By now, you probably have heard that Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the armorer on the set of Rust when Alec Baldwin shot two people, was convinced of involuntary manslaughter.

There has been a lot of coverage of that trial.

She deserved to be convicted.

I want to take a look at the expert her lawyers hired for her defense.

Frank Louis Blair Koucky III.

He went viral for mishandling guns on the witness stand and being chastised by the judge.

 

I wanted to know who this idiot was and how he became an expert in firearms.

 

He is, by career and experience, a financial advisor. He has never worked professionally with guns.

His experience is as a hunter, reenactor, and extra on movie sets.

I’m shocked that he was even allowed to testify.

I’m shocked that the defense wanted to call him because he was such a bad expert, I believe he made the defense’s position look worse.

The only thing that I can guess is that ever other reputable gun expert refused to agree to work for the defense because her case was so bad.

 

 

 

 

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By J. Kb

8 thoughts on “A look into a bad gun expert”
  1. I haven’t paid alot of attention to this fiasco.. my first thought when I heard she got convicted was – patsy, fall guy, take the hit for the rich asshole…
    she gets a felony because she handed a loaded gun to an idiot who blew all 5 rules of gun safety….. We the People hope the rich asshole gets the needle. personally if he killed my wife he wouldn’t make it to trial… niether would his whole family.. oh and IM a terrorist because I have a Gadsen flag…

  2. At the very least, Alec Baldwin committed Criminally Negligent Homicide.

    Penalties for Criminally screwing up are waived if you are a Progressive Elite.

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  3. I absolutely agree with the verdict in this case. In fact, a whole host of people deserve to be convicted along side her. From what I have read, there were multiple people who treated safety as an afterthought. Why was live ammo even on set at any time? Because the people using the props for target shooting were convinced nothing bad would happen…
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    And, Alec Baldwin is… well… not 100% compliant in the death, but he is not without blame in any way. You are an actor, you are handed a prop by someone who holds a position of trust. (First mistake, hiring this person, second mistake, trusting her) If the prop is set up for shooting in a scene, there is a possibility that monkeying with it would cause problems with the scene. No, that does not apply to this situation, but it could happen often enough that an actor will go into auto-pilot mode, and just accept the prop master’s assurance it is safe.
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    But, to point the gun at another person, and to pull the trigger, IS, in every definition of the word, negligence. And, Alec, at the bare minimum, needs to face a court for it.

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  4. Seems like a case of the prosecution screwing up by not challenging the fake expert about his lack of expertise. That’s supposedly how it should be done (at least, it’s how it was shown in “My cousin Vinnie”. 🙂 )

    From everything I have seen, she’s a gun bunny who was hired for PC reasons, not because of her qualifications. And yes, Baldwin also deserves blame — not just for being the one who pulled the trigger but also for being the one who hired that “armorer” in the first place.

    At the time I dug up a trade press article about safety practices for movie armorers. Real ones take their safety duties very seriously, and that particularly includes showing to the actor, step by step, that the gun they are about to be handed is safe to use. I distinctly remember reading how the armorer who wrote that article walked Robin Williams through that process (and how Williams reacted approvingly to this).

  5. Sometimes it’s not as easy to find an expert to work on a case as one might think. I do a lot of expert consulting for trials. I don’t advertise and I don’t seek cases, but I get two or three calls a week asking me to look at stuff because people are desperate for experts.
    .
    The problem is twofold. First, there’s a limited pool of experts who are willing to go to trial. Court can be very intimidating and uncomfortable if you are not used to it and/or not prepared. It’s one thing to pontificate in a lecture hall or classroom. It’s another to be cross examined by someone who is getting paid $500 per hour to make you look like a moron. Sitting through four hours of cross-examination is exhausting. This is particularly true in cases that are high profile or have political implications. A colleague of mine testified for the defense in the Chauvin/George Floyd case, and there was an immediate attempt to have his license to practice medicine revoked in retaliation. The State of Maryland opened an “investigation” of him that is still ongoing.
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    I was recently asked to consult on a case, but could not because of a conflict of interest. I asked 25 senior colleagues if they would be willing to take the case. Of those 25, 23 declined because they feared the political fallout on their careers. High profile cases are great if you are young and trying to build a name. But I actively avoid high profile cases at this point in my career. They don’t pay any more, and the downside exposure is huge once you are established.
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    Accordingly, there may be many, many experts in something, but it’s likely that only small minority are willing to actually consult on a case. This is an even big problem if the area of interest is esoteric. Note that this guy is supposed to be an expert in “period firearms” not just firearms. One might think that a well-established gunsmith would be an equivalent expert, but if they really are looking for an expert in 19th century firearms specifically, the pool is likely very, very small.
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    If the facts are not on your side, only a much smaller minority will be willing to sit on the stand and say something that is on your side. In about 80% of my defense cases, my consultation is “Sorry, your guy is screwed.” Defense doesn’t want to take that to trial. So they will look for someone else. Add that to a small pool to begin with and you may be down to a handful of candidates. And not all of those people are at the top of their game.

    1. Thank you for the voice of experience hh465. I have had very limited experience in this field and had a similar thinking in line with what you posted. In this case, who would want to endure the absolute trainwreck situation of an armorer who had only one previous gig, and no experience on a gun heavy set. I believe the only reason anyone got involved at any position of this production, from the armorer down to the witnesses for the defense, were people gambling that the Baldwin name might improve their resumes and careers.

    2. I’m actually trying to grow a business as an expert in consulting, especially with firearms. I might reach out to you to see how to get on the radar of whoever is contacting you. I advertise and don’t get many hits.

      On this case though, I wouldn’t have taken the case. What she did was just too bad for any expert to try and justify.

      1. In my profession, you get business without advertising via two primary channels:
        .
        1) You get a reputation in the profession. For me, that means things like publishing in the academic literature, academic appointments, professional service in professional organizations, the occasional high-profile case as part of your everyday work, being on the editorial board of a professional journal, etc. This established your bona fides. I know a couple of younger folk who think they can make more money with less work doing just private consults. They have a hard time building their business because they haven’t “paid their dues,” and don’t have a track record with a “regular” job.
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        2) You get referrals from colleagues. Most of my colleagues have more business they can handle, as do I. Most of us are booked up for trial months in advance. Most of us have case types we just don’t like to do. I don’t like to do child deaths, but I’m very comfortable with nursing home wrongful deaths and deaths in custody (and others). I know people who like child death cases, but shudder at getting involved with deaths in custody. It’s not a matter of competence, but of taste. So, I get a fair number of calls for cases that are going to trial in two weeks, and I just can’t handle that. I tend to decline most, though not all, child death cases. In those cases, I have a list of colleagues I suggest to the client. Similarly, there’s a network of colleagues that refer cases to me. Just this morning, my old boss told me she was referring a client to me for a case she doesn’t have time to do.
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        If you do a good job, you will get a recurring client. My experience is that these clients are consistent for two or three cases, and then you never hear from them again — or not for years. I asked one client about this and he said that his group doesn’t like to use an expert too much or else they start getting the accusation that the expert is a “hired gun” for the company. It’s been a common pattern that I’ll get three or four cases over a period of a year, and then nothing for a couple of years. There are also geographic issues. I used to do a lot of work on in-custody deaths for a left coast jurisdiction and then nothing. I sent one of the jurisdiction’s a note after I saw something on the news, and got the reply that there had been a policy change about paying for travel, lodging, per diem, etc. for east coast experts. They could only hire someone from the east if nobody local was around.
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        So, for instance, I wrote about the case I declined because of a conflict of interest. I got an email from the colleague I referred them to. He’s done three more cases for that client in the past year. I’ll never hear from the client again, but that’s OK — eventually that colleague will refer someone else to me.
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        3) You passively get on lists of experts by counsel. I didn’t know this, but counsel — particularly public defenders — keep lists of experts and publish them internally. In addition, if you do indigent defense (which pays a lot less, but there are moral and ethical reasons to do it), then often the courts or public defender’s office will have a list of go-to experts. This is because it is sometimes a hassle to get “certified” for payment as an expert by the courts ahead of time. Once you are on that list, then people will tend to go to you rather than file the paperwork and make the effort to get a new expert certified. That’s not the case for all jurisdictions, but it is the case for many. For the feds, for instance, you have to have a SAM and CAGE number and all that stuff. That will result in cold calls to you from those jurisdictions that have these lists of approved experts.
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        This does not count as “advertising,” since you don’t have anything to do with it. It’s not unethical to advertise, but if you market yourself too aggressively, it may come up in court. You want to stay away from “hired gun” attacks.
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        Some other advice:
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        1) Do both prosecution/plaintiff *and* defense cases. This can be a little hard to do, since the defense market is so much larger. For what I do in my “day job” I testify essentially 100% of the time for the prosecution. I started doing private cases primarily so I could get defense experience. If all of what you do is for the prosecution, then you start thinking like a prosecutor if you are not careful. Once I started doing defense work, I could look at my day job work and say to myself “OK, if I were hired by the defense, how would I criticize my report?” It makes my reports much longer than my local colleagues (which they complain about in peer review), but it makes me less likely to be impeached on something I left out of my report. If you are doing only consults, then try to do a mix of plaintiff and defense consulting so you again can avoid the “hired gun who kneejerks for the defense” attack.
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        2) Get off facebook, instagram, etc., or at least be very circumspect. Many years ago, I showed up to trial on a case and opposing counsel lit into me because of something I wrote on my blog about TASERs. I deleted my facebook, etc. accounts the next day. I still have a blog, but I do so with the expectation that everything I write will be brought up at trial. Just a few months ago, I testified for the defense in a rape-murder trial in Staten Island. The prosecutor brought up a critique I did of one of the “only 2% of rape accusations are false” papers that showed that using the data presented in the paper, the correct number was about 24%. She said that this proved that I “didn’t believe in rape.” Counsel was profoundly aggressive regarding personal attacks on my integrity, etc. Most of the time these personal attacks backfire on counsel — the jury will think they are a**holes — but not always, and you have to decide every time you publish something whether or not you are willing to face an attack on the stand because of it.
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        I have colleagues who are very active on Instagram, TikTok, etc. But they are *very* careful about what they put on it.
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        3) Consider an S corp or LLC. I don’t have one, but many of my colleagues do. It’s a liability thing. I’ve had colleagues who lost all their retirement savings *successfully* defending against a lawsuit.
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        4) Get professional liability insurance. Make sure it’s the *right* kind and make sure you are covered. For instance, I have malpractice insurance since I am a physician, but that doesn’t cover a lot of the cases that colleagues have been sued on. For instance, if I accidentally lose or destroy a histologic slide and it becomes an issue, that’s “spoilage” and not covered under malpractice. Similarly, a hack into my computer system and exposure of client records is not covered under malpractice. Getting that additional coverage is cheap compared to malpractice, but you have to know about it. Again, I’ve had colleagues lose their savings *successfully* defending against cases that were not covered by malpractice insurance.
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        5) Develop a very thick skin and don’t take anything personal on the stand, and be quick to say “I don’t know” or to acknowledge an error. This is sometimes the hardest thing for younger or newer experts. You get up on the stand and you feel you have to plant a flag and defend everything because any admission of ignorance or error feels like a personal impeachment. Juries know you are just human, and as always, it’s the denial and coverup that causes the most damage. Take the hit and move on — there will be another case tomorrow and you can learn from this one.
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        Similarly, remember that this is mostly theater. Often kabuki. Many years ago, I underwent a Daubert challenge to some of my testimony involving image analysis I did on a case (I’m trained in both medicine and computer science). If you don’t know, a Daubert challenge is a hearing done before you testify that challenges the “scientific basis” of your conclusions. If counsel can prove your conclusions were not based on the “scientific method,” it can be excluded. So they attack the scientific basis, your competence, etc. It was a six hour hearing, where counsel attacked my knowledge, my integrity, my motives, my ethics, my methods, etc. What was most amusing was that after about 3 and a half hours of this, the judge called for a lunch break. As soon as court recessed, defense counsel (I was testifying for the prosecution in this case) came up to me and said “Dr, can you help me? I can’t get my laptop to boot.” So, I spent an hour fixing her laptop, and finally got it going just before I had to get back on the stand. Then she got up an spent another three hours claiming that I was incompetent and didn’t know what I was doing.
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        After she was done, the *judge* started giving me the third degree, criticizing my report, how I derived my conclusions. etc. When I finally sat down, I was sweating blood. I turned to the prosecutor and said “Man, did I f**k this up or what?” He laughed and said “You did great. You gotta understand. This guy’s a monster,” he said, pointing to the defendant. “I know it, the judge knows it, and even the defense knows it. Everybody crucified you to make sure that every possible attack on you was made. It’s all about appeal. If every possible attack on your was made and the judge allows you to testify, then it will withstand appeal since appeals courts defer to the trial judges judgment on those things. If there was an attack that wasn’t make, however, that’s the basis for an appeal based ineffective counsel. The judge hit you simply because those were things the defense didn’t think of.” And, sure enough, the judge said I could testify.
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        I’ve had counsel spend an afternoon attacking me, calling me every bad thing under the sun. Three weeks later, he called to hire me for a case.
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        6) Work on your performance. Testifying at trial is theater overlying truth. You have to learn how to talk to a jury. You have to develop a persona that you are good at projecting. You want to project that you are comfortable, but not casual. You want to project competence, but not arrogance. You want to be technical, but understandable. That was one of the problems the expert in this Rust case had. He had a poor performance. He started off sounding a bit unserious and did not “exude” competence. He may have been serious and competent, but his performance hid it.
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        It’s amazing what will turn off a jury. I testified in a case once where I had a paper copy of my report that I took up on the stand to refer to during my testimony. After I was done, I left the paper in the dock. The bailiff called out and asked me if I wanted it. It was just a paper copy of a report I had the electronic version of, and I was done, so I said “No, that’s OK. Toss it.” Later I found out that opposing counsel made a big deal of it, claiming that I was arrogant and didn’t care about the victim because I just “threw away” a record about her death. That apparently resonated with the jury.

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