As an actor, Alec Baldwin has little responsibility…. Baldwin, the producer, may have more responsibility, “a lawyer tells TheWrap.
In the worst case, legal experts tell TheWrap that Baldwin could face a manslaughter charge if he is found to be reckless in handling the weapon, as if he would fire the weapon even after being warned against doing so. Under New Mexico law, involuntary manslaughter does not require a “specific intention” to want the death of a person. (Involuntary manslaughter is a fourth degree felony in New Mexico, punishable by 18 months in jail and up to $ 5,000 in fines.)
“The prosecution would have to show that Mr. Baldwin acted in at least negligent frame of mind when he fired the backup weapon,” said criminal defense attorney Robert J. DeGroot. “There have been cases of prop gun accidents on sets that have resulted in deaths or other injuries. These tragic incidents are foreseeable and must lead the crew and cast to follow safety protocols to ensure that any propeller gun firing does not cause damage. “
But experts said that on-set shootings with prop pistols have generally been considered accidents that do not lead to criminal charges, as was the case in the 1983 murder of Brandon Lee on the set of “The Crow.” “Rarely are people on set condemned. Everyone agrees that it was an accident, ”said Richard Kaplan, Kaplan Marino’s criminal defense attorney.
Trial attorney Neama Rahmani said a murder charge is unlikely to be filed, because it would require proving intent to kill. “A manslaughter charge could be more likely, because it does not require intent to kill, but it does require criminal negligence or gross negligence,” Rahmani said. “In this case, there are reports that the propeller gun was loaded with live bullets. If that’s true, it’s gross negligence, and whoever loaded the gun will be held responsible. ”(Authorities have yet to determine whether live ammunition was used and the IATSE union official who suggested“ live ”ammunition was then backtracked the declaration “.
New Mexico authorities are still investigating the case, and on Friday, the New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said that The investigation is still in its preliminary stages and it is too early to say whether criminal charges can be filed.
However, personal injury attorney Miguel Custodio noted that Baldwin may have more legal liability as a producer of “Rust” than as an actor who fired the fatal shot.
“The responsibility certainly goes to Rust Movie Productions and the prop manager,” Custodio said. “As an actor, Alec Baldwin has little responsibility because they give you something and you trust that the props manager will check everything. Baldwin, the producer, may have more responsibility, depending on whether he is just an investor or has a more active role in making the film, which I suspect he does. “
The experts also suggested that the film company and the prop manager could face criminal charges. “It is also clear that someone failed him in the most basic way, to verify if a weapon was safe, and he may be criminally negligent,” Custodio said. “They are likely to go after Baldwin the actor, Baldwin the producer, the film company and the props director. And remember, director Joel Souza was also injured, and many others on set are also traumatized and affected by this. “
On Friday, the production team responded to reports that a half-dozen crew members left the set hours before the accident to protest safety and other working conditions at the production: “Although we were not informed of any official complaints about weapons or accessories security on set, we will conduct an internal review of our procedures while production is closed. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation. “
There is a precedent for prosecuting filmmakers for negligence. In 2015, “Midnight Rider” director Randall Miller and executive producer Jay Sedrish pleaded guilty to manslaughter after camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed on a railroad trestle on the first day of filming. Miller served a year in jail for the incident, and the production was cited by OSHA for “serious” and “intentional” safety violations.
In past incidents of accidental murder on set, the individual who fired the gun was generally not charged. In 1993, when actor Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, was filming “The Crow,” a prop pistol was mishandled which caused a shell tipped cartridge to jam. A blank bullet was fired that ended up killing the 28-year-old star, but the local prosecutor later decided against accusing the producer of negligent homicide. The police investigation found no evidence of criminal offenses.
A criminal charge is unlikely unless something is determined to be negligent or reckless, for example, if Baldwin was firing the gun as a joke, and it was not during the filming or rehearsal of a scene, rather than a accidental discharge, Kaplan said. (Baldwin on Friday expressed “shock and sadness” over the accident and said he was fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred. “)
There are many open questions that need to be determined, including whether it was an accidental discharge and how two people were shot with a propeller pistol. (Souza was released from the hospital late Thursday and is expected to make a full recovery.) How the gun was handled will also be further examined before it was handed over to Baldwin, though authorities said Thursday that the actor fired a shotgun. prop that another producer told him. it was loaded with whitespace and failed.
“There are a lot of scenarios that I can run through my mind,” Kaplan said. “We still don’t have an answer as to why these two people were targeted. Was Alec reckless or were the props people reckless? That is what is being investigated and analyzed ”.
Regardless of the criminal charges, legal experts suspect that there will be civil litigation in the case. “The family will pursue the civilian side, but the question is how much the family will pursue the criminal side,” Kaplan said, adding that many families do not want to go through the torment of lengthy trials.
Attorney Jamie White also said that a civil lawsuit seemed more likely than a criminal case. “If Baldwin or someone else was negligent, a civil lawsuit is almost a no-brainer at this point – a very high probability,” White said. “But the criminal side is going to be very sensitive to the facts. Only if someone was reckless and negligent would there be criminal consequences. We see charges of criminal negligence when people leave children in hot cars, when they drive recklessly. It’s too early to know this will happen to Baldwin, but it’s not unheard of. “
The determination of negligence in a civil lawsuit will depend on whether Baldwin and any crew member acted unreasonably, attorney Evan W. Walker said. Both parties would try to find experts and discuss aspects of safety controls on the weapon or whether or not there was any violation of the standard of care. “Answering that question goes into the legal analysis, such as the custom, practice and procedure of using guns on set, security checks, etc.,” Walker told TheWrap. “If the parties cannot reach an agreement, a jury decides that question.”
“As the facts have been presented thus far, Baldwin will not be charged with an intentional act of violence,” White said. “However, it is not uncommon for him to be accused of significant negligence. There are many more facts that need to be developed, but studies take many precautions in light of Brandon Lee’s death in 1993. “