Prosecutors could have a hard time convicting Alec Baldwin for the fatal shooting of "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins because he was assured the gun was safe to handle before it fired a live round, say legal experts, Reuters reports. New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies formally charged the "30 Rock" actor and the film's armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed with involuntary manslaughter after more than a year of investigation into the October 2021 shooting. Baldwin, 64, has said he was told the gun did not contain live rounds when it was handed to him and that he did not pull the trigger. His attorney has called the decision to criminally charge the actor a "terrible miscarriage of justice."
A lawyer for Gutierrez-Reed denied the allegations and said in a statement that the district attorney "completely misunderstood the facts." Legal experts said they were doubtful that a jury would convict Baldwin over the shooting, which occurred during a rehearsal on the set, if the evidence shows the tragedy was an accident that occurred despite safety precautions in place to prevent it. Criminal liability is a "stretch," unless prosecutors "can show it was absolutely reckless in terms of the level of safety on set," said defense lawyer and former New Mexico U.S. Attorney John Anderson. "Here it sounds like they had multiple safety checks built in," Anderson said. The most serious charge prosecutors are pursuing, with a maximum prison term of five years, would require prosecutors to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Baldwin was more than just negligent. Legal experts said this would likely require proving his behavior was reckless, or "an extreme departure from the care a reasonable person would exercise in similar circumstances."