Criminal Defense

An Attorney's Thoughts on Alec Baldwin's Manslaughter Charges

Baldwin Charged with Manslaughter

On Thursday, January 19, Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer on the set of “Rust”, were each charged with two counts of Manslaughter for the shooting death of Halyna Hutchins who was shot by Baldwin during the filming of “Rust”.

The case is extremely interesting in that everyone seems to agree that Neither Baldwin nor Gutierrez-Reed, intended to cause the death. The case is proceeding on the theory that that both were so negligent, or reckless that criminal liability is appropriate. Normally, negligence is not sufficient for criminal charges.

Normally, negligence is not sufficient for criminal charges.

Explaining the Negligence

The alleged negligent or neckless acts are two-fold. First, the fact that live rounds were allowed anywhere near the set can be the basis for negligence. If either defendant knew there were live rounds on the set or anywhere nearby both have a heightened obligation to make sure that the gun involved did not have live rounds in it. Second, pointing a gun at another person without checking to make sure its unloaded is a violation of the most basic rule of gun safety. Did Baldwin have an obligation to check it when he was told it was “safe”? Depends on who you ask.

Baldwin claims that he never fired the gun, that it just went off, but FBI testing suggest that the gun would not go off without pulling the trigger. Media reports however suggest that the Lab in essence, destroyed the evidence in that it eventually malfunctioned after internal parts fractured. That means the defendants will never have the opportunity to do their own testing.

General advice to anyone who handles a firearm: You have an obligation to inspect the firearm, especially if you know or should know it is going to be pointed at a person. That obligation is even more important if it’s going to be fired at another person.

Ultimately, a Jury Will Have to Decide

Whatever happens in the criminal case both are facing a lawsuit for massive damages which by all accounts will probably result in a verdict in favor of Hutchins family.  

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