New York (Reuters) — To convince jurors that Alec Baldwin faces criminal charges in the shooting of cinematographer Halina Hutchins while filming the western “Last,” legal experts say Prosecutors could go a long way.
New Mexico District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwis said on Thursday that her office was closed to “30 Rock” actor and movie armorer Hannah after investigating the October 2021 shooting for more than a year. Gutierrez Reid has said he will be charged with manslaughter.
Baldwin, 64, said he had not pulled the trigger when he was handed the gun and was told it had no live ammunition. His attorney Thursday called the decision to file criminal charges against the actor a “huge miscarriage of justice.”
Legal experts say the shootings that occurred during rehearsals on set in October 2021, if evidence shows they were an accident despite safety measures in place, It is doubtful that a jury will convict Baldwin.
“This is a very aggressive prosecution decision and the defense is making a strong case,” said Neama Rahmani, a personal injury attorney and former public prosecutor who was not involved in the Rust case. increase.
The Carmack-Altwies office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The most serious charges prosecutors are pursuing – which is a five-year prison sentence – require them to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Baldwin was more than mere negligence.
Legal experts said this would require him to prove that his actions were reckless or that he deviated “extremely from the caution that a reasonable person would exercise in similar circumstances.”
In announcing Thursday’s accusations, Carmack Altwith said in an interview with CNN, “Everyone who handles guns has a duty to make sure they aren’t going to fire a projectile and kill someone.” rice field.
But legal experts questioned whether that standard would apply if a field weapons expert told Baldwin that guns were safe.
They said criminal charges were rare, even for accidental gunshot deaths that occurred in non-professional settings without safety protocols.
Defense attorney Jon Anderson, a former New Mexico federal prosecutor who was not involved in the case, said prosecutors “unless they can prove they were absolutely reckless in terms of the level of safety on set.” , Criminal liability is “stretching”.
“There seems to be multiple safety checks built in here,” said Anderson.
Experts interviewed by Reuters were unable to name another instance where criminal charges stemmed from an accidental shooting death on a movie set.
In 1993, when Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee, was fatally shot by an improperly inspected gun on the set of “The Crow,” prosecutors concluded it was a negligent accident and filed charges. refused.
Andrea Reeve, the special counsel appointed in the “Last” case, said in a statement Thursday that “the evidence clearly shows a pattern of disregard for criminal safety on the set of the “Last” case.” Stated.
In April, the New Mexico Department of Work Safety fined the film’s producer $137,000 for “willful” safety negligence. Also, pending civil lawsuits against Baldwin allege that systematic cost cutting led to a precarious situation on set, something Baldwin and the film’s production companies deny.
But prosecutors are likely to face a much greater burden in criminal cases and have to prove extraordinary safety negligence across the board, legal experts said.
Experts say involuntary manslaughter is most common in fatal traffic accidents involving extreme recklessness, such as drunkenness or excessive speeding.
None of the publicly available information indicates that Baldwin’s mental state was reckless enough to meet that standard, lawyer and former prosecutor Joshua Ritter said.
“We don’t have all the evidence, but it still feels like the prosecution is up against an uphill battle. is clear,” Ritter said.