Alec Baldwin’s grand jury indictment opens up two paths for prosecutors

Alec Baldwin’s grand jury indictment opens up two paths for prosecutors

By Associated Press

Alec Baldwin once again is staring down a felony involuntary manslaughter charge after a grand jury indicted the actor in connection with the fatal 2021 shooting of a cinematographer on the set of a Western movie in New Mexico.

The lead actor and a co-producer on “Rust,” Baldwin pointed a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during rehearsal on a movie set outside Santa Fe when the gun went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

A new analysis of the gun opened the way for prosecutors to reboot the case, after dismissing an involuntary manslaughter charge last year. A new one-page indictment delivered by the grand jury Friday alleges Baldwin caused Hutchins’ death — either by negligence or “total disregard or indifference” for safety.

Defence attorneys for Baldwin indicate they’ll fight the charge, which carries a potential prison sentence of up to 18 months.

Here are some things to know about the case.

Next steps

Baldwin can enter a formal plea with or without a court arraignment, setting in motion preparations for trial.

The indictment provides prosecutors with two alternative standards for the felony involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin. One would be based on the negligent use of a firearm.

Baldwin has said he pulled back the gun’s hammer, but not the trigger, and the weapon fired. But a recent analysis of the gun used by Baldwin from Lucien and Michael Haag of Forensic Science Services in Arizona concluded that “the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver.” Michael Haag testified to the grand jury this week as a witness, according to the new indictment.

An earlier FBI report on the agency’s analysis of the gun found that, as is common with firearms of that design, it could go off without pulling the trigger if force was applied to an uncocked hammer — such as by dropping the weapon. The gun eventually broke during testing.

A second alternative for prosecutors is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Baldwin caused the death of Hutchins without due caution or “circumspection,” also defined as “an act committed with total disregard or indifference for the safety of others.”

Baldwin as co-producer

Prosecutors declined to answer questions Friday after spending about a day and a half presenting their case to the grand jury.

Santa Fe-based defense attorney and former prosecutor John Day, who is not connected to the case, believes the indictment gives prosecutors a possible opportunity to address Baldwin’s safety obligations as a co-producer.

“We don’t know exactly what their theory is,” Day said. “It could be that they’re including his role as basically CEO of the production … not having a safe workplace and somebody dies and you’re at the top of the pyramid.”

The company Rust Movie Productions has paid a $100,000 fine to state workplace safety regulators following a scathing narrative of safety failures in violation of standard industry protocols, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set before the fatal shooting.