'Rust' Armorer's Appeal May Impact Alec Baldwin's Case

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Hannah Gutierrez Reed has been convicted and sentenced for involuntary manslaughter. That was always bad news for actor Alec Baldwin, who is facing similar charges for the same incident. After all, if Gutierrez Reed was guilty simply because she failed to make sure the gun was loaded with only blanks, then how can Baldwin get away with pointing the gun at someone and pulling the trigger?


But Gutierrez Reed isn't done with her own legal battle, it seems.

No, she's filed an appeal, which isn't overly surprising. Her felony conviction destroyed any chance she had of continuing her career working as a Hollywood armorer. Trying to overturn that conviction is her only chance now, even if it's not that great.

But her appeal alleges a few issues with the case; issues that are likely to play into Baldwin's defense if they're accurate.

In a filing to the state’s Court of Appeals on Wednesday, defense attorney Jason Bowles cited issues with the jury instructions and the judge’s decision to allow “lay opinions” on Gutierrez Reed’s conduct as an armorer.


A key issue in Gutierrez Reed’s appeal has also figured in Baldwin’s defense. Gutierrez Reed’s lawyers will argue that involuntary manslaughter requires “conscious disregard of a known risk” under appellate precedents, but that the jury instructions set a lower bar for conviction.

The judge used the standard instructions for involuntary manslaughter in New Mexico, which state that the defendant “should have known” of the risk of their actions — not that they did know.

Baldwin's attorneys are making similar arguments as to why the charges aren't appropriate for Baldwin. Both he and Reed have argued that a live round being on set was so unthinkable, that neither considered it as a remote possibility.


Of course, there are other factors regarding Gutierrez Reed, namely that "lay opinions" thing.

Several crew members testified at Gutierrez Reed’s trial in February that she did not seem up to the professional standards for a film armorer. At the trial, Bowles objected that those witnesses were not experts in gun handling, but Marlowe Sommer allowed the testimony.

On appeal, Bowles will argue that those opinions should have been excluded because they covered issues that are outside the “common knowledge and experience of an average person.”

Gutierrez Reed’s lawyers will also argue that the conviction should be overturned because the prosecution mistakenly handed over a trove of attorney-client text messages to a key witness, weapons supplier Seth Kenney.

Both of these are big issues, only one of which might have much impact on Baldwin's case.

On the opinions of others, Gutierrez Reed's attorneys might have a point. Personal opinions can be colored by other things, particularly if you're not overly familiar with what an armorer does on a film set. Her own approach may have been different, but not dangerous. Knowing what is what may lie outside of the experience of others on a film set.

I don't know that to be the case, mind you, only mentioning it as a possibility.

Now, as for Gutierrez Reed's claim that the prosecution handed over attorney-client text messages, well, that could be a big problem. What's more, if they did that once, we can't rule out the possibility of it happening again in Baldwin's case.


I also don't know that Kenney won't be part of the prosecution for Baldwin. If so, then that's got to play at least somewhat of a factor in the case going forward.

I haven't made any bones about my opinion on Baldwin's guilt. No matter what he said, one has to believe that anyone pointing a gun at a person and pulling the trigger has a high potentiality of injuring or killing someone.

That said, the process needs to be scrupulously followed. If he's convicted, there should be no doubt that the evidence was against him. Everything should be above board.

If that isn't what happened with Gutierrez Reed, then she needs to walk and if the same sort of thing is essential for Baldwin's conviction, then he probably should, too.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member