The on-set killing of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins likely constitutes “homicide,” or a criminal killing, famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz explained in an opinion piece published Sunday.
Actor and co-producer Alec Baldwin on Thursday shot Hutchins and director Joel Souza while on the film set for “Rust,” killing Hutchins and wounding Souza. According to a court document, Baldwin was told he was handed a “cold gun” before firing at the camera, striking the two crew members. It still remains unclear if the “live round” was real ammunition.
Dershowitz asserts at The Hill that “two things” seem clear in the incident: “guidelines seem not to have been followed in this case, and the existing guidelines seem insufficient to prevent accidents like this.”
“It is likely, therefore, that the killing of Halyna Hutchins could constitute a homicide — that is, a criminal killing,” he said. “The remaining questions are who might be criminally responsible for the killing and what degree of homicide fits the evidence?”
“It seems clear that Alec Baldwin was not aware that he was firing a gun capable of expelling a lethal projectile,” Dershowitz wrote. “But his role reportedly was not limited to passively being an actor; he may have had some responsibility as one of several producers of the film. The nature of the role of producers varies from film to film, and it is unlikely that Baldwin’s role included responsibility for set safety. But some may think that it was not simply enough for him to accept the word of an assistant director about the gun’s safety, that he perhaps should have independently inspected the gun before firing it. It is unlikely, however, that such an omission would result in criminal responsibility.”
“Others on the set almost certainly bore greater responsibility, and their roles should be investigated, their responsibilities pinpointed,” he added.
The fatal shooting could be argued to be an accident, prove negligence, or be classified as recklessness or involuntary manslaughter — a worst-case scenario for the actor, Branca said in an 18-minute video.
The attorney noted that, for this case, involuntary manslaughter in New Mexico would be classified as a fourth-degree felony, which is typically punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of $5,000.