Los Angeles: As the chain of events that led to actor Alec Baldwin fatally shooting a cinematographer becomes clearer, the question remains: who, if anyone, will be held responsible for the death of Halyna Hutchins?
No arrests have been made, but prosecutors have not yet ruled out criminal charges against those involved in the tragedy that struck the set of low-budget Western film “Rust” in New Mexico last Thursday.
Legal experts told AFP that in theory, prosecutors could explore two avenues for charging Baldwin: as the actor who pulled the trigger during a rehearsal or as a producer of the film.
While many facts about the shooting have not yet been established, all agreed that Baldwin is unlikely to be seen as criminally liable for discharging the weapon.
Baldwin was handed the gun by assistant director Dave Halls, who announced that the weapon was safe, using the industry lingo “cold gun.”
“He appears to have reasonably believed that this was not a loaded weapon,” said University of Southern California law professor Gregory Keating.
Involuntary manslaughter would require proof of reckless conduct.
“Alec Baldwin does not appear to have a whole lot of liability… the further you get from the person who´s in charge of the gun, the less likely,” criminal defense lawyer Richard Kaplan, of Kaplan Marino, told AFP.
Baldwin has said in a statement that he is “fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred.”
Meanwhile, “Rust” has 12 credited producers and executive producers, including Baldwin.
In Hollywood, such a title can mean anything from the person with ultimate authority on set to someone who helped to raise money early on in a movie´s production.
It is not yet clear which of those dozen individuals was making on-the-ground decisions about hiring crew and enforcing safety conditions, or the extent of Baldwin´s role in those outcomes.
The production company has not responded to repeated AFP requests for comment.
“I personally feel [Baldwin] would probably be too far removed,” said Kaplan.
“When you´re an A-list actor generally, and you get a producer´s credit, it doesn´t mean you have enhanced responsibilities of a line producer… it´s really just for economic reasons.”
“He just looks like a passive investor as a producer,” agreed Keating.