Alec Baldwin Charged with Manslaughter
Ever since the deadly shooting on the set of Alec Baldwin’s movie “Rust,” the speculation has been running high as to whether the actor would be charged with a crime in conjunction with the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins – or would he walk.
To refresh the memory of the event, Baldwin was handed a gun that he was told was safe (loaded with a blank). In an unofficial rehearsal, Baldwin aimed the gun directly at Hutchins. The gun went off, hitting her in the chest. The bullet passed through her body and wounded Director Joel Souza. No charges were filed against Souza even though he could have been charged based on his overarching responsibilities on the set.
Thems the facts, folks. And now for the nuances and debatable “facts.”.
Baldwin claimed that he never pulled the trigger – and only pulled back the hammer. Ballistic tests by experts determined that the gun could not fire unless the trigger was pulled.
Since then, most pundits and observers said that Baldwin would not be charged. He was told the gun was safe. He was not, they argued, culpable in any way. Some believed that Baldwin would never be charged because he is a rich and powerful Hollywood personality. Maybe both of those facts play heavily in Baldwin’s favor.
Of course, the gun should have been safe. Established procedures require that guns on the set were to manage by an armor – whose primary duty is to inspect the guns before every use. The armor, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, handed the gun to Assistant Director Dave Halls– assuring him it was safe. Halls was also required to inspect the gun to ensure that it was safe before handing it to Baldwin. He apparently just passed it on to Baldwin. Obviously, both the armor and the assistant director failed in their responsibilities.
So, why should Baldwin be held accountable?
First of all, Baldwin was the Executive Producer for the movie. That means he is potentially responsible for anything that happens on the set. He is also responsible for the conduct of his underlings – in this case, the assistant director and the armor.
But that is not enough to get Baldwin a criminal charge. It does expose him to a civil suit by Hutchins’ family. Though it received little media attention, that has already been done with an out-of-court settlement that awarded an unspecified amount of money to the Hutchins family. It did not settle the feelings, however. The family issued a statement applauding Baldwin’s indictment for “negligent manslaughter.” (Not the kind of “applause” Baldwin is used to.)
When it was learned that the prosecutor, in this case, was about to announce a decision regarding Baldwin, virtually every media panelist predicted that there would be no charges. One former federal prosecutor even said that Baldwin’s defense was to explain that the actor was handling what was essentially a “toy gun.”
(What? A real bullet from that gun killed one and wounded another. And the media prosecutor would try to convince a jury that it was merely a toy gun? I am no lawyer, but I think that would be hard to sell to 12 folks. But I digress.)
Prosecutors do not indict unless they believe they have a better than 50/50 chance of securing a guilty verdict. So, what is the case to be made against Baldwin?
It turns out that Baldwin also has a responsibility in the handling of gun on a set. He arguably failed to meet that responsibility – acted recklessly – and a person died.
He was also supposed to inspect the gun himself to make sure there were no live rounds in any of the chambers. Blanks and live rounds are distinctively different – and Baldwin was — or should have been –familiar with the differences.
There is a general prohibition against having ANY live ammunition on a movie set in which guns are part of the production. As Executive Producer, he bears some responsibility for that failure – especially when it has been rumored that he was aware of live rounds being used on the set for recreational purposes.
Also, Baldwin violated the general prohibition of never pointing a gun – believed to be loaded or unloaded – at another human being. Baldwin aimed directly at Hutchins — even though in no scene would she have been standing at the business end of a pistol. Why did he point it at her to test fire it? That is a question for the jury to decide.
Apparently, they were not officially rehearsing a scene, and Hutchins was not recording at that moment. It was more or less a personal rehearsal of drawing the gun and aiming. Again, why at Hutchins, and why was it necessary to pull the trigger? (It is not likely that Baldwin’s claim of never having pulled the trigger will hold up in court against expert testing and testimony.)
I am inclined to go with the prosecutor in this case — with a better than 50/50 chance Baldwin will get convicted. If not, it will be due to the issue of “celebrity privilege” that has enabled a lot of bad actors (no pun intended) to avoid justice.
So, there ‘tis.