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March 13, 2024

You be the judge: what state sentence for "Rust" movie armorer convicted of manslaughter in fatal shooting

As detailed in this AP article, state sentencing in a high-profile "Hollywood" case is now scheduled for next month.  I am interested to hear what folks might consider the appropriate sentece based on these facts:

A judge has scheduled sentencing next month for a movie set armorer convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin on the set of the Western film “Rust,” court records indicated Wednesday.

Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was convicted by a jury last week in the shooting on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico, during a rehearsal in October 2021.  Baldwin was indicted by a grand jury in January and has pleaded not guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge, with trial set for July.

Santa Fe-based Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer set aside two hours for Gutierrez-Reed’s sentencing hearing on the morning of April 15....  Involuntary manslaughter carries a felony sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Gutierrez-Reed is being held pending sentencing at the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility.

Baldwin was pointing a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when the revolver went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.  Baldwin has maintained that he pulled back the gun’s hammer, but not the trigger.

Prosecutors blamed Gutierrez-Reed at a two-week trial for unwittingly bringing live ammunition onto the set of “Rust” where it was expressly prohibited.  They also said she failed to follow basic gun-safety protocols.

“Rust” assistant director and safety coordinator Dave Halls last year pleaded no contest to negligent handling of a firearm and completed a sentence of six months unsupervised probation.

March 13, 2024 at 09:51 PM | Permalink


By bringing live ammunition onto a movie set, where it was expressly prohibited, she made it reasonably foreseeable that someone might get shot and killed. This death was completely avoidable, if she had done her job as "armorer" properly. I would give her the mx. sentence of 18 months. Her conduct was reckless and wanton.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Mar 14, 2024 9:09:49 AM

I'd certainly want a presentence investigation report. Absent any criminal history, I think a suspended sentence with probation and the maximum allowable fine would be appropriate. I don't see how incarceration would have significant general deterrence (since the circumstances are rare if not unique) or specific deterrence (since she's not likely to be responsible for firearms safety anytime soon).

Posted by: MBC | Mar 14, 2024 9:29:30 AM

The victim's family cries out for justice here. I agree with Jim Gormley in principle; but would cap the sentence at one year.

Posted by: anon | Mar 14, 2024 10:14:10 AM

MBC, I am seeing significant general deterrence here. At least from what I am reading, firearms safety is a weak point on a lot of movie sets. Perhaps what happened here, especially if combined with a sentence of some length (8 months to 1 year), might result in some changes on other movie sets.

Posted by: tmm | Mar 14, 2024 10:29:08 AM

I'm reminded of of a question from my first year criminal law exam (yes, I remember it!!). The defendant goes to the top of the empire state building with a heavy rock. He carries it to the edge and drops it over, fervently praying that it won't hit anyone. It kills two pedestrians below. Discuss what charges could and should be brought; and discuss the punishment that should be imposed if defendant is convicted; and give the reasons for your conclusions.

Posted by: Michael Levine | Mar 14, 2024 11:28:33 AM

If that is the Michael Levine I knew he is too old to remember a law school exam. As usual the varied purposes of sentencing are somewhat in conflict and the actual effect of a sentence on a particular purpose is often not the same as the theory (I suppose that is another way of saying the particular weight that a sentencing purpose should carry is also subject to debate). 18 months seems low to satisfy the victim family retributive desires but perhaps sufficient for society's needs. In the universe of negligent homicides this does seem to be an avoidable and serious example. It seems improbable that any incarceration of any length would provide increased public protection from this particular defendant,and the prosecution and any sentence , even less than the max gives sufficient general deterrence. Rehab? Not much there.

Posted by: scott F tilsen | Mar 14, 2024 12:11:51 PM

For the armorer I am actually torn. I have a difficult time putting much blame on their shoulders, regardless of the verdict. On the other hand is my enormous general respect for the jury system.

For the Empire State Building hypo, I would argue for execution, depraved indifference murder.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 15, 2024 3:26:49 AM

I think a significant term of actual incarceration is warranted here. The key facts are that she had an established pattern of dangerous negligence, and that there are no compelling social-interest factors to mitigate. Contra a nurse who injects the wrong drug, affected by understaffing beyond her control and the need to provide patient care.

Posted by: Jason | Mar 16, 2024 10:41:16 AM

The important thing is to get Alec Baldwin locked up for nonstop mocking the greatest American that has ever lived.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed? Who cares?

Posted by: MAGA 2024 | Mar 20, 2024 7:21:21 PM

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