Alec Baldwin Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter

At what point does negligence become a crime?

NPR (“Alec Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter in ‘Rust’ shooting death“):

Actor Alec Baldwin will face a criminal charge of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a film set, prosecutors in Santa Fe, N.M., said on Thursday.

The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, is facing the same charge, First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said. She announced the decision in a written statement.

In addition to those charges, the prosecutor said, assistant director David Halls “has signed a plea deal for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.”

“If any one of these three people—Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed or David Halls—had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today,” said Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor appointed by Carmack-Altwies. “It’s that simple.”

A review of evidence in the case “clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety” on the film’s set, Reeb added.

In October 2021, Baldwin was holding a Colt .45-caliber pistol that fired a live round, killing Hutchins. At the time, they were working on the film Rust.

Baldwin has maintained that Hutchins died in a tragic accident, saying he didn’t intentionally fire the weapon and had no idea that it held live ammunition when the film crew gathered to rehearse a scene for the film.

What are the charges against Baldwin?

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are each being charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, meaning they’re “charged in the alternative.” Prosecutors say they want a jury to decide not only if the pair are guilty, but which type of involuntary manslaughter should apply to the events around Hutchins’ death.

At the base level, both of the charges are fourth-degree felonies, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. But if Baldwin and/or Gutierrez-Reed are found guilty of the most serious charges that carry a firearm enhancement, they stand to face five years in prison.

Under the basic involuntary manslaughter charge, prosecutors would need to show that underlying negligence played a role in the shooting death. That charge would also “likely” merge with a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a firearm, prosecutors said.

The other charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act — which would require prosecutors to establish that factors beyond simple negligence contributed to Hutchins’ death. This version of the charge includes a firearm enhancement, meaning that if the actor or armorer are found guilty, they would face a mandatory prison term of five years.

The charges will be formally filed by the end of this month, the prosecutors said, setting the case in motion in the court system.

NYT (“Alec Baldwin Will Be Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter in ‘Rust’ Killing“) adds:

[…]

Prosecutors said they would charge Mr. Baldwin with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, saying that he had a duty to ensure the gun and the ammunition were properly checked and that he should never have pointed it at anyone. “You should not point a gun at someone that you’re not willing to shoot,” the district attorney for Santa Fe County, Mary Carmack-Altwies, said in an interview. “That goes to basic safety standards.”

[…]

In a statement on Thursday, a lawyer for Mr. Baldwin, Luke Nikas, said: “This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins’s tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win.”

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer who was responsible for the weapons on set and loaded the gun that day, will also be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. The film’s first assistant director, Dave Halls, who handed Mr. Baldwin the gun, agreed to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon, in exchange for a suspended sentence and six months of probation.

Even at the time of my only previous post on the matter, the morning after it happened, it was obvious that gross negligence had been piled atop gross negligence. There were multiple accidental shootings before this one and even the simplest firearms safety protocols were ignored. And the crew was sleep-deprived, to boot.

Hollywood professional @EddieInCA added this insight:

Here is the proper protocol for using a gun, any gun on set.

1. Gun is kept locked, unloaded, until it’s taken out to be used.
2. Armourer and Prop person clear the gun completely, leaving the slide open and the clip out. Or, with a revolver, the chambers empty.
3. They lay the gun out, slide open, (chambers empty in a revolver) empty clip next to it.
4. They bring the actor and First Assistant Director over, and hand the 1st AD the empty gun.
5. The 1st Asst. Director checks it, looking down the barrel to make sure there is nothing in there.
6. Armourer loads blanks into the gun.
7. Armourer hands gun to actor and says “Hot Gun”.
8. Roll camera

No one other than the Armourer, Prop Person, or 1st AD should NEVER touch or hold the gun.

During the safety meeting, Mr. Baldwin should have been reminded to shoot “off target” – never pointing the gun directly at anyone, but rather a foot left or right. (Camera can’t tell the difference).

On my last three shows involving any sort of gunfire, we used 100% fake guns that aren’t capable of firing. Muzzle flashes were added in post production with VFX. In this day and age, there is no reason to ever use blanks or live ammo while filming.

It’s a horrible tragedy, and for the 50-60 people on set who witnessed it, it will scar them forever.

I can certainly see criminal charges being filed against Gutierrez-Reed who, as armorer, was most responsible for managing firearms safety. It honestly makes no sense to me, however, to charge Baldwin.

The DA’s explanation, posted to Facebook no less, comes across as sheer grandstanding:

New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced on Thursday that, in keeping with her commitment to pursue justice for all victims and to hold everyone accountable under the law, her office before the end of the month will file criminal charges in the “Rust” film-set shooting.

[…]

“After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the ‘Rust’ film crew,” Carmack-Altwies said. “On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”

[…]

“If any one of these three people—Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed or David Halls—had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It’s that simple,” said Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor appointed by the DA to the case. “The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set. In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously.”

Beyond that, the DA’s charging strikes me as completely lacking a theory of the case:

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be “charged in the alternative” with the two counts of manslaughter, meaning that a jury would decide not simply if they were guilty, but under which definition of involuntary manslaughter they were guilty.

The first charge can be referred to simply as involuntary manslaughter. For this charge to be proved there must be underlying negligence. Under New Mexico law, involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony and is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. This charge also includes the misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a firearm, which would likely merge as a matter of law.

The other charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act. This charge requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death. This is also a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5000 fine. This charge includes a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty, because a firearm was involved. The firearm enhancement makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.

Was it simple negligence? Or more than simple negligence? Well, shoot, why don’t we just leave that up to twelve amateurs to figure out?

UPDATE (Jan. 20): Commenter @Andy points us to a posting by law professor Eugene Volokh. He takes us through the New Mexico criminal code and concludes:

Involuntary manslaughter is thus very different from the voluntary; the similarities are just that it’s a homicide but not murder. One branch of it (“manslaughter committed in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to felony”) is the so-called “manslaughter-misdemeanor” rule, an analog to the “felony-murder” rule. The second branch involves, basically, causing death through negligence.

But not just any old negligence, of the sort that we’re familiar with from civil cases. Rather, it has to be “criminal negligence,” which is defined in New Mexico as “willful disregard of the rights or safety of others”—what some other states might call “recklessness”:

In New Mexico, “the State must show at least criminal negligence to convict a criminal defendant of involuntary manslaughter.” Because involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing, we only attach felony liability where the actor has behaved with the requisite mens rea. This Court has made clear that the criminal negligence standard applies to all three categories of involuntary manslaughter. Criminal negligence exists where the defendant “act[s] with willful disregard of the rights or safety of others and in a manner which endanger[s] any person or property.” We also require that the defendant must possess subjective knowledge “of the danger or risk to others posed by his or her actions.” [Emphasis added.]

Say, then, that the prosecution can show that Baldwin pointed the gun at Hutchins and pulled the trigger, but carelessly believed (without checking this for himself) that it was unloaded.

It wouldn’t be enough to show that Baldwin was careless, negligent, or lacked due caution in the ordinary sense of the word. The prosecution would have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he was subjectively aware of the danger: that he actually thought about the possibility that the gun might be loaded, and proceeded to point it and pull the trigger despite that. That’s much harder than just to show carelessness, or even gross carelessness, though of course much depends on what evidence the prosecution has gathered.

To the extent Baldwin committed negligence here, it should almost certainly have been left to the civil courts to ascertain his liability and assign damages.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Entertainment, Popular Culture, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. EddieInCA says:

    This is a horrible, horrible, horrible decision. And I’m not a Baldwin fan. He can be a bit of a douche, but he doesn’t deserve this.

    The person LEAST culpable, given all the industry rules, standards, and norms, is the actor actually firing the gun.

    Horrible decision to charge Baldwin, and was done only for the lulz. I hope the jury acquits him.

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    I know one other producer in addition to @EddieInCA: and he felt Baldwin had some culpability but as a producer on the movie, which was evidently a clusterfuck. I haven’t talked to him today but I suspect he’d agree that manslaughter is too much. This should be a civil trial.

    The charging DA is a lesbian Democrat, so I don’t think we’re looking at political bias. Maybe political overreach.

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  3. drj says:

    @EddieInCA:

    The person LEAST culpable, given all the industry rules, standards, and norms, is the actor actually firing the gun.

    I think we can fairly assume that all the industry rules, standards, and norms were not followed/adhered to.

    So who knows?

    You can’t just aim a gun at someone and pull the trigger. Your assumption that your gun is unloaded has to be based on something. It seems likely that this “something” just wasn’t there – which makes you guilty if you could reasonably have known that this would be the case.

    So it all depends on the details of the case, I guess.

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  4. Mikey says:

    When this happened I thought of the similar incident on the set of The Crow that resulted in the death of actor Brandon Lee. But no charges were brought against anyone in that case.

    Is the Rust case similar enough that it is overreach to charge Baldwin, or different enough that charges are actually warranted?

    Not that it matters, really, as charges have been brought against Baldwin. The twelve amateurs…er, jury will decide.

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  5. EddieInCA says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I mean no disrespect to your producer friend, but that’s just wrong. Baldwin was a “creative Producer”. He is responsible for the tone of the creative elements of the movie; the script, casting, editing, publicity, marketing, and distribution. He’s not responsible for the day to day operation of the set. That falls on the line producer, UPM, and 1st Assistant Director. A creative producer has very little say in the actual shooting day, other than creative choices made in conjunction with the director.

    This charge goes against all precedent and understanding of the business.

    P.S. – Most movies are a clusterfuck, no matter the size of the budget.

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  6. Stormy Dragon says:

    It honestly makes no sense to me, however, to charge Baldwin.

    One thing that’s not clear to me: is Alec Baldwin being charged as Alec Baldwin the actor, or as Alec Baldwin the producer, in which capacity he was the supervisor of the armorer and thus becomes responsible for their negligence via the doctrine of Respondeat Superior?

    And since he was literally right there when this was going on, it’s hard for him to argue he couldn’t reasonably aware of it.

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  7. James Joyner says:

    @drj: Baldwin should clearly have been instructed to point well off from a human being because that’s the safety protocol. But he had zero reason to think it was a live firearm, much less that it had live ammunition in it.

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  8. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    @EddieInCA:

    P.S. – Most movies are a clusterfuck, no matter the size of the budget.

    I imagine the bigger the budget the bigger the cluster.

    I’m surprised he was charged, but now that he has been Mr. Baldwin is looking at doing some real time.

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  9. EddieInCA says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl:

    I imagine the bigger the budget the bigger the cluster.

    Exactly the opposite. You know who’s movies aren’t a cluster? Steven Speilberg’s, Bob Zemeckis’, James Cameron’s, Ridley Scott’s, Christopher Nolan’s, Martin Scorcese’s, Clint Eastwood’s, etc.

    Low budgets cause lesser quality crew, limited time, and too many people trying to cut corners. But this wasn’t a budget issue. This was a complete failure to adhere to the minimum safety standards for handling a firearm on set.

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  10. EddieInCA says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    One thing that’s not clear to me: is Alec Baldwin being charged as Alec Baldwin the actor, or as Alec Baldwin the producer, in which capacity he was the supervisor of the armorer and thus becomes responsible for their negligence via the doctrine of Respondeat Superior?

    And since he was literally right there when this was going on, it’s hard for him to argue he couldn’t reasonably aware of it.

    This take shows the misunderstanding of most people as to the types of producer on a film set. These days, most films have a minimum of 5 producers, and some can have up to 15 various producers. They can be “Producers”, “Executive Producer”, “Associate Producer”, and others. Most of them have NOTHING to do with the actual day to day shooting. Most will never even visit the set. Those “Producers” were involved with the project in some way – financing, casting, etc – which gave them a credit. That doesn’t make them involved in the production in any meaningful way. Baldwin was a creative producer. He didn’t have any supervisory role in any way that matters, other than creative elements. The line producer, UPM, 1st AD, and Key Grip are the ones responsible for Safety on ANY set, not creative producers.

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  11. Stormy Dragon says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Are you sure that’s the way it works from a legal standpoint though? Baldwin owned the production company and he was on set. He might not have intended to be making himself legally responsible for what was going on there, but just because that’s how he’d like it to work doesn’t mean that’s how it actually does work.

    I’m betting the phrase “Creative Producer” does not appear anywhere in the New Mexico criminal code, so Baldwin’s specific title is probably not going to be the determining factor as to whether he was the “right type of producer” to be considered the one in charge.

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  12. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    e.g. Right now Elmo is getting shared by Tesla shareholders over his tweets. If he goes into court and says, “well, I can’t be liable for this because I’m just the Mobblewomp, and the Whowhatsit is the person actually in charge of running Tesla”, even if it’s true that how various people are listed on the company org chart, that’s not going to have any bearing on who the law says was actually in charge.

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  13. EddieInCA says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I don’t know what the New Mexico criminal code says, but the bottom line is that Baldwin was the person least responsible, given all the other screw-ups that happened. The 1st AD and Armourer are both being let off too easy with his plea deal and her charge, and Alec Baldwin is being treated too harshly.

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  14. Stormy Dragon says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I’m sure Baldwin’s lawyers will make exactly that argument, and I’m equally sure the prosecutors will make the exact opposite argument.

    It remains to be seen who the courts agree with (unless this already came up in a previous New Mexico case).

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  15. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    The 4 basic rules of gun safety:
    Treat all guns as if they are always loaded.
    Never let the muzzle point at anything that you are not willing to destroy.
    Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you have made the decision to shoot.
    Be sure of your target and what is behind it.

    I’m glad Baldwin was charged. Guns are not toys or props or fetish objects or anything except a tool whose purpose is killing (and in the case of a handgun, specifically intended for killing human beings). Yes a whole lot of other people screwed up too (and they should face consequences), but ultimately the person most responsible for what happens with a gun is the person holding it.

    I’m a huge fan of Stonekettle’s policy on guns, which I believe I’ve posted here before. It focuses on the role of laws in setting cultural expectations (like seatbelt laws did) rather than more direct but politically impossible options that we might prefer. And one of the main points is that things like what Baldwin did should most definitely be criminal. Excerpt from his post back in 2015:

    “On my range, on any range, military, law enforcement, or civilian, the first rule of gun safety is this:

    Always assume the gun is loaded, unless you personally have verified that it is unloaded.

    Everything depends from that anchor point.

    Everything.

    You always assume the gun is loaded. Always. Every time. Even if you just watched somebody else unload it. When you pick up a weapon or accept it from somebody else, you assume it is loaded until you, yourself, personally unload it or verify visually and physically that it is unloaded. Period. No exceptions.

    Now, I doubt anybody would want to argue that rule.

    Make it the law.

    Every gun user is personally responsible for knowing the condition of their weapon. No exceptions.

    Every year, hundreds of people are shot with unloaded guns. In the last year I’ve counted dozens of reports of “accidental” discharges, a number at gun shows by so-called experts. For example, last year in Medina, Ohio, a man was wounded at a gun show by a gun dealer, a gun dealer, who was checking out a semi-automatic handgun he had just bought. The dealer took the gun from the seller and accidentally pulled the trigger without clearing the weapon first. The gun’s magazine had been removed from the firearm but one round remained in the chamber. Both the seller and the buyer should have been held criminally liable for failure to properly clear the weapon.

    “I thought it was empty” is the single most common excuse when somebody “accidentally” discharges a weapon.

    There are no accidents with guns.

    There. Are. No. Accidents.

    It’s a killing machine. You’re responsible. Period. No exceptions.”

    Anyway, here’s the link (I hope since I always seem to have trouble posting links) to his article:

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  16. steve says:

    I am torn on this. While I agree that Baldwin was the least culpable that doesnt mean he had no responsibility. He is an experienced actor. I think he should have known not to aim at anyone. That said it could really have been an honest mistake if in the course of making sure he didnt actually aim at the other actor(s) he ended up hitting the director. Does it rise to the level of being charged? Beats me.

    Steve

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  17. Just Another Ex-Republican says:
  18. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:

    The 4 basic rules of gun safety:

    There’s a rule #5 of basic gun safety now too, which is to never try to catch a dropped gun

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  19. Lounsbury says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Musk is both CEO, chief executive officer, a formal managing and indeed chief, officer of the company. Not merely a shareholder. Your attempt at comparison is without sense. It is an apples to lump of rock comparison.

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  20. Gustopher says:

    If someone leaves a loaded gun lying around and a toddler shoots someone with it, charges should be filed. But not against the toddler.

    I’m not willing to say that Baldwin is a toddler in this case, though. He is a competent adult who pointed a gun at a person, and pulled the trigger. If this violates safety standards of filming, and he has been trained in those standards, that’s negligent homicide, is it not?

    As a society we are too reluctant to charge people for accidental gun deaths even when there is clear negligence. I’m ok with this, and think the armorer shouldn’t have been able to plea down.

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  21. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Oh, and to answer the subhead: “At what point does negligence become a crime?”

    When it involves guns, the answer should be that negligence IS a crime.

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  22. gVOR08 says:

    James quote’s Eddie on a proper firearms handling protocol. It’s a redundant protocol, as it should be. Three people, at three steps, jointly verify the gun is empty before the Armorer loads blanks, observed by the AD and Actor. Eddie goes on to note Baldwin should have been briefed to aim off target. It’s a long time since I received any firearms training, but the first thing was that if you pick up or are handed a weapon, you check if it is loaded. The second thing was that after you have verified it’s not loaded, you handle it as though it is. With a redundant safety protocol everyone who didn’t properly execute his step is at fault.

    Even if someone else is at fault for failing to institute or enforce proper procedures, Baldwin is still at fault. Baldwin picked up the gun and didn’t check it. Baldwin pointed the gun at a person. Baldwin pulled the trigger or dropped the hammer. I confess I expected Baldwin to get off, and likely he still will, but just because it’s America and he can afford a lot of lawyer. But I don’t see how you don’t charge Baldwin.

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  23. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher:

    If this violates safety standards of filming, and he has been trained in those standards, that’s negligent homicide, is it not?

    In how many films has Balwin handled guns? I find it hard to believe he’s never received training, or at least briefings. Even if he hadn’t, does he not have some responsibility for finding out for himself how to do it properly? (I’m talking morality, not legality.)

    As a society we are too reluctant to charge people for accidental gun deaths even when there is clear negligence.

    Indeed. “Oh, his kids dead, he’s been punished enough.” No, he hasn’t. Not until society has taken the opportunity to use him to say, “Don’t do this shit.”

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  24. Andy says:

    I don’t know enough to responsibly comment on this, but it just seems like a shitty situation all around, with no clear “good” outcome at this point.

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  25. dazedandconfused says:

    IIRC, he did not aim it at an actor, he aimed it at the camera for that perspective. We’ve all seen shots in movies of the perspective of the gun being pointed directly at the camera…and discharging.

    All the important details will come out in the trial. It does seem likely the DA is simply covering his ass for political reasons though. It has been said most DAs are politicians in training.

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  26. Jay L Gischer says:

    I endorse Stonekettle’s approach to gun safety. It’s what I’ve been taught, it’s what I endorse.

    I just googled “negligence vs. criminal negligence”. I got this quote:

    Civil negligence means a person failed to exercise reasonable care in their actions. Criminal negligence, on the other hand, typically involves a negligent act that is so egregious, it’s likely to result in the risk of death or serious bodily harm.

    Negligence with a gun definitely involves risk of death of serious bodily harm.

    I wonder if much isn’t going to turn on the exact details of what happened, which I haven’t heard about as yet. I mean, if it was a scene like that one in Pulp Fiction it seems quite appropriate to charge him. But was it something else, something a lot less egregious? I don’t know.

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  27. Jen says:

    Everyone has made excellent points, but it’s worth noting that Alec Baldwin’s job is an *actor.*

    His expectation is that he is handed a weapon on set that does its job as a prop, and doesn’t kill someone. It appears as though that is what has happened every single time except this one.

    Does it completely absolve him, no–but when that’s the expectation that has been met over and over again, it’s really hard for me to wrap my head around this charge.

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  28. Matt Bernius says:

    I saw this earlier today and wanted to check New Mexico criminal procedure before commenting.

    NM is a state where there is no grand jury. [Edit: So that was totally wrong… though I’m still trying to figure out NM’s rules for indictment.]

    My non-expert thoughts, noting that I don’t have access to the facts they have:
    – I agree with James that asking the jury to determine the correct level of involuntary manslaughter feels incredibly broad. I also suspect (again I’m no expert) that type of latitude is somewhat unique to the New Mexico justice system (have I mentioned there are at least 52 different justice systems in the US?). I wish we had a reader who was more familiar with the NM system to comment on that.

    – I agree with @EddieInCA that this feels like an over-reach on Baldwin. It could be that the Prosecutor has really compelling evidence. If that’s the case, we’ll eventually know it. What she has guaranteed is that this is going to be a costly case for the county to try. Baldwin doesn’t strike me as the person who will take a plea under pressure and, unless he’s been really careless with his financials, he has the money on hand to make this a really painful process for the county.

    – I also think they probably have a strong case against the armorer.

    I’ll also note that neither of those comments are intended to speak towards Mr. Baldwin’s (or anyone elses) moral or ethical cupability for this. They are simply a (semi-informed) legal take.

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  29. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Do you know what the legal criteria is for when person A is considered person B’s superior for criminal liability purposes?

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  30. EddieInCA says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I don’t know the New Mexico statute, but…

    Amourer reports to Propmaster (his/her superior)

    Propmaster reports to Art Director/Production Designer (his/her superior)

    Art Director/Production Designer reports to Unit Production Manager (UPM) and/or Line Producer (his/her superior).

    UPM reports to Line Producer (his/her superior)

    Line Producer reports to Producer.

    Producer reports to Studio or Financiers or Bond Company.

    On TV, the Line Producer reports to the Executive Producer (Showrunner.)

    Executive Producer reports to the Studio.

    Studio reports to the Network.

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  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Just want to say that I have to wonder if he aimed the gun at anybody “on set”.

    I’m not an actor, nor have I ever been on a set. But I was/am* a caver and having worked in dark environments (some caves are darker than others)(much darker) with very bright headlamps shining into my eyes…. Sometimes it’s hard to see who is where doing what.

    As I understand it the victim was behind/along side the camera as it was her responsibility to direct the cameras. All the lights are on set. He can kinda sorta make out the camera and aims a foot to the left or right and…

    He’s not pointing the gun at anybody, he’s pointing it at a dark space.

    Like I said, I’ve never been on a movie set but I have lots of experience of having lights shining into my eyes and elsewhere while surveying caves. One sees the lighted areas, the ones that are semi lit fade into the background, and the ones in the darkness? Who cares, your focus is on where the lights are pointed.

    If the situation here was anything like that, I just don’t see how this ends with a guilty verdict.

    * begs the question whether one ever stops being a caver?

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  32. Bob@Youngstown says:

    If it takes 12 guilty votes to convict (criminal), my prediction is that this will result in mistrial, after mistrial.

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  33. Assad says:

    Do standard rules of gun safety apply when there isn’t actually supposed to be *any* live ammunition involved? I mean, ideally, sure, I guess, but that doesn’t seem a realistic expectation from human beings.

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  34. Tony W says:

    I wonder what the situation would be like if the scene was a bar fight and somebody handed him a glass bottle that was not the type to easily break over somebody’s head, but rather a real one?

    As usual, America’s gun fetish has created a market for creative content featuring said weapons. Then when there are problems caused by those weapons, a scapegoat is found.

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  35. Chris says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican: Since humans are involved in the handling firearms there are plenty of accidents that happen with guns. Many of those accidents could have and should have been prevented. However, some are unforeseeable. For example, a tree branch falls on a firearms holder and it discharges causing harm. The vast majority of firearms accidents that could have been prevented speak to the need to hold people accountable and make them responsible for preventable accidents. The very few that were unforeseeable should be studied for future safety protocols.

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  36. Andy says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Eugene Volokh analyzes the relevant NM statutes. The gist is that the defendant must have subjective knowledge of the danger or risk of an action. Just based on that, it seems to me the prosecution will have a tough time trying to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt for Baldwin.

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  37. just nutha says:

    Good point for the issue as it relates to Alex Baldwin, the actor. That version of Alex Baldwin has a reasonable expectation that the prop manager and armorer will be handing him a gun with blanks (as opposed to live rounds) in it. I’m not sure he should have to reopen the breach/cylinder to check that the rounds are blanks (assuming that he would be able to recognize them as such).

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  38. Jay L Gischer says:

    Just want to re-emphasize that I don’t have any particular desired outcome as regards Baldwin.

    I do have a desired outcome in that I hope every person here commits themselves to checking a weapon to see if it is loaded upon picking it up, regardless of whether it supposed to be loaded or not, and regardless of who told you it was “safe”.

    And yes, we practiced this even in an environment where no live ammunition was allowed in the building, and our practice weapons were made of plastic, or were air guns. It’s meant to be an ingrained habit, something you always do.

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  39. Ed B says:

    I don’t know much about guns or movie sets, but I do have a comment about paying attention when it matters. My observation over 75 years of life is that a lot of people are not that good at their jobs, which I guess is ok for most jobs, but when you are dealing with a hand held death machine, I don’t care what your job is, you have to pay attention! A bunch of people were not in this case, and none of them is innocent.

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