Alec Baldwin Trial: Jury Chosen in Manslaughter Case

A jury has been chosen in the Santa Fe, N.M., trial of Alec Baldwin, who faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted in the accidental death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

After a day of questioning, the attorneys selected 12 jurors and four alternates, comprised of 11 women and five men. The trial is set to begin Wednesday with opening statements.

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Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer began the process by asking a group of 70 people if they had seen or heard anything about the case. Only two people said they had not. Two others said they had read extensively about the case and could not be fair.

Prosecutor Kari Morrissey focused largely on whether the media coverage had influenced jurors’ opinions about the case. She also asked if the potential jurors own guns or work in the film industry. The prosecutors were assisted by Lela Hunt, a jury consultant.

In the afternoon session, defense attorney Alex Spiro offered a preview of his trial argument. He asked the panel if it is reasonable, when dealing with guns, to rely on experts. One person pushed back on that idea.

“It doesn’t take a brain scientist to make sure a gun is not loaded,” the person answered. “You should not be relying on an expert in that case.”

A couple of others said they had been taught to treat all guns as if they were loaded, a common gun safety rule that is included in Safety Bulletin #1, the film industry guidelines for firearm use.

The defense also looked to screen for anyone who had strong feelings about Baldwin. Baldwin’s public image — including his brash, liberal politics and his long-running impression of former President Trump on “Saturday Night Live” — can have a polarizing effect. When Spiro asked if anyone felt they could not be fair to him because of his persona, no one raised their hand.

Baldwin was holding a replica of a vintage Colt .45 revolver when it fired during preparation for a scene in October 2021. He has maintained that he did not pull the trigger, but prosecutors have hired experts to show that the gun would not have fired without a trigger pull.

The trial is scheduled to run for eight court days, ending on July 19. Jury deliberations may run into the following week.

Baldwin and his legal team arrived at the Judge Steve Herrera Judicial Complex in a pair of black Chevy Suburbans around 8 a.m. Tuesday. Baldwin’s wife Hilaria was also present, along with the couple’s infant child, whom she handed off to a nanny before entering the courthouse.

Baldwin and his lawyers ran a gauntlet of dozens of reporters and photographers on their way inside, and did not respond to shouted questions. Baldwin sat with his attorneys at the counsel table during questioning of potential jurors. His wife and his brother Stephen sat in the back row.

At a pre-trial hearing on Monday, Marlowe Sommer excluded evidence of Baldwin’s role as a producer, making it harder for prosecutors to blame him for systemic safety issues on set.

The defense attorneys filed their proposed jury instructions on Tuesday, in which they seek to make clear to jurors that “criminal negligence” is a high bar. One of the proposed instructions would specify that in order to find Baldwin guilty, the jury must find that his conduct was “more than merely negligent or careless,” and that he “consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk.”

Another proposed instruction would state that Baldwin must have been “subjectively aware” — that is, actually aware — of the risk of his actions, not just that he should have known of the risk. The standard instruction in New Mexico includes language that he “should have known” — but the defense has argued that the state Supreme Court has set a higher standard.

Marlowe Sommer has yet to rule on which instructions will be given to the jury, but she used the standard “should have known” instruction in the trial of “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed.

Baldwin did not know that Gutierrez Reed had loaded a live bullet into his gun. Prosecutors will argue that he nevertheless violated set safety rules by pointing the gun at Hutchins and pulling the trigger.

Updated with additional details from the jury selection process.

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