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Opening statements set to begin in trial of ‘Rust’ armorer Hannah Gutierrez

Opening statements are expected to begin Thursday in New Mexico in the trial of “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez.

The weapons supervisor has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the on-set death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was fatally shot by actor Alec Baldwin on the Santa Fe set while he was handling a prop gun.

She was also subsequently charged with tampering with evidence, with prosecutors alleging she handed off a small bag of cocaine after her interview with police following the shooting on Oct. 21, 2021.

Gutierrez has pleaded not guilty. The charges both carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison if convicted.

Jury selection was completed Wednesday, with 12 jurors and four alternates selected for the case. Of the 12 jurors, seven are men and five are women. The four alternates are all men.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.

PHOTO: Hannah Gutierrez arrives at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, N.M., on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, for the start of her trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence.

Hannah Gutierrez arrives at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, N.M., on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, for the start of her trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. Prosecutors in New Mexico are pursuing accountability for the 2021 death of a cinematographer who was fatally shot by actor Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal for the Western film.

Gabriela Campos/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP, Pool

Leading up to the trial, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer last week denied the defense’s motions to dismiss the case and sever the tampering with evidence charge. She also allowed some of the prosecution’s evidence on the armorer’s alleged drug use to be admissible.

Defense attorney Jason Bowles had argued in court filings that the substance in the bag was never tested and there is no evidence of Gutierrez using it on or off set. He claimed she was charged with the offense “in an effort to cause unfair prejudice” to the defendant during the trial.

Her attorneys have previously said they expect a jury will find her not guilty. They said Gutierrez “pleaded to provide more firearms training” on the set but was “denied and brushed aside.”

Baldwin was practicing a cross-draw on the set of the Western when the gun fired a live round, striking Hutchins and director Joel Souza, who suffered a non-life-threatening injury.

PHOTO: Movie set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, right, speaks with a sheriff's deputy on the set of the movie "Rust," shortly after the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins by Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal, Oct. 21, 2021, in New Mexico.

Movie set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, right, speaks with a sheriff’s deputy as colleagues react on the set of the move “Rust,” shortly after the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins by Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal, Oct. 21, 2021, in New Mexico.

Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office via AP

Prosecutors have claimed in court filings that they have “substantial evidence” that Gutierrez unwittingly brought live rounds onto the set.

During a motions hearing last week, special prosecutor Kari Morrissey said the state plans to “demonstrate that she was impaired while in possession of ammunition.” She said they also have photographs that show live rounds on the set.

“There were a series of negligent acts that we have very concrete evidence of that Ms. Gutierrez was engaging in these negligent acts as she moves through the filming of the movie” over several days, Morrissey told the judge.

Baldwin has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deadly shooting. He has pleaded not guilty.

PHOTO: In this Oct. 23, 2021, file photo, the Bonanza Creek Ranch, which was used for the set of the movie "Rust," is shown in Santa Fe, N.M.

In this Oct. 23, 2021, file photo, the Bonanza Creek Ranch, which was used for the set of the movie “Rust,” is shown in Santa Fe, N.M.

Jae C. Hong/AP, FILE

The actor was initially charged along with Gutierrez last year, before the special prosecutors who took over the case dismissed his charges. Months later, a grand jury indicted him on involuntary manslaughter.

In response to the indictment in January, Baldwin’s attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro of Quinn Emanuel, said, “We look forward to our day in court.” His trial is currently scheduled to begin in August.

ABC News’ Vera Drymon contributed to this report.

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