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Since the news of his prop gun shooting on the set of his upcoming movie, Rust, fans have wondered if Alec Baldwin will be charged with causing the death of his cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, who was killed after Baldwin shot her with a prop gun that had an accidental live round in it.
The shooting occurred on October 21, 2021, when Baldwin had misfired a prop gun that killed Hutchins and injured the movie’s director, Joel Souza, on the set of Rust, at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico. In a statement after the accident, Baldwin expressed his “shock and sadness” over Hutchins’ death and confirmed that he’s been “fully cooperating” with the police on how the misfire occurred. “There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours,” he tweeted at the time. “I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
Will Alec Baldwin be charged with manslaughter?
So—will Alec Baldwin be charged with manslaughter? The answer is yes. On January 19, 2023, New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies stated the Academy Award-nominated actor will be charged with involuntary manslaughter in addition to involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act. “After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the ‘Rust’ film crew,” Carmack-Altwies said in a statement. “On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”
Charges will be formally filed in with New Mexico’s First Judicial District Court before the end of the month of January 2023, according to Carmack-Altwies’ statement. The defendants will be sent a summons and “required to make a ‘first appearance,’ a procedure that is often referred to in other jurisdictions as an arraignment.” The first appearance may happen virtually, or the defendants could waive the appearance.
Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas said in a statement obtained by People: “This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death and represents 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 relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.” He added: “We will fight these charges, and we will win.”
At a press conference on October 27, 2021, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza and Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said that “all options are still on the table” when it comes to criminal charges over Hutchins’ death. He also noted that Baldwin, as well as armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and assistant director David Halls are the three main individuals the police have been communicating with.
“During the initial investigation, it was determined that actor/producer Alec Baldwin was the person that fired the weapon,” Mendoza said during the press conference. “We identified two other people who handled and or inspected the loaded firearm prior to Baldwin firing the weapon. These two individuals are armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and assistant director David Halls. All three individuals have been cooperative in the investigation and have provided statements.”
He continued, “During this process, we determined there were a limited amount of movie set staff present in the area where the actual incident took place, although there were approximately 100 people on set. Through the execution of search warrants, we have collected about 600 items of evidence. These include but are not limited to three firearms, approximately 500 rounds of ammunition and several pieces of clothing and possessions. We believe that we have in our possession the firearm that was fired by Mr. Baldwin.”
In October, Mendoza said it was “too early” to talk about who is liable for Hutchins’ death. “The investigation will continue and if the Sheriff’s Office determines during our investigation that a crime has occurred and probable cause exists, an arrest or arrests will be made and charges will be filed,” he said. Carmack-Altwies also noted that the investigation is ongoing. “I must emphasize that a complete and thorough investigation is critical to DA review,” she said. “We take the corroborated facts and evidence and connect it to New Mexico law. And we are not at that juncture yet. If the facts and evidence and law support charges, then I will initiate prosecution at that time.”
David Ring, a Los Angeles trial attorney, told People on October 26, 2021, that he doesn’t think Baldwin will “have criminal culpability” in the case because he was told the prop gun was “cold” (which means it didn’t have any live rounds in it) by assistant director Dave Hall. “Based on what we know now, it doesn’t seem like Alec Baldwin is the focus of any criminal case because he was handed a gun and he was told it was a cold gun, meaning that someone has looked at it and [found] there’s no ammunition in it,” Hall said. “And I think he has the right to rely upon that, to assume that it also is cold.”
As for who could be “criminally liable,” Ring told People that the crew members in charge, such as the producer, are the most culpable. “There’s certainly a chance that the authorities say this was such a dangerous operation that whoever’s in charge, including the producer, are somehow criminally liable,” he said. “That’s a much more difficult case to prove. We’re talking about intent.”
What is involuntary manslaughter?
What is Involuntary Manslaughter? The charge of Involuntary Manslaughter, according to Justia, is an unintentional killing that results either from recklessness or criminal negligence or from the commission of a low-level criminal act such as a misdemeanor. Involuntary manslaughter is distinguished from other forms of homicide because it does not require deliberation or premeditation, or even intent. Involuntary Manslaughter is the lowest form of homicide in many states. In New Mexico, Voluntary Manslaughter consists of manslaughter committed upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion.
Albuquerque criminal defense attorney Erlinda Johnson told People that involuntary manslaughter charges was likely brought against Baldwin—and other crew members who checked the gun—because he was the one who handled the firearm “Whoever handles the firearm has a duty to check it for any live rounds,” she said. “There’s a lot of civil liability here. It’s going to be a nightmare for [people involved with the movie].”
In terms of civil liability, Ring told People that “there’s no doubt” Baldwin will be named in a wrongful death lawsuit if Hutchins’ family decides to file one. “He’s absolutely going to get named in any wrongful death lawsuit. You just have to show that there was negligence that led to the shooting, and it’s a much lower standard than a criminal case,” Ring said. “Obviously there’s negligence [in this case] and it just depends on who was negligent. But ultimately the production company is in charge. It happened on their watch.” He continued, “Anyone who should have been in charge is going to get named in a wrongful death lawsuit.”
What is the sentence for involuntary manslaughter in New Mexico?
What is the sentence for involuntary manslaughter in New Mexico? According to District Attorney Carmack-Atwiles’ statement, New Mexico law will be applied to the two charges. “The first charge can be referred to simply as involuntary manslaughter. For this charge to be proved there must be underlying negligence. Under New Mexico law, involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony and is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. This charge also includes the misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a firearm, which would likely merge as a matter of law.
The statement continued, “The other charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act. This charge requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death. This is also a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. This charge includes a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty because a firearm was involved. The firearm enhancement makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.”
“There is a very clear process for pursuing justice in this case,” Carmack-Altwies stated. “We are committed to upholding the integrity of that process to ensure equal justice under the law.”
In an interview with The Daily Mail, Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, confirmed that he’s been in communication with Baldwin since the accident. “I have spoken with Alec Baldwin and he is being very supportive,” said Matthew, who shares an 8-year-old son with the late cinematographer. Matthew also told Insider that he doesn’t have “words to communicate the situation” yet, which is why he hasn’t officially commented. “I don’t think there are words to communicate the situation,” he said. “I am not going to be able to comment about the facts or the process of what we’re going through right now, but I appreciate that everyone has been very sympathetic. I think that we will need a little bit of time before we can really encapsulate her life in a way that is easy to communicate.”
Rust Movie Productions LLC also confirmed on October 21, 2021, that the film set has been shut down and production on the movie has been indefinitely paused after Hutchins’ death. The entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today’s tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Halyna’s family and loved ones,” the company said in a statement at the time. We have halted production on the film for an undetermined period of time and are fully cooperating with the Santa Fe Police Department’s investigation. We will be providing counseling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event.”