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Law Professors Turley and Dershowitz Say Alec Baldwin Could Face Charges for Movie Set Shooting

Law Professors Turley and Dershowitz Say Alec Baldwin Could Face Charges for Movie Set Shooting

“As a producer, Baldwin could be ultimately implicated in the negligence leading to the shootings.”

New details on the Alec Baldwin movie set shooting are emerging on a daily basis and there’s plenty of speculation about how the investigation will ultimately play out.

No one believes that Baldwin intended to kill one co-worker and wound another, but some of our best legal minds are starting to say that he could still face consequences.

Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University recently wrote at his blog:

Yes, Alec Baldwin Could Be Charged Criminally in the “Rust” Shooting But…

As a producer, Baldwin could be ultimately implicated in the negligence leading to the shootings.

New Mexico has a provision that allows “involuntary manslaughter” charges for “the commission of a lawful act which might produce death in an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection.” If there was a pattern of neglect, including prior discharges from these prop weapons, the producers could be investigated and charged with involuntary manslaughter. Such a charge is a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico, with a penalty of 18 months jail time and up to $5,000 in fines.

The difficulty for criminal defense attorneys in dealing with such charges is that they do not require “specific intent.” Given prior deaths from prop guns (as with Brandon Lee in the movie “The Crow”), the danger of a fatal mistake was foreseeable. However, such charges are rare and unlikely in this case absent stronger evidence of knowledge or involvement by Baldwin in the preparation or handling of these props.

Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz writes at The Hill:

Is the Alec Baldwin shooting a homicide?

According to one film school expert who specializes in these matters, protocols “had to have been broken” in this instance because the film industry “has a very specific set of guidelines to prevent something like this from happening.” And yet, two things would appear to be clear: The guidelines seem not to have been followed in this case, and the existing guidelines seem insufficient to prevent accidents like this.

It is likely, therefore, that the killing of Halyna Hutchins could constitute a homicide — that is, a criminal killing. The remaining questions are who might be criminally responsible for the killing and what degree of homicide fits the evidence?

At this point in time, everyone must be presumed innocent. But it does not follow from the presumption of innocence that anyone is immune from rigorous investigation. It seems clear that Alec Baldwin was not aware that he was firing a gun capable of expelling a lethal projectile. But his role reportedly was not limited to passively being an actor; he may have had some responsibility as one of several producers of the film.

Our own Andrew Branca recently wrote:

Legal Analysis: Alec Baldwin Situation Beginning to Look a Lot Like Manslaughter

The relevant New Mexico statute on involuntary manslaughter is § 30-2-3.  Manslaughter, which addresses both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.  Our focus here, of course, is on involuntary manslaughter.

In the context of involuntary manslaughter, § 30-2-3 reads in relevant part:

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. … B. Involuntary manslaughter consists of manslaughter committed in the … commission of a lawful act that might produce death … without due caution and circumspection.

Ms. Hutchins is obviously killed.  We have stipulated that the killing of Ms. Hutchins was not justified (e.g., it was “unlawful”) and without malice (without intent to cause harm), so that meets the conditions of the first sentence of the manslaughter statute, and satisfies the definition of manslaughter under New Mexico law.

The possibility of voluntary manslaughter appears to be off the table here, given the lack of evidence of a “sudden quarrel” or “heat of passion”  required for that crime by § 30-2-3.  So that leaves us to consider the possibility of involuntary manslaughter.

However this story ends, I doubt we will see Alec Baldwin mocking Trump on Saturday Night Live again any time soon.


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As has been mentioned several times before, the title “producer” often indicates nothing more than “investor with no operational authority.” People with operational authority are generally “executive producers.”

    CommoChief in reply to henrybowman. | October 29, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    IMO, the fact he is a producer makes him more culpable not less. First we have a system of individual criminal liability not collective. In this case no one has yet denied that Baldwin did not:
    1. Have control of the firearm
    2. Have the ability to determine whether the firearm had any type of ammunition loaded
    3. Aim the firearm at another human being
    4. Pull the trigger, discharging a bullet which struck two human beings, killing one

    That’s the record, so far uncontested, of his individual actions both negative and positive. Any reliance he placed on the actions of others regarding firearm safety are properly viewed as a supplement to his individual actions in exercise of his individual duty to care.

    His position as a producer would seem to increase his liability due to the failure of the institution, maintenance and enforcement of effective safety protocols. Clearly the film industry safety standards were not followed. The question then is why. Was Baldwin only nominally a producer? If so were others listed as producers also only nominally so? Was there a particular producer who was responsible for fulfilling the day to day responsibilities? If so who? Was this effectively a collective, shared responsibility and thus a shared failure?

I am confused. Isn’t homicide just the killing of a person/persons by another person/persons? Isn’t this automatically a homicide whether intentional, unintentional, or justified?

He should but we all know he won’t and will be in a warpath after

If “I was told it wasn’t loaded” is accepted as a valid defense against manslaughter it may be used a lot going forward.

    Elzorro in reply to JHogan. | October 29, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    Does someone else have to tell you the gun was not loaded or can anyone just claim they thought the gun was ‘cold’ and get away with murder?

    James B. Shearer in reply to JHogan. | October 29, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    “If “I was told it wasn’t loaded” is accepted as a valid defense against manslaughter it may be used a lot going forward.”

    The circumstances of this case are pretty unusual so I don’t think it will affect other cases much.

    CommoChief in reply to JHogan. | October 29, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    Yeah, gonna make for interesting times if so. A high profile case like this does impact public perception of ‘what the law says’ for better or worse. Some segment of the population will latch onto the idea that they no longer have to personally determine if a firearm is loaded if Baldwin isn’t prosecuted and walks.

    Unfortunate but there it is. A random DA in NM is going to influence the future in a much broader way than many think. I see it now ‘gee whiz, I told my buddy who borrowed my gun to unload it when he brought it back, I relied on him, that’s why I didn’t check to see if it was loaded, it’s not my fault I want the Baldwin oops technicality’.

UnCivilServant | October 29, 2021 at 2:23 pm

It was his finger on the trigger, and he did not verify the state of the weapon. Manslaughter due to negligence seems appropriate.

    I believe that’s the very definition of negligence. Finger on the trigger of a firearm and not knowing it’s status. And the status was, is, and always will be, all guns are loaded.

    It may seem some of us are piling on. That is not my intent. It’s just that most of us who have been around guns all our lives have had it knocked into our heads just how dangerous they are. How catastrophic the results will be if you f*** up.

Lefty DA from Santa FE. If you have ever been there you know. It is a far left Woke Paradise. His Crisis Management team is on the job. He will skate.

Negligence likely causes far more damage collectively, than violent crimes. But, even prosecuting violent crimes is rare. According to the FBI, less than 50% of violent crimes aren’t even reported to the police. 80% of violent crimes aren’t prosecuted. It’s far worse for property crimes. Only 6% are prosecuted. We like to believe we live in a civilized country, but our legal system is irreparably broken. The crimes we now see prosecuted are crimes chosen by our far left media, to create outrage against traditional Americans. Our left-dominated culture prefers a lawless environment where anything goes.

Stop thinking accidental discharge, it’s negligent discharge. Several separate deliberate steps must be completed in sequence to fire a single action revolver. Baldwin done all of them, it seems without thinking. He killed that lady.

    RandomCrank in reply to Romey. | October 30, 2021 at 6:08 pm

    True about negligence, but for criminal purposes I will be very surprised if it will wind up being Baldwin’s. See my long post below for the reasoning.

Riiiight. And Hillary is going to jail for her “home brew” server chock full of Top Secret documents.

Baldwin will skate just like she did.

Whether or not he faces charges over his role as a producer, he pulled the trigger. It would be nice if that counted.

As a Leftist in good standing doubt he will be charged but will pay out his nose before Civil Court gets a hold of him and lawsuits are made.
But if it was anyone else can’t see how they could get away with pointing and firing a firearm at a person while I suspect he knowing it had at the least a blank cartridge in iit. He had reason it wasn’t a full charge bullet but they weren’t using bubblegum on the set either.

I’m going to leave this alone. I know Hollywood wouldn’t treat me with any mercy. And I wouldn’t ask for any. Alec Baldwin knew, or should have known, what I knew when I was a child. I’m the knuckle dragging cave man, though.

Do any of you remember the movie, “Precious?”

It’s how Hollywood and the L.A. Times and the New York Times looks at us. A nation of wife beating child molesting thugs.

I have gone down the rabbit hole on this, and unless someones step forward with credible evidence that Baldwin had been drinking and/or using other intoxicants at lunch before the shooting, he won’t be convicted. Absent intoxication or something equally damning, I doubt he’ll be charged.

It boils down to the revolver, a single-action copy of a Colt .45 Peacemaker. A SA revolver’s cylinder can turn only while the hammer is being cocked. Unlike far more common double action revolvers, a SA cylinder does not swing out.

To inspect the rounds requires that the hammer be manually pulled back to make the cylinder turn; then the trigger must be pulled slowly and carefully in such a way as to not let the hammer strike the primer; then open the loading gate and use the ejector rod to remove the cartridges.

This has to be done six times. It’s somewhat delicate, and takes a few minutes. If I’m the actor (even one who I despise, i.e. Baldwin) shooting a SA revolver, I think it’s reasonable to rely on the people paid to make that inspection. If I am on the jury, as long as the actor I despise wasn’t drunk or high or otherwise reckless, I probably acquit him through clenched teeth.

This one, like so many shootings, boils down to the fine points. Try to trust me when I say that I regard Baldwin as a worthless POS. If I sat on the civil jury, I’d hold him personally liable for eight-figure damages. As much as I’d love to see him packed to one of New Mexico’s notorious prisons, I don’t think it will or should happen. Unless he was drinking or otherwise got high at lunch. If that were to come out, I’d do a 180.

    bastiatfan in reply to RandomCrank. | November 10, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    It’s not factually correct to say that you have to pull the trigger as part of the unloading procedure for a Colt single action. To unload: the hammer is pulled back to half-cock (unless the half cock notch is badly worn, the revolver won’t fire, even if you pull the trigger); this unlocks the cylinder, which is now free to rotate. Holding the butt with your firing hand (finger off the trigger), you open the gate, tilt the muzzle upwards, rotate the cylinder with the fingers of your other hand, bringing each chamber in line with the open gate. Unfired rounds will fall out under their own weight as each chamber comes in line with the open gate. Fired casings will stick in the chamber and must be punched out with the ejector rod. The entire process takes about eight to fourteen seconds and is perfectly safe. The Colt was designed to do this on horseback.

    Here is a picture of a loaded single action. Not the exact same gun, but the effect is the same. It should be obvious to the casual observer that it is loaded.×683.jpg