“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.DONATE
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