‘Rust’ armorer Hannah Gutierrez to be sentenced for fatal on-set shooting

Written by on April 15, 2024

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(SANTA FE, N.M.) — Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez is set to be sentenced on Monday for involuntary manslaughter in the 2021 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set.

She faces up to 18 months in prison for the felony conviction.

Her attorneys asked for probation in a sentencing memorandum filed last week, citing her “complete lack of prior criminal history” and “relative youth.” Prosecutors meanwhile requested a sentence of 18 months with the designation of serious violent offender due to her “extreme recklessness” while working as an armorer on the Rust set.

The Santa Fe County jury deliberated for under three hours on March 6 before reaching a split verdict. They found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter but acquitted her of tampering with evidence in the case.

Prosecutors told jurors that Gutierrez “repeatedly” failed to maintain proper firearm safety and that her negligence led to the death of Hutchins, who was shot by actor Alec Baldwin, while the defense countered that the 26-year-old is a “convenient scapegoat” during closing arguments in the trial.

Gutierrez was remanded into custody following the verdict.

Defense attorneys filed an emergency motion for a new trial and release last month, arguing that the jury instructions could lead to a non-unanimous verdict. Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer denied the motion.

In their sentencing memorandum, her attorneys argued that Gutierrez “has endured and will continue to endure collateral consequences far harsher than most defendants ever must face.”

“This conviction and press deluge will forever impact her life going forward, including with job prospects, and simply trying to lead a ‘normal’ life again someday,” her attorneys wrote.

Gutierrez feels” incredibly saddened and heart broken by what happened on that tragic day” on the Rust set, they wrote.

Her attorneys asked for a conditional discharge, wherein the court would place her on probation without entering an adjudication of guilt. The defense argued conditional discharge would be “adequate to punish the offense, but not more serious than necessary to serve the underlying sentencing goals.”

In a response filed last week, prosecutors said they opposed a conditional discharge due to Gutierrez’s “complete and total failure to accept responsibility for her actions.” They argued that her jail calls since being incarcerated demonstrated that she “continues to deny responsibility and blame others.” They said the calls also showed she has complained about the negative effects of the incident “while never expressing genuine remorse at any time.”

“Stunningly, Ms. Gutierrez requested during jail calls that her legal team request that Ms. Hutchins’ husband and son be contacted and asked to speak on her behalf at her sentencing,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors further noted that while she is eligible for a conditional discharge, she still faces another felony charge for allegedly hiding a firearm from security at a local bar.

The state asked that Gutierrez be sentenced to 18 months with a designation of serious violent offender due to her recklessness, or five years probation if the court found that a suspended or deferred sentence was appropriate.

Baldwin was practicing a cross-draw in a church on the set of the Western film on Oct. 21, 2021, when the Colt .45 revolver fired a live round, striking Hutchins and director Joel Souza, who suffered a non-life-threatening injury.

During the two-week trial, prosecutors presented evidence they said showed Gutierrez was responsible for bringing six live rounds onto the set — and did not discover them for 12 days before the deadly shooting by failing to perform industry-standard safety practices.

“This is not a case where Hannah Gutierrez made one mistake, and that one mistake was accidental — putting a live round into that gun,” prosecutor Kari Morrissey told jurors during her closing argument. “This case is about constant, neverending, safety failures that resulted in the death of a human being and nearly killed another.”

Morrissey told jurors Gutierrez failed to maintain firearms safety on the set, “making a fatal accident willful and foreseeable.”

She showed jurors stills of footage from the set of actors pointing firearms at other crew members, including a minor actor, as well as Gutierrez pointing one at her own face. She also showed photographs of what experts determined to be live rounds in holsters and containers on the set as early as Oct. 10, 2021.

Morrissey said that meant Gutierrez was not checking dummy rounds to ensure they were not live rounds — such as by shaking them — and that there was a game of “Russian roulette” every time an actor had a gun loaded with dummies. She also said they have “mountains of circumstantial evidence” that Gutierrez brought the live rounds onto the set.

“I’m not telling you Hannah Gutierrez intended to bring live rounds on set,” Morrissey said. “I’m saying she was negligent, she was careless, she was thoughtless.”

Hutchins died from loss of blood and a lethal wound to her lung, Morrissey said.

“The astonishing lack of diligence with regard to gun safety is without question a significant cause of the death of Halyna Hutchins,” she said.

Defense attorney Jason Bowles said during his closing argument there was a rush to judgment and that detectives didn’t conduct a thorough investigation of the shooting. Gutierrez was made a “convenient fall person,” he said.

He also argued that the New Mexico Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s investigation into the shooting found that the management “demonstrated plain indifference to employee safety” and was responsible for the safety on the set.

Gutierrez had additionally been charged with tampering with evidence, with prosecutors alleging she handed off a small bag of cocaine at her hotel on the day of the shooting after her interview with law enforcement. The jury found her not guilty.

Gutierrez did not testify in her own defense.

Baldwin has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’ death. His trial is scheduled to start in July.

His attorneys last month filed a motion to dismiss the charge, accusing prosecutors of “unethical disparagement” of the actor and “violating nearly every rule in the book” to secure a grand jury indictment.

In a response to the motion filed earlier this month, prosecutors claimed Baldwin missed concerns about Gutierrez and “compromised safety” on the set by demanding the crew and armorer work faster.

“The combination of Hannah Gutierrez’s negligence and inexperience and Alec Baldwin’s complete lack of concern for the safety of those around him would prove deadly for Halyna Hutchins,” prosecutors stated.

Marlowe Sommer has yet to rule on the motion to dismiss the charge.

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky and Jenna Harrison contributed to this report.

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