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:
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:
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:
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:
You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill.
Know the law so you’re hard to convict.
Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. Nothing in this content establishes an attorney-client relationship, nor confidentiality. If you are in immediate need of legal advice, retain a licensed, competent attorney in the relevant jurisdiction.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.