LIVE: 'Rust' trial continues over death of cinematographer

LIVE: 'Rust' trial continues over death of cinematographer

Autopsy Findings

  • Dr. Heather Gerald, the Chief Medical Investigator at the Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) in New Mexico, performed the autopsy on Halyna Hutchins on October 22, 2021.
  • The cause of death was a gunshot wound to the chest, and the manner of death was certified as an accident.
  • The autopsy revealed no significant natural disease, a gunshot wound track, medical intervention prior to death, and no retained projectile in Miss Hutchins' body.
  • The jacket that arrived with Miss Hutchins showed no defects, soot, or gunpowder stippling, indicating a distant range of fire (at least 2 feet or greater).
  • There were two gunshot wounds: an entrance wound in the right armpit region and an exit wound on Miss Hutchins' back just below the left shoulder blade.
  • The projectile entered through the right armpit area, missed major blood vessels, entered the right chest cavity, injured blood vessels along the ribs, broke a rib, went into the right lung, and exited the right chest cavity just adjacent to the vertebral column. It then went through the spinal cord and traveled through the soft tissue of the back before exiting.
  • The injuries to Miss Hutchins' internal organs were consistent with being shot, and the injury to the right lung was lethal.
  • Toxicology tests were negative for alcohol and common drugs of abuse.

Firearms Examination

  • A firearms expert with over 15 years of experience in law enforcement was called to assist in the case.
  • The firearms expert examined the rifle that had malfunctioned and was unable to be cleared by the officers on the scene.
  • The gun jammed because a cartridge of the wrong caliber was loaded into the tubular magazine.
  • The wrong caliber cartridge prevented the gun from properly chambering and ejecting rounds.
  • The gun could have been unloaded by working the lever action or by opening the front barrel and letting gravity pull the rounds out.
  • It is not known if the round in the gun was a dummy round or not.
  • The rifle is easy to unload if you are familiar with it.

Digital Forensics

  • The witness, Byron French, is a sworn law enforcement officer and a task force officer at the FBI's New Mexico Regional Computer Forensics Lab.
  • Mr. French is an expert in digital forensics and has been qualified as such in previous court cases.
  • Mr. French was contacted by Detective Alex Hancock from the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office in 2021 to assist with phone extractions related to the case.
  • Mr. French performed logical and file system extractions on the cell phone belonging to Hannah Gutierrez using the Cellebrite program.
  • Mr. French identified a photograph on Gutierrez's cell phone that was taken on October 10th, 2021, at 9:50 AM.
  • Mr. French reviewed text messages extracted from Gutierrez's phone and provided details about the date, time, sender, and recipient of each message.
  • Some of the text messages were admitted into evidence without objection, including conversations between Gutierrez and contacts named Becca Santa Fe and Courtney Santa Fe.
  • Mr. French also examined the phones of Sarah Zachary and Dave Halls and performed full extractions on all devices.
  • However, Mr. French only bookmarked limited data from Zachary's and Hall's phones and passed that information to Detective Hancock.

Firearms Examination and Reconstruction

  • The witness, Mr. Haus, is an expert in firearms examination and reconstruction.
  • He reviewed the FBI examination report, case notes, and conducted his own testing on the evidence, including the Baldwin revolver.
  • He formed an opinion about how the damage to the firearm occurred and the working condition of the firearm when it was received by the FBI.
  • In his opinion, the firearm was in proper working order when it was initially received by the FBI based on various factors, including the FBI examiner's report and photographs.
  • The damage to the hammer was caused by aggressive testing at the FBI.
  • The ammunition used in the gun was a 45 Colt cartridge with a semi-wad cutter bullet and Trail Boss propellant.
  • The live rounds found on the set of Rust had different powder and bullet styles compared to professionally made ammunition.
  • The live ammunition used in the movie had Starline head stamps, nickel-plated primers, and lead round nose bullets with a flat meplat.
  • Commercially available 45 CT ammunition with similar characteristics, including Starline head stamps and lead round nose bullets with flat meplats, can be purchased at gun stores.
  • The spent casing from the Rust movie set was fired from the gun in question.
  • The firing pin impression on the spent casing indicates that the cylinder was locked up and aligned when the gun was fired.

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