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April 15, 2024

"Rust" movie armorer convicted of manslaughter in New Mexico gets maximum prison term of 18 months in state prison

I asked in this post last month what folks thought would be the proper state sentence for the "Rust" movie armorer who was convicted of manslaughter in New Mexico.  This CBS News piece reports at length on the outcome of the actual sentencing (and the broader context of this high-profile case).  Here are excerpts:

The "Rust" armorer who last month was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the deadly shooting of Halyna Hutchins, the film's cinematographer, was sentenced in a New Mexico state court today to 18 months' imprisonment. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed received the maximum penalty for her part in the 2021 tragedy that several experts have since characterized as a preventable incident, where actor Alec Baldwin discharged live rounds from a prop gun on the movie set during a rehearsal.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer handed down the sentence to conclude an emotionally charged hearing Monday. "I find what you did constitutes a serious violent offense," Sommer told Gutierrez-Reed. Although the prosecution pushed for this outcome — the maximum sentence — Gutierrez-Reed and her defense team had asked the judge to consider probation as an alternative. The defendant, who is now 27, raised that request herself in a statement read in court before the sentence came down. In the statement, she called Hutchins an inspiration and said she was saddened by the media coverage of her case and the negative light in which it painted her to the public....

The prosecution had cited Gutierrez-Reed's lack of contrition during the trial as one reason to impose the maximum sentence. But her attorney, Jason Bowles, said in his final remarks at the sentencing that his client had in fact cried, broken down, experienced "mental breakdowns" and "said 'if only' many, many, many times," with that side of her remaining largely unfamiliar to people following the case....

Last month, a jury convicted Gutierrez-Reed on the involuntary manslaughter charge, brought against her by the state of New Mexico in the wake of the "Rust" shooting. The former weapons supervisor on the Western film could also receive a fine for as much as $5,000, along with prison time, at the sentencing. She had originally been charged with a second felony count by the state for evidence tampering but was acquitted at the trial.

I am not at all familiar with New Mexico's back-end release rules, so I am not sure Gutierrez-Reed will serve a full 18 months (and I believe she has already been in custody for a month). But I am sure this case serves as an intereting reminder that maximum sentencing terms can sometimes prove as consequential as minimum sentencing terms.

April 15, 2024 at 03:18 PM | Permalink

Comments

Ok, this judge is an effing idiot. This is a lot of things, but it is not a "violent" offense. what she did was thoughtless when thought was demanded, but it was not "violent".

And I don't care if NM statutes define this conduct as "violent"--if that's the case, then she needed to say so.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 16, 2024 10:47:31 AM

An effective reminder, federalist, that any talk/data about "violent" crime can often include contestable characterizations. Looking at the definition of "Involuntary manslaughter" in New Mexico, New Mexico Statutes Chapter 30. Criminal Offenses § 30-2-3. Manslaughter, we see it "consists of manslaughter committed in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to felony, or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death in an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection." I surmise that different definitions of "violent" under different applicable state and federal statutes could reach various outcomes on this statutory language (especially since I am unsure whhich part of the criminal statute was the "theory of the case").

Our laws and decision-makers use the term "violent" is all sorts of messy and problematic ways. LawProf David A. Sklansky recently authored a whole book on this ugliness: "A Pattern of Violence: How the Law Classifies Crimes and What It Means for Justice." https://www.hup.harvard.edu/books/9780674248908

Posted by: Doug B | Apr 16, 2024 12:06:37 PM

In my state, involuntary manslaughter is considered a violent offense for sentencing purposes. The basic definition of violent offense is any offense requiring a use of some force. The offense in this case involved the discharge of a firearm.

Posted by: tmm | Apr 16, 2024 12:26:26 PM

tmm--yes, and you'll note that i noted that. The problem is the audience--if sentencing soliloquys are to mean anything (and if not, why have them?)then plain English must rule. The audience isn't a lawyer.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 16, 2024 12:42:57 PM

Federalist, I think a lot of folks would consider any shooting to be violent. Where some would quibble would be that some definitions of violent limit it to intentional conduct but other definitions of violent include any conduct that causes injury or death regardless of intent.

Posted by: tmm | Apr 16, 2024 3:00:05 PM

Tmm,

Sure, some folks consider any shooting to be violent. In Trump country, we consider it foreplay LOL

Dictator in day one! MAGA

Posted by: MAGA 2024 | Apr 16, 2024 5:49:13 PM

tmm, seriously, her conduct was not violent . . . . thus under any plain understanding of the English language this was not a crime of violence. Like I said, consider the audience .... There are other definitions of "violent" as in violent storms, violent silence (lol), violent collision--but her conduct was not violent in the ordinary sense of how we use the language.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 17, 2024 10:56:48 AM

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