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Legal experts have weighed in following the devastating news of actor Alec Baldwin fatally shooting one person and injuring another while on the set of his new movie “Rust.”
42-year-old Halyna Hutchins, who was directing photography for the movie, was shot and killed. Baldwin, 63, fired a prop gun that killed Hutchins.
The incident also injured 48-year-old Joel Souza who is the film’s director. Police have launched an investigation into the incident.
Reports say Baldwin was in tears while questioned by police. “I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation,” Baldwin said in a statement. Photos captured Baldwin bending over in the parking lot outside the sheriff’s offices.
Baldwin says he hopes the investigation can “address how this tragedy occurred.”
Legal experts say Baldwin could potentially face charges for discharging the prop gun.
Attorney Jamie White said a lawsuit is expected, The Wrap reported.
“If Baldwin or another person was negligent, a civil suit is almost a no-brainer at this point — a very high likelihood,” White said.
“But the criminal side is going to be very fact-sensitive. Only if someone was recklessly negligent would there be criminal consequences. We see criminal negligence charges when people leave kids in hot cars, when they are recklessly driving. It’s too early to know that this will happen to Baldwin, but it’s not unheard of.”
According to USA Today, Neama Rahmani of the personal injury firm West Coast Trial Lawyers said, “There are some circumstances where even a prop gun with a blank can be dangerous if it’s shot within close range.”
“Let’s say it was loaded with a blank, but Baldwin himself was criminally negligent and shot it from close range, even though it wasn’t a live round. Then he could be held liable,” she said.
“Assuming it was just incompetence or a colossal mistake, that rises to the level of criminal negligence, which would be sufficient for a manslaughter prosecution,” Rahmani said.
Rachel Fiset, managing partner of Los Angeles firm Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman, said, “Proper compliance with safety issues on the set will be a large, general question that will be asked that may have a huge impact on any potential legal matters that may come from this case.”
“And then on the worst side of the scale, you could have potential criminal issues that would range from criminal negligence to intentional acts that may have caused this tragedy.”
More from Western Journal:
Juan Rios, a public information officer for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, said Friday that investigators are still trying to determine what the gun contained when it was fired.
“That information is one of the particulars that we’re trying to determine at this point — what kind of projectile was in that firearm,” he said, according to USA Today.
Under the New Mexico law, involuntary manslaughter does not require “specific intent” of wanting someone dead, according to The Wrap. Such a charge would be a fourth-degree felony that could put a guilty person in jail for 18 months and a fine of up to $5,000.
But attorneys said nothing is clear-cut at this point.
“The prosecution would have to show that Mr. Baldwin acted with at least a negligent state of mind when he discharged the prop gun,” criminal defense lawyer Robert J. DeGroot said, according to The Wrap.
“There have been instances of accidents involving prop weapons on sets which have led to deaths or other injuries. Such tragic incidents are foreseeable and should lead crew and cast to follow safety protocols to ensure that any prop gun discharge does not lead to harm.”