Decision to prosecute Alec Baldwin is ‘terrible miscarriage of justice’ – lawyer

The decision to prosecute Alec Baldwin over the death of Halyna Hutchins “represents a terrible miscarriage of justice”, the actor’s lawyer has said.

Both Baldwin and the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, will be charged with involuntary manslaughter over the death of Ms Hutchins on set of the film Rust in 2021.

The decision was announced by New Mexico District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, via a written statement on Thursday.

“After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the Rust film crew,” the statement read.

“On my watch, no-one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”

Responding to the announcement, Baldwin’s lawyer, Luke Nikas of Quinn Emanuel, said: “This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice.

“Mr Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the movie set.

“He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win.”

It comes less than three months after the District Attorney’s office received the final report from the police into the incident which led to the death of Ms Hutchins after a prop gun held by Baldwin was discharged.

Rust director Joel Souza was also wounded in the shooting on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set near Santa Fe, Arizona.

Assistant director David Halls has signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

No charges will be filed over the non-fatal shooting of Souza, the DA said.

Rust incident
Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter over the death of Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust in 2021 (Santa Fe County Sheriff/PA)

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be “charged in the alternative” with the two counts of manslaughter, meaning that a jury would decide not simply if they were guilty, but under which definition of involuntary manslaughter they were guilty, the DA’s office said.

The first charge can be referred to as involuntary manslaughter and requires proof of underlying negligence.

This charge also includes the misdemeanour charge of negligent use of a firearm, which would likely merge as a matter of law.

The second charge is involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, which requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death.

Under New Mexico law, both charges are a fourth-degree felony and are punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a 5,000 dollar (£4,000) fine.

The second charge includes a firearm enhancement, or added mandatory penalty, which makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.

“If any one of these three people, Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed or David Halls, had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It’s that simple,” said special prosecutor Andrea Reeb.

“The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the Rust film set.

“In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously.”

Rust incident
Ms Hutchins after a prop gun held by Baldwin was discharged (Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office/PA)

Ms Carmack-Altwies and Ms Reeb will formally file charges with New Mexico’s First Judicial District Court before the end of the month.

Following the filing of charges, each defendant will be issued a summons with the charging information and will be required to make a first appearance at court shortly after – though this can be done virtually.

The next step after first appearance will be a preliminary hearing, where the District Attorney and the special prosecutor will present their case to the judge, who will rule whether there is probable cause to move forward with a trial.

Dates for a preliminary hearing will be set by the court and are typically scheduled within 60 days of charges being filed.

“There is a very clear process for pursuing justice in this case,” Ms Carmack-Altwies said.

“We are committed to upholding the integrity of that process to ensure equal justice under the law.”