Alec Baldwin’s fatal shot: who can be prosecuted for the death of Halyna Hutchins?

No arrests have taken place at this stage but justice has not yet ruled out possible criminal proceedings against the protagonists of the drama.

The circumstances under which actor Alec Baldwin accidentally fired a gun during a shoot, killing the cinematographer, are starting to become clearer but a question remains: will anyone be prosecuted for the death of Halyna Hutchins, and if so, who?

No arrests have taken place at this stage but justice has not yet ruled out possible criminal proceedings against the protagonists of the drama which occurred on October 21 on the set of western “Rust”, in the state of New Mexico. .

Legal experts believe that the Santa Fe prosecutor’s office can in theory follow two avenues to indict Alec Baldwin: as an actor who pulled the trigger during a rehearsal and as the film’s producer. Although many gray areas remain on the chain of facts that led to the accident, these experts nevertheless consider it very unlikely that Alec Baldwin is exposed to criminal prosecution.

Far in the chain of decision

The actor was handed the lethal weapon by an assistant director, Dave Halls, who according to several witnesses had announced that the weapon was “cold”, which in cinema jargon means that the gun is empty and harmless. . “He seems to have reasonably thought it was not a loaded gun,” said Gregory Keating, professor of law at the University of Southern California.

A manslaughter charge would require proof that the actor acted recklessly. However, “Alec Baldwin does not seem to have a great responsibility … the further you move away from the person in charge of the gun, the less likely it is”, declares Richard Kaplan, criminal lawyer with the law firm Kaplan Marino in Los Angeles.

Would Baldwin be more responsible with his producer cap? “Rust” lists a total of 12 producers and executive producers, Baldwin being one of the latter. In Hollywood, these titles mean nothing specific.

It is not yet clear who made the decisions on the set of “Rust”. No more is known about Alec Baldwin’s exact role in the production. “My personal feeling is that (Baldwin) is probably very far” in the decision chain, says Richard Kaplan. “When you’re a star actor and you’re credited as a producer, it doesn’t mean you have big responsibilities… it’s really just for economic reasons,” he adds.

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“Negligence”?

Beyond the criminal proceedings to which the investigation could lead, the experts, however, consider it highly probable that the family of Halyna Hutchins and the director Joel Souza, injured by the shooting, will initiate civil proceedings to obtain compensation. These complaints would target the production company, Alec Baldwin and the other individual producers and “anyone who has come into contact with the gun directly or indirectly,” predicts Bryan Sullivan, legal counsel. “I expect everyone to be sued” in civil, he said.

Alec Baldwin would be mainly targeted for his financial base and his reputation, according to the expert. “I doubt the assistant director has a substantial fortune, so the plaintiff’s lawyer would definitely want to quote Alec Baldwin for the money.”

Anonymous people gather in front of a memorial in honor of Halyna Hutchins in California.

DAVID MCNEW / AFP

Other protagonists of the drama could also be singled out in a complaint, including Dave Halls and the armourer of the set, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. On a film, the gunsmith is responsible for the weapons used during the various shots and must constantly ensure that they do not present any danger to the team. Firearms should be kept locked up when not in use.

However, the specialized site The Wrap says, citing sources close to the shooting, that some members of the team had used the revolver in question to fire live ammunition at cans of beer just hours before the accident.

Beyond the people who directly handled the weapon, the producers could also be accused of “negligence” if they did not take all the measures to guarantee the safety of the shooting, notes Gregory Keating.

According to several American media, members of the team of “Rust” had complained of breaches of security and a weapon had been inadvertently activated at least twice before the death of Halyna Hutchins.

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