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Alec Baldwin hit with criminal charges for ‘Rust’ death: What is involuntary manslaughter?

Prosecutors have charged the actor, along with the film’s weapons specialist, in relation to the shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Alec Baldwin hit with criminal charges for ‘Rust’ death
Lucy NicholsonREUTERS

Alec Baldwin has formally been charged with involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film ‘Rust’. Baldwin was holding the weapon that fired and killed Hutchins.

Two weeks ago Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies confirmed that Baldwin, along with the film’s weapons specialist Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, had shown a pattern of criminal disregard for safety.

Baldwin, who was a producer on the film, was the one who fired the gun that killed Hutchins on 21 October 2021. He was pointing the gun at Hutchins when it went off, but believed he was holding a dummy weapon.

The decision to charge Baldwin and Carmack-Altwies with involuntary manslaughter suggests that prosecutors are confident that they can highlight failings that led to the death. Prosecutors have previously confirmed that Baldwin’s position as producer was a factor in the decision to file criminal charges.

Speaking to AP earlier this month Carmack-Altwies said that the set for ‘Rust’ was “really being run pretty fast and loose”. She added that there had been previous misfires and reports of safety concerns at the Santa Fe location during filming.

In the coming days both Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be issued with a summons to appear in court.

What is voluntary manslaughter?

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed face the prospect of a five-year prison sentence if found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors have already said that they will not allow Baldwin’s fame to cloud the investigation and they appear confident that they can show a pattern of reckless behaviour on set that contributed to Hutchins’ death.

New Mexico law defines involuntary manslaughter as engaging in the “commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection.”

Acting ‘without due caution’ is likely going to be key in the upcoming court case as prosecutors attempt to show that Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed failed to take the neccessary precautions when handling firearms on set. Both defendants maintain their innocence and have indicated that they will fight the case at trial.

Special prosecutor Andrea Reeb said: “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.”

She continued: “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.”

More on this breaking news story as it develops...