Alec Baldwin accidentally shot a camerawoman on the set of “Rust” – now he could face legal consequences.Image: dpa / Seth Wenig
A terrible incident occurred on the set of the film “Rust” over a week ago: Actor Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed cameraman Halyna Hutchins with a prop gun. The shot also hit director Joel Souza in the shoulder – he is on the mend after a hospital stay. The investigations by the authorities are now in full swing. It is currently extremely questionable whether production will start again.
The assistant director Dave Halls already admitted mistakes: As the “New York Times” reported, he stated that he had not checked all the cartridges in the Baldwin prop weapon in question before handing them over to the actor. According to initial findings, Halls was involved in a gun accident at a film production company in the past. Apparently, on the set of “Freedom’s Path” in 2019, a gun fired unexpectedly. As a result, Halls was fired. With Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who is only 24 years old, an inexperienced weapons master was hired for “Rust” – there are several possible sources of error that could have led to the tragedy.
So far, the authorities have not explicitly excluded anyone from the investigation, which is why Baldwin himself is in the spotlight – as the person who fired the shot and as the producer of the film. In the latter role, the 63-year-old is responsible for ensuring that safety precautions are taken on the set. The lawyer Paul Vogel from Vogel Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH assesses what Baldwin should now expect at the request of watson.
Criminal Consequences for Baldwin?
Alec Baldwin did not fire the ammunition on purpose. At the weekend he spoke up publicly for the first time after the accident and said: “She was my friend”. Hutchins, Souza and he were a well-rehearsed team, then “this terrible event” happened.
Baldwin is on the phone in the parking lot in front of the Santa Fe Country Sheriff’s Office after the accident.Image: Santa Fe New Mexican / AP / Jim Weber
Vogel cannot “completely rule out” that the Hollywood actor in the USA will also face criminal consequences, but at the same time indicates that we “know far too little” up to this point. The authorities would think in all directions in their work and would also carefully examine the behavior of the gun master and the assistant director. With Baldwin, on the other hand, according to the legal expert, if you look at it as a whole, it will come down to the question: “Should he have known?”
If the case were to be heard in this country, Vogel is fairly certain that, given the current findings, Baldwin would have nothing to fear, at least from a criminal court:
“In Germany he would be out of criminal law.”
“Red Alert” for Alec Baldwin
In Anglo-American law there is a special type of compensation that is called “punitive damages” and for which the term “punitive damages” has become established in German-speaking countries. The aim here is also to punish the defendant for his behavior.
Vogel estimates the probability that Baldwin will pay punitive damages much higher than watson, but here, too, it is difficult to make a clear prognosis. The problem: When determining the amount, the defendant’s income is also included in the calculation, here it would be the figures relating to the film production or the (potential) profit margin.
It is questionable whether the shooting of “Rust” will start again.Image: imago images / Roberto E. Rosales
If, for example, American companies are called to account after work accidents, the violation of so-called traffic safety obligations often plays a role. In the case of Halyna Hutchins’ killing, it could then be established that the “Rust” production acted negligently as far as the safety of its own employees was concerned. At this point, lawyer Vogel speaks of a “disposition to conflict”, which must be ascertained, and gives a rather gloomy prognosis for Baldwin in this regard: “Red alert” currently applies to him. It is currently easy to imagine that at least as a producer he will have to pay compensation.