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The on-set killing of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins likely constitutes "homicide,"
or a criminal killing, famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz explained in an opinion piece published Sunday.
Actor and co-producer Alec Baldwin on Thursday shot Hutchins and director Joel Souza while on the film set for "Rust,"
killing Hutchins and wounding Souza. According to a court document, Baldwin was told he was handed a "cold gun"
before firing at the camera, striking the two crew members. It still remains unclear if the "live round"
was real ammunition.
Dershowitz asserts at The Hill that "two things"
seem clear in the incident: "guidelines seem not to have been followed in this case, and the existing guidelines seem insufficient to prevent accidents like this."
"It is likely, therefore, that the killing of Halyna Hutchins could constitute a homicide - that is, a criminal killing,"
he said. "The remaining questions are who might be criminally responsible for the killing and what degree of homicide fits the evidence?"
"It seems clear that Alec Baldwin was not aware that he was firing a gun capable of expelling a lethal projectile,"
Dershowitz wrote. "But his role reportedly was not limited to passively being an actor; he may have had some responsibility as one of several producers of the film. The nature of the role of producers varies from film to film, and it is unlikely that Baldwin's role included responsibility for set safety. But some may think that it was not simply enough for him to accept the word of an assistant director about the gun's safety, that he perhaps should have independently inspected the gun before firing it. It is unlikely, however, that such an omission would result in criminal responsibility."
"Others on the set almost certainly bore greater responsibility, and their roles should be investigated, their responsibilities pinpointed,"
Attorney Andrew Branca of Law of Self Defense similarly weighed in on the case, Friday.
The fatal shooting could be argued to be an accident, prove negligence, or be classified as recklessness or involuntary manslaughter - a worst-case scenario for the actor, Branca said in an 18-minute video.
The attorney noted that, for this case, involuntary manslaughter in New Mexico would be classified as a fourth-degree felony, which is typically punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of $5,000.
Branca outlined the hypothetical case that Baldwin was negligent in the killing (emphasis added):
In our hypothetical with the defective gun, for example, it may be true that the discharge of the gun was not foreseeable by Alec Baldwin, and therefore not really in his control-but the direction in which the gun was pointed certainly was in his control.
The death of Ms. Hutchins by the discharge of the gun could not have occurred had the gun not been pointed at her-and that pointing of the gun at her would certainly seem to constitute negligence.
Anyone trained in firearms safety-and anyone handling an inherently dangerous instrument like a firearm can be reasonably expected to have a duty to be trained on its safe operation around others-would know that one of the four primary safety rules of handling firearms is that you do not point the muzzle of the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
Pointing the gun at Ms. Hutchins then, at least under circumstances in which the gun discharges and kills her, would certainly qualify as negligence at a minimum, and thus create civil liability for her death.
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