Alec Baldwin lawyer blasts police probe of 'Rust' shooting

By Andrew Hay

SANTA FE, N.M. (Reuters) - A lawyer for Alec Baldwin on Thursday rigorously questioned a police technician over her investigation of the "Rust" shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, suggesting agents were more interested in prosecuting Baldwin than finding the source of a live round that killed the film's cinematographer.

On day two of Baldwin's involuntary manslaughter trial, his lawyer Alex Spiro grilled a New Mexico crime scene technician over the search of prop supplier PDQ Arm & Prop that the attorney alleged could have supplied six live rounds found on the Western movie set.

Under cross examination, Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office technician Marissa Poppell said they did not search every box at the PDQ premises in Albuquerque and she was not sure they found every live round in the building.

"Isn't it true that you were trying to get this over with so that the prosecutors could focus on Alec Baldwin?" Spiro asked Poppel.

Poppel said police carried out a "reasonable" search given they had three officials to cover the premises, which had some rooms crammed to the ceiling with cardboard and plastic boxes.

In opening statements on Wednesday prosecutors accused Baldwin of breaking "cardinal rules of firearm safety" as he "played make believe with a real gun" in the 2021 shooting.

Hutchins died when Baldwin was directed to point his gun at her, he cocked it and it fired a live round as they set up a camera shot inside a movie-set church southwest of Santa Fe.

"Rust" armorer Hannah Gutierrez was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in March for inadvertently loading the live round into Baldwin's gun. Prosecutors accused Gutierrez of bringing the live rounds onto the set, an allegation she denied.

PDQ owner Seth Kenney was a person of interest in the shooting investigation but was not charged. He is on the list of witnesses prosecutors may call in Baldwin's trial.

Defense lawyers say Baldwin had nothing to do with the live rounds on set and was failed by Gutierrez and other safety experts who should have detected them.

Baldwin's wife Hilaria Baldwin was again in court on Thursday, a row behind the actor in the public gallery, next to his brother Stephen Baldwin and sister Elizabeth Keuchler.

Lawyer Gloria Allred was also in court. She is representing Hutchins' Ukrainian parents and sister in a civil lawsuit against Baldwin and others. She said she had no doubt that Baldwin acted negligently.

"If you point a gun at another human being you should assume it's loaded. Got it? It doesn't say except for actors, they're above the law or they're above safety protocols," said Allred, known for high-profile cases on women's rights.

(Reporting By Andrew Hay and Aurora Ellis)