A New Mexico grand jury has recently indicted Alec Baldwin on a new charge of involuntary manslaughter related to a tragic incident on a movie set in October 2021.
Earlier charges against the acclaimed Emmy-winning actor were dismissed last April, a fortnight before his scheduled criminal trial.
Since then, local prosecutors have revealed “extra details” from the forensic examination of the firearm involved in the incident.
Mr. Baldwin’s legal representatives have expressed to the usnewsdaily their anticipation for their opportunity to present their case in court.
The 65-year-old Mr. Baldwin was rehearsing with a Colt .45 pistol for a scene in Rust, a forthcoming Western film shot near Santa Fe, in October 2021.
Unexpectedly, the firearm discharged, fatally injuring 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and also causing harm to director Joel Souza.
The actor has consistently claimed that he did not fire the gun, but merely cocked its hammer.
He has further contended that he bears no responsibility for Ms Hutchins’ demise, as he was unaware that the firearm was loaded with live rounds and that no such ammunition was supposed to be present on the set.
However, special prosecutors in New Mexico stated in October that they had enlisted the expertise of forensic specialists to rebuild the firearm, which had been damaged during FBI examinations.
They asserted that their investigation revealed that the incident could only have occurred if the trigger had indeed been activated.
“Despite Alec Baldwin’s persistent denial of having activated the trigger, the tests, findings, and observations reported here indicate that the trigger must have been sufficiently engaged or pressed to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the revolver in question,” concluded their report.
New evidence was presented to a 12-member grand jury on Thursday, with a minimum of eight members needed to agree on the likelihood of new charges.
On Friday, they issued a single-count indictment under two alternative legal theories – either Mr Baldwin was negligent in his handling of the firearm, or he acted with “complete disregard or indifference to the safety of others”.
Prosecutors have clarified that he can only be convicted under one of these theories, not both. If found guilty, he could face up to 18 months in prison.
A lawyer representing Ms Hutchins’ family expressed anticipation for the criminal trial, stating, “Our clients have always sought the truth about what happened on the day Halyna Hutchins was tragically shot and killed,” as per Gloria Allred’s statement.
They continue to pursue the truth in their civil lawsuit and seek accountability in the criminal justice system.
Mr Baldwin, who has expressed his “shock and sadness” over Ms Hutchins’ death, mentioned in recent court documents that he has had difficulty finding acting roles since the incident.
The indictment on Friday comes exactly one year after the first manslaughter charge against him was announced. However, the original case collapsed due to objections from Mr Baldwin’s lawyers, leading to the initial prosecution team stepping down.
The new prosecution team dismissed the charge in April 2023 due to evidence suggesting that the gun might have been altered, causing it to fire without the trigger being pulled.
As prosecutors considered refiling charges based on their new forensic findings, several civil lawsuits against Mr Baldwin and other Rust producers were put on hold.
Rust, a low-budget independent film, was reportedly a passion project for Mr Baldwin. He stars as outlaw Harland Rust in the film, co-wrote it with director Mr Souza, and also received a producer credit.
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armourer responsible for weapons and ammunition on set, faces her own manslaughter charge and a charge of tampering with evidence. She has pleaded not guilty and is set to stand trial next month.
Dave Halls, the first assistant director in charge of set safety, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanour charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon last March. His plea agreement included six months of unsupervised probation instead of jail time.
Rust was completed in May, with producers deciding to finish the film as a tribute to Ms Hutchins. It is currently awaiting distribution.
Matthew, Ms Hutchins’ widower, and her son, who was nine at the time, will receive a share of the film’s profits as part of a wrongful death settlement approved by a judge in June.