The case against Alec Baldwin, who had been in hiding since a fatal shooting during a New Mexico filming rehearsal in 2021, was revived on Friday when a grand jury indicted him on an involuntary manslaughter charge.
This week, following months of getting a forensic study of the weapon in question, special prosecutors in Santa Fe presented the case before a grand jury. After arguing their case for the grand jury for nearly two days, they still refused to answer any questions. Legal counsel for Baldwin has signaled their intention to contest the allegation.
In an email, Baldwin’s defense attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro expressed their excitement about their upcoming court date. Despite the secrecy surrounding the proceedings, two crew members who were present at the courthouse were identified as witnesses. One of these witnesses was there when the fatal shot was fired, while the other had left the set the day prior citing safety concerns.
In October 2021, while rehearsing on a set outside of Santa Fe, Baldwin—who was also a co-producer and star actor in the Western film “Rust”—pointed a revolver at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The gun went fire, killing Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. Baldwin claims he drew back the hammer, but forgot to squeeze the trigger, causing the gun to fire.
For an actor who has been a constant in both film and television for over four decades—starring in parts such as “The Hunt for Red October,” “The Departed” (directed by Martin Scorsese), and the hit sitcom “30 Rock”—the accusation has once again landed Baldwin in legal hot water and raised the prospect of jail time.
Prosecutors have two options in the indictment to pursue an involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin for Hutchins’s death. Both charges centre on careless gun handling, but one also asserts criminal wrongdoing “with the total disregard or indifference for the safety of others.”
Following prosecutors’ announcement that they would be presenting their case to a grand jury, judges recently decided to halt multiple civil cases for compensation from Baldwin and the creators of “Rust.”. Members of the film crew are named as plaintiffs in those lawsuits.
Gloria Allred, an attorney based in Los Angeles, who is handling a civil complaint on behalf of the parents and younger sister of the murdered cinematographer, stated on Friday that her clients are eager to learn what transpired on the day of Hutchins’s murder and are anticipating Baldwin’s trial.
A former federal prosecutor and current president of the West Coast Trial Lawyers firm in Los Angeles, Neama Rahmani, drew attention to past mistakes made by the prosecution and stated that in order to prove that Baldwin had a greater responsibility and legal obligation regarding the handling of the gun on set, they will have to do more than just present ballistics evidence.
In April, special prosecutors dropped Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter case after receiving information that the gun may have been altered prior to the incident and failed to work properly. After getting a second opinion on the firearm, they changed their strategy and started considering whether to re-file the charges against Baldwin.
Following FBI testing that damaged several components of the handgun, forensic and ballistics experts reassembled the weapon that Baldwin had discharged using replacement parts. Markings on a spent cartridge and the pistol itself led the study to the conclusion that the trigger had to have been lifted or squeezed.
“Given the tests, findings and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver,” according to the analysis led by Lucien Haag of Forensic Science Services in Arizona. Baldwin denied pulling the trigger multiple times.
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who oversaw the use of firearms on set, has entered not guilty pleas to the charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering. In February, her trial is expected to commence.
Last March, David Halls, who was the safety coordinator and assistant director of “Rust,” pled not guilty to the charge of dangerous firearm handling and was sentenced to six months of probation with a suspended sentence. He consented to help with the shooting inquiry.
As is typical with weapons of that kind, an earlier FBI report detailing the agency’s examination of the pistol discovered that it could go off without pressing the trigger if force was given to an uncocked hammer, for example, by dumping the weapon.
Testers could only trigger the weapon by pulling the trigger fully cocked or by hitting it with a mallet with the hammer lowered and resting on the cartridge. During testing, the rifle finally malfunctioned.
Defendants’ alleged lack of vigilance over safety measures was at the heart of numerous legal actions that followed the 2021 shooting, one of which was Hutchins’ family’s wrongful death claim. Those accusations have been denied by Baldwin and the other defendants.
After a detailed account of failures in breaching standard industry protocols, including testimony that production managers did little to nothing to address two misfires on set prior to the deadly shooting, the Rust Movie Productions company was fined $100,000 by state workplace safety regulators.
Matthew Hutchins, the widower of the cinematographer, was designated an executive producer after an agreement with him, and filming of “Rust” restarted in Montana last year.
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