Actor Alec Baldwin will be charged with two counts of manslaughter for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the western “Rust,” as was the gunsmith who oversaw all weapons used in the production.
Baldwin, who has maintained that he did not know the gun he fired contained a live bullet, called the decision by New Mexico prosecutors “a terrible judicial error,” according to his attorney, Luke Nikas, who has vowed to fight the charges.
Jason Bowles, attorney for the film’s gunsmith, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, said a jury will find his client not guilty because “he has not committed any crime.”
Hutchins was struck and killed in 2021 by a live round fired from a prop gun held by Baldwin, who maintains he did not pull the trigger on the gun. Director Joel Souza was also injured. No charges will be filed against Souza, prosecutors said.
The cause of death is listed as “gunshot wound to the chest” and the manner of death as “accident.”
“It is a comfort to the family that, in New Mexico, no one is above the law,” said a statement from attorney Brian J. Panish, on behalf of the Hutchins family.
Here’s why New Mexico 1st Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, who spoke to CNN on Thursday, said she decided to press charges:
Other actors, including “A-list” celebrities, questioned by prosecutors said they “always check their guns or have someone check them in front of them,” Carmack-Altwies told CNN shortly after announcing his intention to press charges of involuntary manslaughter.
“Everyone who handles a weapon has a duty to ensure that if they are going to handle that weapon, point it at someone and pull the trigger, they will not fire a projectile and kill someone,” he said.
She added: “An actor doesn’t get a free pass just because he’s an actor. That is what is so important. We are saying here in New Mexico that everyone is equal before the law.”
Real rounds were mixed with dummy rounds on set, and crews were not checking ammunition regularly, Carmack-Altwies said.
“There was such a lack of security and safety standards on that set… There were live rounds on the set,” he added.
“Nobody was checking them or at least they weren’t constantly checking them. And then somehow they loaded into a gun that was given to Alec Baldwin. He didn’t check. He didn’t do any of the things he was supposed to do to make sure he was safe or anyone around him was safe. And then he pointed the gun at Halyna Hutchins and pulled the trigger.”
Carmack-Altwies described the production as “a really fast and loose set” when it came to security, saying that “nobody was doing their job.”
The postmortem inquest summary into Hutchins’ death, which was formally signed by New Mexico’s chief medical investigator, said that “police reports did not show a convincing demonstration that the firearm was intentionally loaded with live ammunition.” .
“Based on all available information, including the absence of obvious intent to cause harm or death, the manner of death is best classified as an accident,” the report concluded.
Carmack-Altwies said that “just because it’s an accident doesn’t mean it’s not a crime.”
“Our manslaughter statute covers unintentional killings,” he said.
“Involuntary, that means they didn’t mean to do it. They had no intent to kill. But it happened anyway, and it happened because of more than simple negligence… They didn’t have due caution or circumspection and that’s what happened here.”
Carmack-Altwies said there is “more than enough” evidence to support the charges and bring the case to trial.
An FBI forensic report said that the gun could not be fired during normal FBI operational tests without pulling the trigger while the gun was cocked.
The report also noted that the gun ultimately failed during testing after internal parts fractured, causing the gun to fire in the cocked position without pulling the trigger.
The prop gun was in the hands of Baldwin, who has maintained that he did not pull the trigger.
“The FBI lab is one of the best in the world,” Carmack-Altwies told CNN. “And we absolutely believe that the trigger had to be pulled for the gun to fire.”