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'Rust' Director Joel Souza Could Testify Against Alec Baldwin

Others on a list of possible witnesses who could testify in an upcoming preliminary hearing include script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, prop master Sarah Zachry, chief electrician Serge Svetnoy and former camera assistant Lane Luper. 

By Jill Sederstrom
Alec Baldwin Fires Prop Gun On Set, Killing One

"Rust" director Joel Souza could testify against actor Alec Baldwin in his involuntary manslaughter trial.

Souza—who was struck in the shoulder by the same bullet that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the film set—has been listed as one of 44 possible prosecution witnesses that could be called to testify at a preliminary hearing for Baldwin later this month, according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com.

New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies formally charged Baldwin late last month with involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’ October 2021 death after concluding that there was a “criminal disregard for safety” on the set of the western.

The ill-fated film’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed is also facing involuntary manslaughter charges.

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On Friday, Carmack-Altwies filed an amended list of possible prosecution witnesses that could be called to testify against Baldwin.

In addition to Souza, prosecutors also could call others connected to the film including script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, prop master Sarah Zachry and chief electrician Serge Svetnoy, who had been in the tiny church when the antique revolver went off and struck Hutchins in the chest.

Alec Baldwin and Joel Souza

Shortly after Hutchins' death, Svetnoy slammed producers in a Facebook post, claiming they hired “people who are not fully qualified for the complicated and dangerous job” because they wanted to “save a dime,” according to The New York Post.

He later sued Baldwin for negligence after claiming he suffered “severe emotional distress” from being nearly struck by the bullet and being forced to watch his friend die in front of him, according to Variety.

Mitchell—who has filed her own civil suit against Baldwin and other “Rust” producers—had been inside the church looking at photos on her iPhone when she heard a “deafening, loud gunshot” and saw Souza fall backwards while grabbing his upper body, according to The New York Times.

Mitchell ran from the set and called 911.

Also on the possible witness list is Lane Luper, a former “Rust” camera assistant, who quit the film along with others just hours before the deadly shooting over concerns about pay and safety, Deadline reports.

Seth Kenney of the ammunition supplier PDQ Arm & Prop could also be called to testify.

One name not on the list is first assistant director David Halls, who has already entered a no contest plea to negligent use of a deadly weapon in the case, according to prosecutors.

Baldwin told investigators that Halls handed him the revolver the afternoon of the shooting and announced it was a “cold gun,” a term in the industry used to refer to a weapon without live ammunition.

The weapon discharged while Baldwin was practicing a “cross draw” inside the small church. The bullet struck Hutchins in the chest before lodging into the shoulder of Souza.

Baldwin has repeatedly insisted he never pulled the trigger, however, Carmack-Altwies has disputed that claim, saying a report from the FBI concluded that the gun would not have fired unless the trigger had been pulled.

Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas called the decision to charge the actor a “terrible miscarriage of justice.”

"Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set,” he said in a statement obtained by Oxygen.com last month. “He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win."

Other potential witnesses to be called in the preliminary hearing include investigators with the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, an expert with the FBI explosives unit and a FBI forensics examiner.

According to prosecutors, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be “charged in the alternative” with two counts of manslaughter, meaning that jurors will be tasked with determining which, if any, manslaughter charge would apply.

The first charge, referred to as involuntary manslaughter, would require prosecutors to prove there had been underlying negligence. The second option would be involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, which would require prosecutors to prove that Hutchins’ death had gone beyond simple negligence.

Both charges are considered fourth-degree felonies and are punishable by up to 18 months in jail, however, the involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act charge comes with a firearm enhancement that would include a mandatory penalty of five years behind bars.

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