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Day One of Alec Baldwin’s Involuntary Manslaughter Trial: Defense Said He Could Have Pulled Trigger

The first day featured opening statements, an interesting concession, and a few witness testimonies.

Alec Baldwin heading into court in January 2023
The first day of Alec Baldwin's involuntary manslaughter trial was relatively lackluster, though the prosecution brought forward witnesses as well as discuss the timeline of firearm possession. (Photo Courtesy: Peter Foley/UPI)

On the first day of his involuntary manslaughter trial, Alec Baldwin’s legal team noted that he could have possibly pulled the trigger on the customized Colt .45 on the first day of the trial.


The concession goes against Baldwin’s many claims that he didn’t pull the trigger in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Baldwin has stuck to this claim since the fatal on-set incident, though prosecutors have been trying to disprove the claim.


With the acknowledgement of Baldwin potentially pulling the trigger, Defense attorney Alex Spiro argued that it would not make Baldwin criminally negligent.


“On a movie set, you’re allowed to pull the trigger,” Spiro said. “Even if he intentionally pulled that trigger…that doesn’t make him guilty of homicide.”


The prosecution intends to spend the trial proving that Baldwin did pull the trigger. During her opening statement, special prosecutor Erlinda Johnson said that many firearms experts will testify that the gun was working properly at the time of the shooting. The prosecution plans on bringing in manufacturer Alessandro Pietta from Italy to speak about quality control measures.


The prosecution also plans to bring in at least one crew member to testify that they saw Baldwin pull the trigger. 


Baldwin’s legal team still plan to argue that it’s possible the gun may have misfired. They will also argue that an FBO examiner needlessly destroyed the gun, making it hard to know if the gun was working normally.


During opening statements, Spiro argued that the customized Colt .45 had a “hair trigger” and that the owner’s manual stated that the gun can accidentally go off if the hammer is dropped on a live primer.


Regarding Baldwin pulling the trigger, Spiro said:


“If he did, of course, that would only make his statement incorrect … That would mean he would have misspoke.”

Spiro said the issue of the trigger is a “shiny object” that distracts from the key issue: the gun would have been harmless had it not been loaded with a real bullet. He also argued that investigators couldn’t find the source of the live bullet, so they tried to prove that Baldwin’s denial was false.


Baldwin’s words may come back to haunt him as he consistently said he didn’t pull the trigger. Due to this, the prosecution can introduce expert evidence showing that it is highly improbable that the gun went off without the trigger being pulled. Had Baldwin said nothing, his words wouldn’t be as damaging.


The first day of the trial included playing the 911 call for the jury, the bodycam video showing the chaos after the shooting, and the cross-examination of various witnesses.


Prosecution called Santa Fe Deputy Nicholas LeFleur to the stand as the first witness of the day. LeFleur, who was working with the sheriff’s department at the time of the shooting, was the first law enforcement officer at the scene following the 911 call.


He testified that he had concerns with witnesses speaking with one another after the shooting. LeFleur instructed Baldwin to stop speaking with others, and stood next to him as he was detained. The former deputy admits that it wasn’t the best way to separate Baldwin from other witnesses. 


Spiro cross-examined LeFleur, specifically about the former deputy’s self-admitted mistakes. LeFleur told Spiro that he did tell Baldwin to not speak with witnesses, though he did not repeatedly tell Baldwin to not speak to witnesses.


“He wasn’t really disobeying police orders was he, sir?” - Spiro
“To an extent, yes.” - LeFleur

Prosecution would later detail the custody of the gun, speaking to who had the gun at a particular time. They did so by questioning the second witness, Timoteo Benavidez who is a retired lieutenant with the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.


Benavidez said that secured the gun from the armorer and made sure there were no rounds in the revolver before placing it in the front seat of his patrol car. He later took ammunition from the armorer’s cart and placed it in his car.


Baldwin was charged with involuntary manslaughter for his role in the fatal incident. He faces up to 18 months in prison if he is convicted.


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