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Alec Baldwin prosecutors face tough job in 'Rust' shooting case

Formal charges are expected in New Mexico this month against the actor in the death of Halyna Hutchins. But the DA might have a hard time against Baldwin.


Celebrity court cases always attract widespread attention, but one of the most notable things about Alec Baldwin's case is how difficult the prosecution against the actor might be.

New Mexico state prosecutors have indicated they’ll file formal charges against Baldwin — as well as armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed — for two counts each of involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the “Rust” film set in 2021. (The armorer makes sure movie firearms are safe and secure.)

Both Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed have denied the potential charges. Assistant director Dave Halls agreed to a plea deal on a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon in Hutchins' death.

One of the counts Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed face requires proving negligence, and the other requires more proof and carries greater penalties upon conviction.

But there’s reason to think it will be challenging for the prosecution to carry its burden beyond a reasonable doubt — the standard in criminal cases — against Baldwin, for what he may argue at trial was a mistake that wasn’t his job to prevent. It's worth remembering that the defense has no burden in criminal cases; if the prosecution can't prove its case, then the jury must acquit. (Though it probably wasn’t the best idea for the actor to go on television and defend himself in the court of public opinion before charges have even been filed.)

Of course, it’s impossible to know what a jury will do if the case goes to trial. We’re a long way away from that possibility. First, we’ll want more details from the prosecution when formal charges are filed, likely later this month, to see if the government’s evidence strengthens what appears to be a difficult case to prove. When we learn more, I’ll be sure to report back on the blog.