Baldwin was using on the set of "Rust" when it discharged, killing Halyna Hutchins on Oct. 21, 2021.

The Colt .45 Army revolver Alec Baldwin was using on the set of “Rust” when it discharged, killing Halyna Hutchins on Oct. 21, 2021. (Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office)

But the FBI destroyed the gun, a Colt. 45, during testing, making it impossible to check for potential defects that could have led to a malfunction, the defense contends.

Bederow said Baldwin’s lawyers are clearly poised to stress the damage to the key piece of evidence in the case in seeking an acquittal.

“The prosecution’s destruction of the gun could be extremely helpful to the defense,” he said. “It is incomprehensible that the prosecution would disregard the real risk of destroying the gun to prove a point they almost certainly could establish. It’s never a good look for the prosecution to be so reckless when that is precisely what they are accusing the defendant of being.”

Investigators struck the gun with a mallet from several angles to test its sensitivity, breaking its firing and safety mechanisms in the process.

Halyna Hutchins and her sister

Halyna Hutchins standing next to her sister, Svetlana Zemko. (Provided by attorney Gloria Allred)

In declining to toss the case last month, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer agreed to let both sides explore how the gun was damaged during the trial.

New Mexico-based attorney Elizabeth Bunker said the defense’s argument will be a tough sell to jurors who have experience with guns. “A crowd that knows firearms will say, ‘Of course you pulled the trigger, you’re full of it!’” she told Fox News Digital. 

Hannah Gutierrez Reed’s conviction

The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, is serving an 18-month sentence after being convicted of the same charge Baldwin is now facing.

Jurors found her reckless for putting a live round in the gun Baldwin fired. Gutierrez Reed is appealing her conviction.

Bederow said he expects Baldwin’s team to blame Gutierrez Reed for the killing and that her conviction will help his case.

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Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed stands in court wearing black turtleneck

Hannah Gutierrez Reed is shown as the guilty verdict is announced in her involuntary manslaughter trial. (New Mexico Courts)

“The defense will argue she was responsible for keeping the firearm safe and passing it to the actor only when safe,” he said. “He will argue that however regrettable the accident was, it was not reckless to rely on her training and expertise.”

Los Angeles-based entertainment attorney Tre Lovell said this argument could be bolstered by Screen Actors Guild rules, which govern the duties of workers on a Hollywood set.

Prosecutors are arguing that Baldwin was responsible for checking that the gun wasn’t loaded, but Lovell said SAG protocols dictate otherwise.

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Alec Baldwin wears a suit and tie with wife Hilaria Baldwin bundled up in a long coat.

Alec Baldwin and wife, Hilaria, celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary ahead of his criminal trial. (Getty Images)

“If someone hands me a gun in the real world and says it’s not loaded, and I shoot it and kill someone, I’m criminally responsible,” he told Fox News Digital. “But on a movie set it’s different and everyone has a job and duty. The actors act, the directors direct, the gaffers do the onset stuff and armorers are there as weapons experts.”

In fact, he said, it would be a violation of SAG rules for an actor to be responsible for gun or set safety.

Lovell did note that Baldwin’s status as a producer on the film with oversight over the entire project could become a vulnerability. However, during a pretrial hearing on July 8, Sommer ruled that prosecutors can’t introduce evidence of Baldwin’s status as a producer.

Alec Baldwin arrives at the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Alec Baldwin arrives at the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Monday, July 8, 2024. (Derek Shook for Fox News Digital)

“I’m having real difficulty with the state’s position that they want to show that as a producer he didn’t follow guidelines and therefore, as an actor, Mr. Baldwin did all these things wrong,” the judge said at the hearing in Santa Fe’s First Judicial District Court. “The probative value is not substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice and confusion to jurors.”

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