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Manslaughter Charge Against Alec Baldwin in Shooting Death of Halyna Hutchins Fits The Known Facts

Manslaughter Charge Against Alec Baldwin in Shooting Death of Halyna Hutchins Fits The Known Facts

Nothing during the 13 months since that event has changed my fundamental conclusion that a proper application of New Mexico law to the apparent facts in this case leads to anything but an act of reckless (involuntary) manslaughter on the part of Baldwin—ultimately the charge announced.

Last Thursday morning, New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced that actor Alec Baldwin would be charged with two counts of manslaughter in the October 21, 2021 shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins as the two worked together on the set of the low-budget movie “Rust.”

This decision to charge Baldwin with manslaughter comes a mere 13 months after my own legal analysis of the shooting, suggesting manslaughter, published right here at Legal Insurrection the day after the shooting:

Legal Analysis: Does Alec Baldwin Have Criminal Exposure After Shooting Woman Dead In Apparent Mistake? (Oct. 22, 2021)

That piece was quickly followed up by a much more detailed legal analysis concluding manslaughter was likely the appropriate charge in this case, published here just three days later:

Legal Analysis: Alec Baldwin Situation Beginning to Look a Lot Like Manslaughter (Oct. 25, 2021)

I’ve written numerous follow-up pieces on Baldwin’s shooting of Hutchins (all of which can be found collected here), but nothing during the 13 months since that event has changed my fundamental conclusion that a proper application of New Mexico law to the apparent facts in this case leads to anything but an act of reckless (involuntary) manslaughter on the part of Baldwin—ultimately the charge announced by DA Carmack-Altwies.

Why Two Counts of Manslaughter When Only One Person Died?

Interestingly, Carmack-Altwies has announced her intent to file two counts of manslaughter against Baldwin (and, separately, also against armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed).  This might seem counter-intuitive, given that there was only one killed victim in this case, Halyna Hutchins.  (Director Joel Souza was injured by the same bullet that killed Hutchins, Carmack-Altwies has announced that no charges will be filed with respect to the shooting of Souza–this seems odd, as certainly a felony reckless endangerment charge would seem appropriate, at the very least.)

As we don’t yet have official charging documents available–Carmack-Altwies says she intends to file those by the end of the month–there remains a bit of ambiguity around the precise nature of these manslaughter charges.

Absent actual charging documents we’re left to rely on a press release distributed on the First Judicial District Attorney’s Facebook page. This press release provides some additional details on these charges.  I note that this press release makes sloppy use of legal terms of art, so some or all of it may have been prepared by a non-lawyer, or by a not very good lawyer.

In any case, here’s my take on what appears to be the nature of the two counts of manslaughter announced against Baldwin.

These two manslaughter charges are intended to operate in the alternative, meaning Baldwin could be convicted of either one or the other, but not both. The reason there are two to choose from is that there are two distinct underlying legal theories for manslaughter under New Mexico law that could apply to the facts of this case.

New Mexico manslaughter is defined, appropriately enough, by statute § 30-2-3. Manslaughter, which reads in its entirety:

§30-2-3. Manslaughter.

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.

A. Voluntary manslaughter consists of manslaughter committed upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion.

Whoever commits voluntary manslaughter is guilty of a third degree felony resulting in the death of a human being.

B. Involuntary manslaughter consists of manslaughter committed in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to felony, or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death in an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection.

Whoever commits involuntary manslaughter is guilty of a fourth degree felony.

Here we are focused specifically on involuntary manslaughter, which the statute tells us can be committed either (1) during the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony or (2) committed during the commission of a lawful act without due caution and circumspection. We will refer to these as “unlawful act involuntary manslaughter” and “lawful act involuntary manslaughter,” respectively.

Either of these forms of involuntary manslaughter could apply under the facts of this case, resulting in a manslaughter conviction if proven beyond a reasonable doubt, with the offense in either case being a fourth-degree felony, normally punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 18 months.

What differs between the two forms of involuntary manslaughter, however, is that New Mexico law allows for the application of a 5-year mandatory minimum gun sentencing enhancement to be added in the case of lawful act involuntary manslaughter, but not in the case of unlawful act involuntary manslaughter (leaving the maximum sentence here at a maximum of 18 months, and perhaps no prison time whatever, at the sentencing judge’s discretion).

I caution up front that sentencing law is a rather arcane area of law with lots of variation among the states, and I claim no great expertise in New Mexico sentencing law. Indeed, I expect many New Mexico criminal law attorneys find themselves not always fully clear on those very sentencing laws. In this context, that means it remains somewhat unclear to me if the 5-year mandatory minimum gun sentencing enhancement would be in place of or in addition to the underlying 18 months prison sentence for the underlying fourth degree felony.

In either case, however, a conviction on merely unlawful act involuntary manslaughter means Baldwin faces at most 18 months in prison, and perhaps no prison time at all, at the judge’s discretion; whereas, a conviction on lawful act involuntary manslaughter means Baldwin appears to be facing a non-discretionary minimum of 5 years in prison, and perhaps as long as 6.5 years (the additional 1.5 years being at the discretion of the sentencing judge).

Why are the sentencing outcomes so different for what otherwise appear to be very similar fourth degree felonies? Here things get a little technical, but I’ll strive for as great a degree of clarity as possible.

Lawful Act Involuntary Manslaughter

The fact narrative supporting a conviction for lawful act involuntary manslaughter must meet these statutory conditions:

“The unlawful killing of a human being without malice … in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death in an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection.”

(Note that the “without malice” language exists to distinguish manslaughter from the malicious intent crime of murder.)

The lawful act manslaughter narrative would go as follows:

Baldwin was acting in a lawful manner in the handling of the revolver in his hand, but he was handling the revolver without due caution and circumspection—specifically, by pointing the muzzle at Hutchins without ensuring the revolver did not contain live ammo—and this lack of due caution and circumspection resulted in Hutchins’ death.

If a jury finds these facts to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, Baldwin would be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, a fourth degree felony carrying a prison sentence of up to 18 months.

Because the killing also involved Baldwin’s use of a firearm, however, Baldwin would also be subject to New Mexico’s gun sentencing enhancement, which mandates a minimum 5-year prison sentence.

Unlawful Act Involuntary Manslaughter

The fact narrative supporting a conviction for unlawful act involuntary manslaughter must meet these alternative statutory conditions:

“The unlawful killing of a human being without malice … in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to felony.”

(Note that the “not amounting to a felony” language exists to distinguish this from the scenario of felony murder.)

This unlawful act manslaughter narrative would go as follows:

Baldwin was committing the crime of negligent use of a deadly weapon—specifically, by pointing the muzzle at Hutchins without ensuring the revolver did not contain live ammo—when the revolver discharged and killed Hutchins.

(Note that this is the exact crime to which Assistant Director David Halls pleaded guilty, receiving a 6-month suspended sentence and 6 months of probation—so, zero prison time.)

If a jury finds these facts to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, Baldwin would be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, a fourth degree felony carrying a prison sentence of up to 18 months.

But there would be no application of the 5-year mandatory minimum gun sentencing enhancement in the context of unlawful act involuntary manslaughter.

Why not? Because the New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that the fact of a gun being involved can be used only once in arriving at a conviction and sentence, not twice.

In the context of unlawful act involuntary manslaughter, the fact of the gun is an element of the underlying negligent use of a deadly weapon charge that makes Baldwin’s conduct unlawful in the first place. Therefore, the fact of the gun may not also be used for purposes of a gun sentencing enhancement.

In the context of lawful act involuntary manslaughter, the fact of the gun was not used to arrive at conviction, so that fact remains available to be used for purposes of a gun sentencing enhancement.

So, bottom line, if convicted of unlawful act involuntary manslaughter Baldwin is looking at maximum of 18 months in prison, and perhaps no prison time at all. In contrast, if convicted of lawful act involuntary manslaughter Baldwin is looking at a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison, and perhaps as much as 6.5 years (so, roughly the second half of his 60s).

As already noted, the same two alternative forms of involuntary manslaughter are also to be charged against armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.  The legal principles underlying these charges are necessarily the same as for Baldwin, but the underlying facts for Gutierrez-Reed will differ substantially.  For example, Gutierrez-Reed never pointed the gun at Hutchins, and indeed Baldwin’s own conduct is clearly an intervening cause between whatever recklessness Gutierrez-Reed may have committed and Baldwin’s own unambiguous recklessness: that is, whatever error Gutierrez-Reed committed, Hutchins would still not have been shot but for Baldwin’s recklessness in failing to ensure the gun he pointed at Hutchins was not loaded.

Next, I’ll quickly hit the high points of my previous analysis, so we’re all on the same page in terms of the legal merits of this charge of manslaughter. (This is drawn from the October 25, 2021 post linked above.)

Relevant Facts Assumed to Be Established

The relevant facts we’re presuming to be established for purposes of this analysis include:

That it was Alec Baldwin who was manipulating the gun that fired the projectile that killed Ms. Hutchins.

That the gun discharged because the trigger was depressed by Baldwin (and not because of some defect in the weapon).

That the muzzle of the weapon was directed towards Ms. Hutchins by Baldwin when it was fired (e.g., she was not killed by an unpredictable ricochet).

That the gun contained a live round, the bullet of which struck and killed Ms. Hutchins.

That Baldwin had the opportunity to inspect the weapon for live ammo before he directed it at Ms. Hutchins and pressed the trigger, killing her.

And, of course, that there was no justification for the shooting of Ms. Hutchins (e.g., this was not an act of lawful self-defense—which it clearly was not).

I should note that Baldwin has repeatedly claimed that he never touched the trigger of the gun, that the revolver simply “went off” when he was merely manipulating the hammer (presumably to argue that this conduct ought not have been reasonably expected to result in the gun firing).  We now know, of course, that FBI testing concluded that the handgun fired by Baldwin could not be made to discharge unless the trigger was pulled.  We also have some video of Baldwin rehearsing the scene that would result in Hutchins’ death.  While doing so, each time Baldwin presents the handgun from the holster his finger is clearly placed upon the trigger.

Separately, we are assuming for purposes of today’s analysis that Baldwin did not intend to injure Ms. Hutchins. If such intent to harm were established, we’d obviously be looking at a much more serious criminal charge than mere involuntary manslaughter.

Assuming, as we are, these facts to be established, it would certainly appear that they are more than sufficient to justify a criminal charge of involuntary manslaughter under New Mexico law and to support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt on that charge.

New Mexico Involuntary Manslaughter Statute: § 30-2-3. 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.

(Note that in fact we now understand the District Attorney is pursuing two alternative forms of involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin, as discussed in more detail above.)

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.

The key, then, is to determine whether Baldwin’s pointing of the gun at Ms. Hutchins and pressing the trigger without first ensuring that the gun did not contain live ammo, was the commission of a lawful act which might produce death and that was done “without due caution and circumspection.”

Inherently Dangerous Instruments: Yep, Including Guns

That means we have to understand what “due caution and circumspection” means—and particularly in the context of an inherently dangerous instrument, such as a firearm.

It is common knowledge that firearms are dangerous instruments, so the law presumes that we all possess such knowledge. In the case of Baldwin, he actually sits on the board of a gun-control organization whose existence is premised on the fact that guns are dangerous, so he can certainly be presumed to possess this knowledge.

Items are inherently dangerous when they can readily cause death or serious bodily injury to people if used carelessly.  Guns clearly qualify, as already noted. Also in this category of inherently dangerous instruments would be explosives, heavy equipment, and dangerous drugs or chemicals.  Use of these items takes particular and specialized care if death or serious bodily injury is to be avoided.

It happens that inherently dangerous instruments are often exceptionally useful.  Guns, for example, are exceptionally useful, compared to the available alternatives, for purposes of defense and hunting.  Explosives are exceptionally useful for mining and road construction and demolition.  Dangerous drugs are exceptionally useful for human health and dangerous chemicals for various industries.

Balancing Inherent Danger with Social Utility: Strict Liability

So, society wants to realize the value of these various inherently dangerous instruments—but also wants to balance that value against the considerable risk of harm these inherently dangerous instruments might cause.

That balance is achieved by imposing the following rule—anyone making use of an inherently dangerous instrument is strictly liable for any unnecessary harm that they cause, no excuses, period.  The burden is placed on the person using the inherently dangerous instrument to ensure that they take whatever steps are required in order to not cause unnecessary harm—and if they do cause unnecessary harm, they bear absolute responsibility for that harm, no excuses.

What this all boils down to is that for any category of inherently dangerous instrument there will have been rules developed for the safe use of that instrument—follow the rules, and the value of the instrument can be realized without much risk of serious harm.  Fail to follow the rules, and serious harm becomes quite likely—and, again, the user then bears absolute responsibility for having caused that harm, no excuses.  (If safe use of an inherently dangerous instrument would not be possible even if safety rules were followed, that instrument would simply be prohibited from general use.)

Four Rules of Gun Safety, or “Due caution and circumspection”

What this means in the context of firearms, a particular class of inherently dangerous instruments with a considerable potential for causing unnecessary death and serious harm to others, is that there exists a series of safety rules for their responsible operation.  These rules are well established and widely recognized—and there are only four of them.

Phrased in the context most relevant to the facts of this case, the four rules for safe gun handling are:

  • All guns are presumed to be loaded until the gun handler personally verifies otherwise—and that verification becomes invalid the moment the gun leaves the handler’s control.
  • Never point the muzzle of a firearm at anything you are not willing to kill or destroy.
  • Never press the trigger of a firearm unless you intend for it to fire a bullet from the barrel.
  • Know your target, and what is beyond your target.

That last safety rule is intended to recognize the dangers presented by bullets that can penetrate objects and proceed onward to strike unintended people and things, as well as to help prevent hunters from shooting each other because of mistaken identification as game, so that one isn’t particularly relevant to our analysis here.

The first three safety rules, however, are intensely relevant to the facts of this case.  As the safety rules for safe gun handling, they define what is meant by the statutory element of “due caution and circumspection” in the context of handling firearms.

The Beautiful Redundancy of Gun Safety Rules

One interesting facet of the gun safety rules is that they are redundant, in the technical sense of meaning that violating any single one of them will not necessarily have a bad outcome. Indeed, a bad outcome in the sense of death or serious bodily injury can really only happen not if one of those three safety rules are violated, or even two of them, but instead requires that the gun handler manage to violate all three of those gun handling safety rules.

Merely mistakenly believe a gun does not contain live ammo (e.g., in fact it is loaded), but neither point it at anyone nor press the trigger, and no harm results.

Merely point the muzzle at someone, but first ensure the gun does not contain live ammo and do not depress the trigger, and no harm results.

Merely press the trigger, but first ensure the gun does not contain live ammo and don’t point the muzzle at anyone, and no harm results.

Break all three of the safety rules, however—mistakenly believe your gun containing live ammo is unloaded, point the muzzle at another person, and press the trigger—and you have a very bad outcome, indeed.

That’s precisely why the safety rules exist—so when handling an inherently dangerous instrument in the form of a gun, bad outcomes—death and serious bodily injury—can be avoided.

So how does one handle a firearm “with due caution and circumspection”?  By adhering to those safety rules when handling the firearm.

When is a person handling a firearm failing to do so “with due caution and circumspection”? When they are handling that firearm in a manner that violates one or more of those safety rules.

Based on the apparent facts of this case, it appears incontestable that Alec Baldwin violated all three of those primary gun handling safety rules when he engaged in the conduct that killed Ms. Hutchins.

First, he pointed the muzzle in her direction—presumably directly at her.

Second, he pressed the trigger in the manner designed to fire the weapon.

Third, he failed to first ensure that the weapon did not contain a live round.

The result:  the unintended discharge of the bullet into Ms. Hutchins, killing her.

That, in a nutshell, certainly appears to be the “commission of a lawful act which might produce death … without due caution and circumspection.”

And that, as we’ve already seen, is the statutory definition of involuntary manslaughter under § 30-2-3.

NM Jury Instruction 14-231 Involuntary Manslaughter

Another angle from which we can inspect this question of whether Baldwin’s conduct qualifies as involuntary manslaughter under New Mexico law is to take a look at the relevant New Mexico jury instruction: 14-231 Involuntary Manslaughter.

While jury instructions are not, technically speaking, authoritative sources of law themselves (those are statutes and court decisions, or case law), jury instructions are a useful amalgamation of the statutory language and how the courts want that language applied to real people in real cases.  Because they are instructions intended for a jury of laypeople, and not legal experts, they also tend to be written in plain English.

Indeed, they are often written in a “fill-in-the-blanks” kind of format to make them easy to use consistently from trial to trial, and that’s precisely how New Mexico structures its uniform jury instructions.

Here’s how jury instruction 14-231 on involuntary manslaughter would be read to the jury if the blanks were filled in with relevant facts from Baldwin’s shooting of Ms. Hutchins [that content placed within brackets]:

For you to find the defendant guilty of involuntary manslaughter, the state must prove to your satisfaction beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements of the crime:

[Alec Baldwin] [pointed a loaded firearm at Ms. Hutchins and depressed the trigger, firing a bullet into her] ;

[Alec Baldwin] should have known of the danger involved by [Alec Baldwin’s] actions;

[Alec Baldwin] acted with a willful disregard for the safety of others;

[Alec Baldwin’s] act caused the death of [Ms. Hutchins];

This happened in New Mexico on or about the 21st day of October, 2021.

The “know of the danger” and “willful disregard” portions of the jury instruction correspond to the “due caution and circumspection” language of § 30-2-3.  The matter of “willful” merely refers to the fact that whether to first inspect the gun to ensure it did not contain a live round was within Baldwin’s control—there was no outside force compelling him to not safety check the firearm before he pointed it at Ms. Hutchins and fired it.

So, again, it seems incontestable, based on the evidence as it appears to be, that Baldwin’s conduct meets the legal conditions for the crime of felony involuntary manslaughter.

Note that this presentation of the jury instructions applies to the lawful act involuntary manslaughter charge to be filed against Baldwin.  A similar jury instruction would be crafted for the unlawful act involuntary manslaughter charge, and that one would include a requirement that the alleged underlying unlawful act of negligent use of a deadly weapon had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Hey, Andrew, Any Case Law On This?”

But wait, we’re not done yet. Having looked at the relevant New Mexico statute and jury instruction on involuntary manslaughter, we ought also to consider whether there’s any New Mexico case law (appellate court decisions) that would seem to apply to this question of whether handling a loaded gun in such an unsafe manner that you unintentionally kill someone meets the legal standard for the crime of felony involuntary manslaughter.

And, as it happens, there is indeed New Mexico case law precisely on this point.

That case law is a decision out of the New Mexico Supreme Court itself, State v. Gilliam, 288 P.2d 675 (NM Sup. Ct. 1955).  For any of you who may be concerned that Gilliam, a decision handed down in 1955, is “out of date,” be not afraid—case law is perfectly valid law until there is a Constitutional, statutory, or later court decision that modifies or reverses the applied legal standard. Valid case law does not simply “expire”—and I used my office’s professional legal database resource, Lexis, to ensure that Gilliam remains good law in New Mexico.

The decision was an appeal of a criminal conviction at a jury trial, in which the defendant had been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by the act of unsafely handling a gun with the result that it discharged and killed the victim.

The NM Supreme Court ruled in that decision, in relevant part that:

It could have made no difference to the trial of a charge of involuntary manslaughter as to who loaded the gun … . All that it is necessary to establish for involuntary manslaughter by the use of a loaded firearm is that a defendant had in his hands a gun which at some time had been loaded and that he handled it … without due caution and circumspection and that death resulted.

So, it doesn’t matter who loaded the gun—meaning, all this talk about whether the live round in the gun came from this source or that source or some other source is largely irrelevant for purposes of determining whether Baldwin’s shooting of Ms. Hutchins was involuntary manslaughter under New Mexico law.

All that matters in the context of involuntary manslaughter through unsafe handling of a firearm is that “the defendant had in his hands a gun which at some time had been loaded and that he handled it without due caution and circumspection and that death resulted.”

Clearly Baldwin “had in his hands a gun, which at some time had been loaded.” And as we’ve already demonstrated, by so thoroughly violating the well-established, and mandatory, rules of gun safety he also “handled it without due caution and circumspection.”  And, finally, we all know for certain the tragic outcome of this conduct that Ms. Hutchins’ “death resulted.”

Again, it’s hard to see how Baldwin’s fatal shooting of Ms. Hutchins, based on the facts as we believe them to have been established, could fail to qualify as involuntary manslaughter under New Mexico law.

What About Things Other People May Have Done Wrong?

I see a lot of hand-wringing attempting to assign blame for this tragedy to, it seems, everybody other than Baldwin. Frankly, the intensity of these efforts suggests to me that they are part of an orchestrated crisis management initiative put into play on Baldwin’s behalf—and that’s a smart move by Baldwin, if in fact that’s what he’s done. It’s why such crisis management firms exist.

It is, indeed, possible that other people also bear some responsibility, perhaps even criminal responsibility, for this tragedy.  Perhaps safety rules were broken, professional duties were failed, or adequate resources to ensure safety were not provided.

None of that, however, at all diminishes the responsibility, under law, for Baldwin to handle that inherently dangerous instrument, the gun, with due caution and circumspection—and that he failed to do when he pointed the gun at Ms. Hutchins and pressed the trigger, without first personally ensuring that the weapon did not contain a live round.

Whatever mistakes others might have made previously, had Baldwin broken even one less of the fundamental gun safety rules—had he not pointed the gun at Ms. Hutchins, or had he not pressed the trigger, or had he assumed the gun contained live ammo until he personally determined otherwise—Ms. Hutchins would not have died from that bullet on that day.  Her fate ultimately rested entirely in the hands of Baldwin. And, it appears, he failed her and failed the law of New Mexico.

As an aside, we now know that David Hall, the assistant director who handed the gun to Baldwin on the set immediately prior to the shooting while announcing it to be a “cold gun,” has pleaded guilty to a suspended sentence negligent handling of a firearm charge, and that armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who was responsible for the safe management of firearms on the set, is as of this morning to be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter alongside Baldwin.

But He’s an Actor!

Another bit of handwringing I’m seeing a lot of is the notion that the rules should be different for Baldwin because he’s an actor, and actors often point guns at each other in various roles, it’s what they do.  They’re … different.

First, the reality that actors do often point guns at each other in various roles, and that they do it almost invariably without unintentionally shooting someone, is a credit generally to Hollywood’s safety practices, and only highlights to an even greater degree why adhering to “due caution and circumspection” is so vital when handling firearms.

When the safety rules are followed, no harm results. When Baldwin willfully violates the safety rules, Ms. Hutchins dies.

The death of Ms. Hutchins is not a “Hollywood problem,” Hollywood has a pretty darned good safety record in gun handling, it’s an “Alec Baldwin problem.

From more of a legal perspective, however, there’s nothing about being an actor that entitles someone to create an unjustified risk of killing someone, disregarding that risk, and then killing that person.  There’s no involuntary manslaughter “freebie” for actors.  If they kill someone recklessly, they are as guilty of involuntary manslaughter as is the fellow down the street who drunkenly runs over the nun in the crosswalk.  There’s no special “actor” court.

On this “actor privilege” note, you might be interested in watching my interview of a very different actor named Baldwin, none other than Adam Baldwin (no relation):

I would also note that I am seeing a great many social media comments making reference to things like OSHA regulations and appellate court decisions from states far distant from New Mexico.  Neither of these trump New Mexico criminal law, folks.  They may theoretically play some role in the various civil suits currently in play, but they have no impact whatever in the context of Alec Baldwin’s criminal liability.  Nothing OSHA or any non-New Mexico appellate court has to say makes Baldwin’s pointing of a loaded gun at Hutchins anything other than criminally reckless conduct that directly caused her death.

The Political Question, Finally Answered

At this point the question raised in my October 25, legal analysis of this shooting was “So, WILL Baldwin Be Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter?”

That was always a political question, not a legal question. On the legal merits, just covered in great detail, a charge of manslaughter against Alec Baldwin is clearly warranted in the shooting death of Halyna Hutchins.

Whether to actually bring a manslaughter charge against Baldwin, however, has always been entirely at the discretion of the responsible District Attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies—and she finally answered that political question Thursday morning with her announcement of her intent to file the two alternative charges of manslaughter against Baldwin (the two alternative forms discussed at great length above).

Does this Mean Alec Baldwin Will Go To Prison?

Whether Alec Baldwin is ultimately convicted of involuntary manslaughter, as well as whether he will ever spend any time in prison, is also largely a political question at this point.

First, Baldwin may not actually be tried in court on this charge of manslaughter.  He could potentially negotiate a favorable plea deal, as did Assistant Director David Halls.  Halls has pleaded guilty to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and received a suspended sentence and 6-months probation—so no prison time at all.

If Baldwin is actually tried in court on this charge of manslaughter, he seems extremely likely to be convicted, on the legal merits.

Even then, however, the sentencing judge may decline to require any prison time, if Baldwin is convicted of unlawful act involuntary manslaughter. Again, my area of expertise is use-of-force law, not New Mexico sentencing law, and such sentencing laws vary widely from state to state, but generally speaking sentencing judges have considerable discretion, and especially so if the person being sentenced has little or no prior or recent criminal history.

That said, however, if Baldwin is convicted of lawful act involuntary manslaughter he could potentially be facing the 5-year mandatory minimum gun sentencing enhancement discussed above, and be looking at 5 years in prison, or perhaps even 6.5 years—and that’s no joke for a man who will soon turn 65.

OK, folks, that’s all I have for you on this topic.

Until next time:

Remember

You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill.

Know the law so you’re hard to convict.

Stay safe!

–Andrew

Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC
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Comments

When I was 10 and being taught firearm safety by the NRA, they taught the four primary rules of firearm safety. If you don’t know them so do not touch a firearm. Baldwin didn’t follow these rules.

The revolver that I was training with was an adult weapon. I was a kid. Pulling the trigger was difficult. It was a single action gun, but I found it easier to pull the hammer back, aim and then pull the trigger.

Longer story, but I was unconsciously pulling and then cocking the hammer at the range. Making it easier and much more dangerous to lightly pull the trigger. Instructor pointed this out that it is a common deadly mistake.

Not sure if Baldwin took acting lessons, but anyone handling any real firearm should.

That was over 50 years ago. Good training can stay with you for life. Thanks NRA.


     
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    henrybowman in reply to 1073. | January 22, 2023 at 11:47 pm

    I think you have this backwards.
    On a single-action gun, you MUST pull back the hammer before it will fire. The trigger pull may well be set very light.
    On a double-action gun, you can do it either way: pull back the hammer and benefit from a lightr trigger, or just pull harder on the trigger and use it to cycle the hammer, in which case it will be stiffer.
    Baldwin’s gun was a “period-appropriate” single-action. Without pulling back the hammer first, it is impossible to fire.


     
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    bigo in reply to 1073. | January 23, 2023 at 9:23 am

    Your “training” apparently wasn’t very good, since a single action weapon has a two to six ounce 1/8 inch or less trigger pull and a one year old child can easily fire a chambered and cocked single action weapon. A double action revolver has an eight to twelve ounce triggle pull that is three quarter to one and a quarter inch long. Apparently you didn’t learn the difference between single action and double action revolvers, so either your training wasn’t very good or you were incapable of learning.


     
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    RandomCrank in reply to 1073. | January 23, 2023 at 6:29 pm

    You wrote: “Pulling the trigger was difficult. It was a single action gun, but I found it easier to pull the hammer back, aim and then pull the trigger.”

    Your memory is faulty. Hey, it happens. A single-action revolver cannot be fired simply by pulling the trigger. You must first pull back the hammer. If the internal sear is missing or badly damaged, you can fire without pulling the trigger, but that was not the case with Baldwin’s gun. The FBI Crime Lab examined it and determined that it couldn’t have fired without the trigger having been pulled.


 
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CommoChief | January 22, 2023 at 8:11 pm

Hopefully that excellent analysis puts to bed the inane arguments that somehow actors and the film industry enjoying different statutes or that contributory negligence somehow absolves Baldwin of his individual actions.

Baldwin has been very properly charged for a crime which, based on all accounts, he committed. He can enter a guilty plea or take his chances at trial. The possibility of five years minimum isn’t something to gamble with at his age IMO but Baldwin may still be convinced he is above the laws that apply the rest of us.


 
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FrankJNatoli | January 22, 2023 at 8:11 pm

At the time of the Brandon Lee shooting death, struck by a blank wad from a 44 magnum, the late great G. Gordon Liddy noted that there was never a reason to point a firearm at another actor, blanks or no blanks, always “pull the shot”.
Lindy was right.
That’s why the focus on blanks or no blanks in the Baldwin case is mistaken.


     
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    MattMusson in reply to FrankJNatoli. | January 22, 2023 at 8:28 pm

    Alec can go to prison dressed like Trump and make everybody happy.


     
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    alaskabob in reply to FrankJNatoli. | January 22, 2023 at 9:11 pm

    As I remember it…. a primed but not charged round made to “look
    real” had enough oomph from the primer to seat the bullet into the barrel and then the blank propelled it out the barrel. Any wad would not have the power. I have seen primed cartridges that didn’t get the charge expel the bullet out of the case. I am wondering if … for realism…similar dummy rounds were made so that the camera angle would show “loaded” rounds in the cylinders. The real issue was the presence of live ammo at the movie site!!!


 
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fscarn | January 22, 2023 at 8:12 pm

I stand behind Alex Baldwin 100%.

It’s safer there.


     
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    NotCoach in reply to fscarn. | January 22, 2023 at 10:56 pm

    I don’t know, with someone like Baldwin it just might be safer to shoot him first.

    “Once I saw a firearm in Baldwin’s hand all I could think about was Halyna Hutchins, so I defended myself.”

Reasonable gun control: rights and responsibilities. Scalpels, too.

Interesting analysis, and much more intelligent and thorough released by the sadly corrupt FBI:

Analysis: Alec Baldwin’s Gun Could Have Fired Without Him Pulling the Trigger, But Did It?
https://thereload.com/analysis-yes-alec-baldwins-gun-could-have-fired-without-him-pulling-the-trigger/

Interesting that the majority of anti-firearms types are clueless as to how to safely handle them.


 
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Petrushka | January 22, 2023 at 11:45 pm

My older brother taught me one comprehensive rule of gun safety.

A gun is always loaded, even when disassembled.

If you grow up inculcated with the notion that you never allow the barrel of a gun to be pointed at anything you do not intend to shoot, the other rules take care of themselves.

I do not like rule one. To me a gun is always loaded.


     
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    Colonel Travis in reply to Petrushka. | January 23, 2023 at 3:41 am

    A gun is always loaded when disassembled?
    Before you take it apart, yes.
    After?
    Maybe Rube Goldberg’s firearm collection. I don’t know how a lower trigger assembly in one hand can make a bullet come out of the upper chamber on the table.


 
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JustSayN2O | January 22, 2023 at 11:49 pm

Speaking of malice, Alec Baldwin starred in an excellent movie entitled “Malice”. Go see it before Alec gets put away.


 
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Sanddog | January 23, 2023 at 2:07 am

Baldwin shouldn’t expect to find a jury that is star struck and willing to give him a pass. That particular district includes rural areas where gun ownership is common and firearms owners aren’t likely to give him a pass or accept the idea that it’s someone else’s fault he fired a loaded revolver.

Trey Gowdey had Fox Legal Analyst Mercedes Colwin on Sunday evening

Mercedes seems to think the State has to prove Alec knew the gun contained a live round for a conviction, and having read Andrews analysis here and elsewhere,

Seems incompetent to me. She’s far from alone


     
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    Dathurtz in reply to rduke007. | January 23, 2023 at 7:52 am

    Until you remember their job is not to provide education and good analysis, but rather to blow smoke and obfuscate.

      If that’s not a presumption on the books of all 57 states, it should be! :0

      Is it a Rules of Professional Conduct violation to misrepresent the law to a national TV audience?
      Depends on the definition of ‘tribunal.’

      Of course Gowdey mitigated the damages by thinning the herd with tripe and drivel

Baldwin will be found incent, remember he is a liberal elite

Bottom line: Once the gun is in your hand, everything that follows is On You.


 
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Profit4theParty | January 23, 2023 at 8:33 am

The two aggravating circumstances that support the author’s legal conclusion that stay in my mind are that Baldwin had a higher level of accountability given he was an executive producer on the project and second, in cinematography and the magic of movie making, there was no reason the firearm needed to be pointed literally directly at her. A point of aim (POA) and point of impact (POI) can be used such that by the camera angle, it convincingly looks like the actor is directly aiming at a target when in fact it’s a few degrees offline. Point being he had options and one of them would absolutely have not resulted in her death.


 
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E Howard Hunt | January 23, 2023 at 9:01 am

Baldwin should have his attorneys reach a plea deal and settle the civil cases. At his age he can do a year in a country club prison and come out unfazed. Delivering a dramatic, unqualified apology will burnish his image and bolster his career. It just isn’t worth going through the time, money, pain and effort of a trial. He risks additional time, and even if he wins his reputation will remain in tatters.


     
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    Sian in reply to E Howard Hunt. | January 23, 2023 at 9:09 am

    I feel like this is the likely outcome. A trial will be a messy, drawn out public embarrassment, and given the evidence conviction would be all but guaranteed. He probably still has the pull to cut a pretty sweet plea deal.


     
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    RandomCrank in reply to E Howard Hunt. | January 24, 2023 at 12:23 pm

    The D.A. has publicly stated that she’s open to a plea. She won’t discuss details, but any moron can see what the obvious deal — guilty to negligent involuntary manslaughter, max of 18 months and $5,000, with the practical outcome being probation and $5,000. The alternative is go to trial for reckless involuntary manslaughter, with a five-year minimum.

    This will be an I.Q. test for Baldwin. If he goes to trial, he’ll lose and do hard time in New Mexico’s prison system, infamous for gangs and grotesque violence. I despise him, but cannot say that I wish this on him. But that’s up to the guy Baldwin sees in the mirror every morning.


 
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DesertBunny | January 23, 2023 at 9:37 am

Why were live rounds on the set to begin with?


     
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    DesertBunny in reply to DesertBunny. | January 23, 2023 at 9:51 am

    I have my answer


     
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    JohnSmith100 in reply to DesertBunny. | January 23, 2023 at 10:51 am

    Also, it seems odd that armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed might get a lessor sentence when it is her fault that the gun has a live round in it. One question I have, was there some reason for there to be anything other than blanks? Was there more than one gun, one live and one blanks and Baldwin picked up the wrong one?

    I have been handling guns since early teens, and my father accidently discharging a shotgun in a bedroom made a big impression on me. A closet full of bird shot perforated clothing and our super 8 movie metal flood light box destroyed. A relatively inexpensive and valuable lesson learned.

The opinion of the author is not supported by the facts of the case or the law of the United States and the state of New Mexico.


     
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    GRAMBO in reply to bigo. | January 23, 2023 at 1:10 pm

    How so? Who pointed the gun? Who pulled the trigger? What are the laws?


     
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    Dathurtz in reply to bigo. | January 23, 2023 at 3:26 pm

    Elaborate?


     
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    mbecker908 in reply to bigo. | January 23, 2023 at 5:01 pm

    Well, since Andrew cites New Mexico case law in detail in his analysis (US Federal law doesn’t matter, this is a state charge), as well as NM statutory law, in detail, and you toss your opinion on the page with no backup, I’ll stand with Andrew.

    If you’ve got statutes and case law, post it.


       
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      GRAMBO in reply to mbecker908. | January 23, 2023 at 5:23 pm

      Didn’t you know? A movie set is a place where they have their own laws and criminal justice system. It where actor’s opinions on things like the environment, criminal justice, science is ironclad and godlike. But, they are complete imbeciles when it comes to gun safety and thus are immune to any type of gun charge. Duh.


 
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texansamurai | January 23, 2023 at 9:50 am

regardless of any mitigating factors (if there actually are any), baldwin was in control of the weapon and due to his actions alone, not those of the director, armorer, et al, a woman is dead and another party is injured–those are facts


 
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Blackwing1 | January 23, 2023 at 10:53 am

Mr. Branca:

Thank you for yet another full and complete description of the legal aspects of this incident. I do have a couple of short comments/questions.

1. It strikes me as odd, to say the least, that the apparent penalties as you’ve described impose a mandatory 5-year minimum for a LAWFUL involuntary manslaughter, but only an “optional” 1-1/2 year penalty for UNLAWFUL involuntary manslaughter. I understand your description of the double-jeopardy for the use of a firearm, but I would have thought that the New Mexico legislature would have tried to impose a greater penalty on the unlawful crime as opposed to the lawful crime.

2. How is the jury supposed to tell the difference between the lawful and unlawful? As a hypothetical, I would suggest that an action like “sweeping” the muzzle across someone in a careless and negligent manner and having the firearm discharge while doing that would be a lawful occurrence (though tragic and stupid), but that deliberately pointing a firearm at someone and having it discharge would be unlawful. Is that a correct differentiation?

3. Just as a comment, Mr. Baldwin will always, regardless of trial/plea outcome, regard HIMSELF as the “victim” of this incident rather than the woman that he killed. He will obliterate from his memory the notion that he pulled the trigger, and live with the idea that it must have all been a deep, dark plot by unknown others that caused the gun to discharge. It’s about the only way that someone with his mentality can continue to live with himself, rather than trying to spend the rest of his life expiating the terrible thing that he did.

“We now know, of course, that FBI testing concluded that the handgun fired by Baldwin could not be made to discharge unless the trigger was pulled.”

And the defense will have the opportunity to provide evidence to the contrary with respect to the revolver in question. I’m not saying the defense will or will not be successful in this regard. I am saying that the FBI is not necessarily the last word on the subject.


     
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    Philip in reply to Ira. | January 23, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    Here’s what I found. I ‘went to a gun store’ and I examined a double-action revolver handgun (S&W 44-Magnum, very nice). I spent a few seconds making sure some phantom had not loaded the handgun discretely from the time I picked up the firearm and when I conducted my experiment, because I’m responsible. Pulling the hammer back with my thumb, I detected 2 light clicks before I felt the final click that tells me that the trigger is in play.
    Up until the last hammer click, I released my thumb from the hammer, and it appears that the hammer fitted with a firing pin could have sufficient spring-force to strike the cartridge primer with enough impact to send the bullet out of the barrel with the same muzzle velocity as if you purposefully fired the gun.
    I then examined a single-action (H&R Sportsman) 22-caliber rimfire handgun and conducted the same experiment, taking the time to use the same gun safety precautions. The result was the same. The hammer fitted with the firing pin could have sufficient spring-force to strike the cartridge primer with enough impact to fire the gun.
    As with the double-action handgun, once the hammer is pulled back far enough to engage the trigger mechanism, the hammer will not release unless the trigger is pulled.
    FYI, a double action firearm can fire by either pulling the trigger, or by pulling the hammer back and then pulling the trigger (you will typically have less accuracy if you use the double action feature since the stress of the trigger pull from start to finish can cause the inaccuracy).
    From what I understand, the handgun Alec Baldwin used on the “Rust” movie filming location was a single-action model. He would have to pull the hammer back completely, release the hammer, and pull the trigger to shoot it. No one should be a victim of human error.
    I hope I didn’t confuse too many people.
    Y’all be safe out there.


       
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      Ira in reply to Philip. | January 23, 2023 at 3:45 pm

      Thanks, Philip.

      Yet, the defense will have an opportunity to attempt to prove that that gun (i.e., the one that was in Baldwin’s hand) would fire without the trigger being pulled. Of course, their own experiments might have the same results as reached by the FBI.


       
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      RandomCrank in reply to Philip. | January 23, 2023 at 4:20 pm

      The day after that incredibly, indeed mind-bogglingly stupid ABC “News” interview, I tested Baldwin’s no-trigger claim on my .22 caliber Heritage Rough Rider single action revolver. Also tried testing it on a North American Arms Wasp, which is also single action, but immediately realized that the NAA’s unique design made it pointless. I also did some testing on a double-action Dan Wesson 715 revolver in .357 magnum.

      The Rough Rider was the best test bed because the action is the same as the Pietta replica that Baldwin fired. Pull the hammer back, and the stops are at quarter-cock, half-cock, and full cock. Once you reach quarter-cock, the hammer will not fall to hit the primery unless the trigger is pulled.

      The distance from quarter to the primer is so short that it could not be hammer-fired from less than a quarter, or by trigger-firing from one-quarter. Releasing the hammer at any point past quarter-cock brought the hammer to a stop at either the quarter- or half-cock position, depending on how far back you go. The internal “sear” is what stops the hammer, and its condition was crucial to Baldwin’s claim and to the FBI Crime Lab analysis that debunked his claim.

      Thus, while it’s possible to hammer-fire a single-action revolver without pulling the trigger, this is possible only if the sear has been removed or damaged, either purposely or through wear. Again, the FBI Crime Lab report showed that the sear was intact, and therefore Baldwin couldn’t have fired without pulling the trigger.

      I performed that test three separate times on two different days, with live ammo in the gun. I could fire only with the trigger, and only from half-cock or full cock. I also took the Dan Wesson and did some single-action shooting with it to test and confirm my own hypothesis of what actually happened.

      When you’re in single-action mode, regardless of whether the revolver is single-action only or double-action, once the hammer is cocked the trigger is a hair trigger that takes hardly any pressure to fire. This is a very big issue; I have mistakenly fired a double-action revolver. Thank God, the redundancy of the four gun safety rules kept it from being anything other than embarassing; I had pointed the muzzle in a safe direction.

      I think Baldwin didn’t realize that he’d pulled the trigger. Then he decided that if he claimed to have hammer-fired, it would look more accidental and less negligent. What undid him was that, while he’s quite familiar with guns, he’s not any kind of gunsmith and probably never knew what a “sear” is and how it works.

      In the end, he made a mistake (besides the shooting itself) that no one should make. In a country where 90 million people own 450 million guns, NEVER tell a lie about guns. The Unorganized Militia of Country-Living Bubbas laughed right away. This one, being a retired journalist who very early learned “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out,” triple checked. Then he looked at the schematic of the Colt Peacemaker that the Pietta replicated, and at the schematic and the owner’s manual for the Pietta.

      One detail that I have seen mentioned nowhere:

      The Pietta ships with a safety screw that makes it impossible to fire. It was never deployed. Probably not a criminal issue, but it ought to figure prominently in any civil case.

This is the ‘female dog’ that imitated #45 in many unflattering malicious episodes of SNL, right?
Yeah, make your lawyers wealthier, Alec.
Halyna Hutchins, may you rest in peace, and may your surviving family learn to cope with your loss.


     
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    RandomCrank in reply to Philip. | January 23, 2023 at 4:28 pm

    Another tidbit, which I also have not seen mentioned.

    To load the Pietta replica or my Heritage Rough Rider, and just about every other SAA revolver other than the North American Arms that I own, the hammer must be half-cocked and stopped by the sear.

    At that point, you can open the loading gate, turn the cylinder, and load one by one. If the sear is busted, the only way to load the gun is to remove the cylinder entirely. It can be done, but it’s quite laborious. A real pain in the ass. For Baldwin’s claim to have been true, the same gun would’ve been unloadable in the usual manner.

    This matters because that same gun was used by cast and crew for plinking on set, aka shooting at bottles and cans. If it had required removal of the cylinder every six rounds, it would have been returned to the prop supply house and exchanged for a gun that worked. Thus, one more reason that Baldwin’s claim was a lie.


 
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RandomCrank | January 23, 2023 at 3:52 pm

Question for Andrew: At what points can a judge dusmiss the case, and how likely is that to happen? As I write, I’m thinking of the preliminary hearing, but I’d be just as interested in other inflection points that (not being a lawyer) I haven’t heard about. I’ll have other questions but can’t think of them at the moment.

I have been very interested in this event and case from the very beginning.


 
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RigelDog | January 23, 2023 at 3:52 pm

I disagree that the facts as we know them demonstrate criminal culpability on Baldwin’s part.

For context, I am a career criminal prosecutor. I have no love for Baldwin. I support the Constitution, the Second Amendment, and the application of all proper safeguards due to those charged with criminal offenses. I am also familiar with firearms and the Four Rules of firearm safety, and I follow those rules to the letter.

But we cannot simply cite to the Four Rules of gun safety in this situationk in judging degrees of recklessness, reasonableness, and negligence though because, by definition, the entire film industry exists to create fantasy. It’s NOT real life, it’s mostly all “let’s pretend.”

Many/most films where the use of guns is portrayed already violate at least one of the tenets of the Four Rules. Literally millions (or more) of instances where we see an actor pulling a trigger. Same for pointing a gun at or near a person on screen. Same for firing guns in chaotic situations where there are many people running around on, whether in or out of occupied buildings, where the rule about knowing what is behind your target would otherwise be obviously violated.

So, it’s a given that the Four Rules are regularly and routinely broken in creating fictional scenarios. Therefore we can’t say that Baldwin is negligent/reckless when judged up against the appropriate film industry practice—as opposed to the standards we should follow in real life.

We need to know, in great detail, what the standard practices and safety protocols are as implemented in the film industry before we can make any firm conclusions as to whether a given person’s actions were negligent. Negligence is always a relative concept where behavior is measured against the appropriate standard.

As far as strict liability, it rarely applies in criminal (as opposed to civil) matters. For instance, if a nurse injects a patient, knowing that the syringe contains an obviously lethal amount of a drug, they should be criminally charged. If, however, the standard of practice in a medical institution is that the charge nurse prepares all the syringes with due care and multiple safety checks (similar to the job of an armorer on movie sets) and the floor nurse then uses that completely appropriate-looking syringe to inject her patient then the floor nurse isn’t going to be criminally charged. The charge nurse—maybe. Depends on how reckless she was as measured against the specific standard of care in her field.

But what about the Rule that one should always assume that all guns are loaded and capable of inflicting terrible injury and death? Here is where I see a huge gap between what would be negligent in real life, and what would be reasonably deemed negligence during a fictional production.

Should everyone who touches a prop firearm on set be held to a standard of unloading it and verifying that the objects in the cylinder/magazine are NOT capable of expelling dangerous amounts of gasses, particles, or projectiles? How will they know if an apparent bullet is live, an inert dummy replica, or a blank?

I don’t know how realistic props such as dummy bullets or blank bullets might be on set, and that’s certainly not a question I have seen answered yet by authoritative sources.

There are a lot of other questions I think we need to have fully answered as to industry practice and safety standards. For instance there are many many ways in which different firearms should be handled when checking to see if they are loaded and ideally only the armorer would always be qualified in every case to do so safely. I don’t know how to clear every firearm I have ever handled so I watch a qualified person clear it before I pick it up. In fact, there are pistols that my average strength female-grip cannot rack and others where I struggle to pull it all the way back. Might it then be best (or at least very reasonable) practice on a set to have actors NOT monkey around with the firearm after the expert has certified it cleared and safe? I don’t know, but it’s a relevant question as are the others above that I have raised.


     
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    texansamurai in reply to RigelDog. | January 23, 2023 at 4:15 pm

    if the four rules or even common-sense safety measures are so blatantly/regularly disregarded in the “film industry” can you cite, other than brandon lee, all the numerous examples that must have occurred where an actor has shot and killed another actor/technician/director, et al ?


       
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      RigelDog in reply to texansamurai. | January 26, 2023 at 4:58 pm

      I have heard of very few firearms mishaps on film locations. Presumably the prohibition about live ammunition not being anywhere near the set has a lot to do with that. Also they probably have experienced armorers who take their jobs seriously.

      Do you dispute that the four rules are regularly violated when staging realistic-looking gunfire?

      1) Always Keep Firearm Pointed in a Safe direction Never point your gun at anything you do not intend to shoot: COUNTLESS EXAMPLES WHERE A CHARACTER POINTS A GUN DIRECTLY AT THEIR OWN HEAD OR THE HEAD OR BODY OF ANOTHER CHARACTER.

      2) Treat All Guns as Though They are Loaded. NOT FOLLOWED ON SET; COUNTLESS EXAMPLES OF CHARACTERS PLAYING AROUND WITH (PROP) FIREARMS, TRICK SHOOTING, PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE.

      3) Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger until You are Ready to Shoot. IGNORED ROUTINELY ON FILM. EXAMPLE: SCENES WHERE CHARACTER PUT GUN TO TEMPLE, FINGER ON TRIGGER, AND THREATENS TO SHOOT HIMSELF. MAY OR MAY NOT THEN PULL ON “TRIGGER.”

      4) Always Be Sure of Your Target and What’s Beyond It. HERE’S A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THE NEED TO KNOW WHAT ARE INDUSTRY STANDARDS, ALTHOUGH THE UNINTENTIONAL SHOOTING OF HALYNA HUTCHINS DIDN’T NECESSARILY INVOLVE THIS TYPE OF SCENARIO.


     
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    FrankJNatoli in reply to RigelDog. | January 23, 2023 at 5:02 pm

    Sir, with all respect, both military and police train for entering buildings and extremely dangerous situations and being absolutely certain that the “right” person gets shot, and the “wrong” person does not, i.e., friendlies and innocent civilians/hostages.
    They do that training with live ammunition and do not kill each other.
    Much of their training is filmed and then reviewed.
    If anyone on the team is observed at any time moving the muzzle of his firearm across a friendly and/or civilian or hostage, never mind pulling the trigger, that anyone is cited.
    Alec Baldwin used what he knew was a functional firearm to “shoot” an innocent civilian, aiming the functional firearm at the innocent civilian, and inexplicably many people are bending over backwards in his defense.
    He has no defense.
    He should NEVER have pointed the functional firearm at an innocent civilian, blanks or no blanks.


     
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    GRAMBO in reply to RigelDog. | January 24, 2023 at 5:24 am

    I agree, industry standards and practices will be part of the case. Would the prosecution bring in the local State Police fire arms instructor to describe best practice gun handling in an industry that handles guns as an expert witness? Especially if Hollywood standards are found to be lacking? I don`t think Baldwin’s team would want to present bad standards as their defense because that would open up a lot of problems for the industry going forward.

    What I’m saying, if an actor can’t be expected to learn the proper use and handling of a tool they use while at work (proper handling of a gun), they shouldn’t be in a role that handles a gun. I think armorers have their role, but Baldwin taking the care to check the weapon one more time would have prevented this.

    You can point a gun and pull the trigger at someone in a safe way for a movie, but there better be multiple safeguards to ensure a bullet is not fired.


 
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RigelDog | January 23, 2023 at 4:07 pm

To clarify my long post above—I am not arguing that Baldwin isn’t guilty. Not at all. I’m arguing that there are lots of gaps in our knowledge of what procedures and behaviors a reasonable, non-negligent actor should be expected to follow on set. In real life, if I see ANY sort of casing in a firearm I’m going to treat it as live ammo. In contrast, an actor filming with a revolver on set that appears to be loaded will obviously be expected to proceed to manipulate that gun according to the script. In real life, I would NEVER point a gun anywhere even close to where any human being was, but on set, is that always the case by industry standards? Maybe the actor should only point at an unmanned camera—but maybe the lighting director typically works off to the side of the camera, albeit X number of feet away. In real life, I’m not going to point a weapon when any person is downfield of me, even if they are two hundred feet “off to the side.”


     
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    RandomCrank in reply to RigelDog. | January 23, 2023 at 6:21 pm

    I firmly disagree with you, but your posts are well-reasoned and the tone is genuine, so I will make the contrary argument in the same spirit. I’m going to do it in modified list form because I find it easier than it’d be to have to compose a seamless narrative.

    1. Baldwin’s own words will hurt him badly with respect to industry practices. Did you read the interviews he gave to the sheriff’s deputies and to ABC “News?” Here’s a quote: “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them, never. Never. That was the training that I had. You don’t point a gun at me and pull the trigger. On day one of my instruction in this business, people said to me, ‘Never take a gun and go click, click, click, click, click. Because even though it’s incremental, you damage the firing pin on the gun if you do that, don’t do that.’ ”

    Guess what? He pointed the gun and pulled the trigger. It’s confirmed by video taken the day of the shooting, and by the FBI Crime Lab’s report (not to mention my personal testing, which isn’t admissible in court.)

    2. Baldwin has long experience with guns on movie sets. He will not be able to credibly present himself as naive, innocent, or even unsuspecting.

    3. Baldwin was “practicing” for a “scene” that wasn’t in the script.

    4. There’s a 65-page gun safety bulletin from the Screen Actors Guild, circa 2009. Read it, and compare it to the reports of what happened, and you’ll see that safety rules were widely ignored, including by Baldwin.

    5. Baldwin blew off a gun safety briefing when it was offered to him on the set. He also ignored safety complaints raised almost immediately before the shooting.

    6. Baldwin was not one of those “honorary producers.” Other way around. He was involved in every aspect of the production. He cannot credibly claim to have been “hands off.”

    7. The NM Supreme Court’s Gilliam decision, 1955, is unequivocal in contradicting the idea, implicit in your critique, that the shooter can blame whoever loaded the gun. The decision isn’t an exact fit, but I think it’s close enough to be applied here.

    8. Baldwin reportedly “plinked” with that gun on set. I don’t know if that’s true; if so, it’ll be a significant fact against him.

    9. It’s not hard at all to distinguish blanks from live rounds. In fact, in his sheriff’s interview Baldwin made it clear that he had the background, experience, and ability to do exactly that.


       
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      FrankJNatoli in reply to RandomCrank. | January 24, 2023 at 9:20 am

      Any of us: (1) familiar with firearms, and (2) not of the “the safety rules apply to everyone else but not me” type, would never, ever, have aimed a functional firearm in anywhere but a safe direction, no matter the presumed condition of the firearm.
      To be very clear, if one held a revolver, opened the cylinder, observed the cylinder was empty, closed the cylinder, then aimed the revolver at a person, one is guilty of gross safety violation.
      Baldwin, of the “safety rules apply to everyone else but not me” type, inarguably committed manslaughter and should be punished accordingly.


         
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        RandomCrank in reply to FrankJNatoli. | January 24, 2023 at 12:32 pm

        Baldwin’s flacks can talk a good game, this being their job, and pull strings in the media, this also being their job. But the facts and the law are very much against them, making all of this a test of New Mexico’s justice system. If nothing else, I think New Mexico has gotten the message that the whole country is watching. “All the king’s flacks/And all the king’s men/Couldn’t put Baldwin together again.”

        Maybe they’ll buy the judge. You never know. But I think if they were going to buy their way out of it, they’d have bought the district attorney. Much easier than buying a judge. If Baldwin has any working brain cells left, he’ll take the plea that the D.A. has all but publicly offered him.

Something tells me that if you want to end your acting career, ask A. Baldwin if he is doing something correctly.

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