Experts Weigh in on Who Could Face Criminal Charges in the Death of Halyna Hutchins

October 21st was a tragic day for the entire film industry. A catastrophe hit the sets of ‘Rust’ when Alec Baldwin accidentally shot a ‘live round’, killing a cinematographer and injuring the director.

The prop gun handed to him by assistant director Dave Halls had been described as “cold” by the crew and the armory that handled it.

Halyna Hutchins

The cinematographer killed was none other than the budding artist Halyna Hutchins. She was born in Ukraine where she spent her early life, graduating first in Economics and later becoming interested in film-making.

She shifted to the US after her marriage, where she studied at. She is best known for her work in movies like ‘Darlin ‘, ‘Archenemy’ and ‘The Mad Hatter’.

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On the sets of ‘Rust’, she was working as a cinematographer when she was mortally wounded. Her friend, a crew electrician who held her during her last minutes has sued the producers of ‘Rust’, Alec Baldwin, and others.

Her family, consisting of her husband and her son, are awaiting the results of the investigation being conducted by the Santa Fe authorities in New Mexico.

What Happened That Day?

‘Rust’ was being filmed on a ranch in New Mexico, when the incident happened. Halyna Hutchins was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead and Joel Souza, the director standing behind her, was shifted to Christus Saint Vincent’s Hospital in an ambulance.

Joel Souza has now been released from the hospital after treatment of the wound in his shoulder.

Experts weigh

Sherrif’s Office was contacted via 911 immediately after the shooting. Since then, an inquiry is being made into the matter. Alec Baldwin was reported to be seen crying after the accident at the Sheriff’s Office.

He has claimed to have been informed by Dave Halls that the prop gun was safe to use. Dave Halls said that he did not inspect properly the gun before handing it over to the actor and that he did not know there were live rounds in the gun. 

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Expert Opinion

The news has shaken up the film industry. Legal experts have been sought opinions on this incident. Liabilities will be great on the production company of ‘Rust’, as the case may be more of safety negligence than criminal intent.

There may be legal ramifications for the actor Baldwin not because he fired the gun, but because he is a part of the production team too.

“I’d be shocked if there wasn’t a lawsuit against the production company,” said Bryan Sullivan, a partner at Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae.

“They might name Alec Baldwin to get leverage, or the armorer or the lead producer, but in the end, all of them are employees of the production company, and any liability would be docked from the company and whatever insurance they have.”

“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,” Neama Rahmani says, a former federal prosecutor.

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He added that if charges are brought, the person who loaded the gun could be prosecuted, as well as anyone who knew the gun contained live ammunition. “The question is, who loaded the gun?” he said. “What did he or she put in the gun?” If it was live ammo, “why was there even live ammunition on this set?”

As the investigation proceeds, more details will be uncovered regarding the incident. Legal prosecution is also underway. Lawyers are, therefore, cautioning that the case may have an unexpected outcome. That being said, criminal cases do not usually occur on film sets. Further developments in the case will be highlighted in the future.

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