Alec Baldwin is Formally Charged in Fatal Film Set Shooting

Written By: Kaitlyn Keane


On January 31, 2023, the District Attorney’s office of Santa Fe, New Mexico, formally filed involuntary manslaughter charges against actor Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed for their involvement in the 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust”. This comes more than a year after Alec Baldwin accidentally killed Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza with a gun on set. Since the high-profile incident, there has been mass speculation in the media over whether charges would be brought against the famous actor. Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed intend to fight the charges.

What Happened?

In October 2021, on a ranch right outside of Santa Fe, Baldwin was rehearsing on the set of “Rust”, which he was also a producer on. According to protocol, the gun was due to be inspected by Gutierrez-Reed and assistant director Dave Halls, who oversaw set safety. The pair should have thoroughly inspected both the barrel and the gun’s chamber contents. There are conflicting stories of how the inspection of the gun was conducted. Ultimately, Halls declared it was a cold gun—there was no live ammunition—and handed the revolver to Baldwin. In the scene Baldwin was rehearsing, he was pointing the revolver at the camera. The revolver unexpectedly went off and a live round was fired at Hutchins, killing her and wounding Souza.

Of note, according to crew members, there were several accidental gun discharges on set just days before the incident. These discharges led to several complaints from crew members over safety practices, however it is unclear as to whether these complaints were investigated.

The Charges

On January 31, 2023, Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies formally filed involuntary manslaughter charges against both Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed for the death of Hutchins. She also charged Mr. Halls with negligent use of a deadly weapon, to which he plead no contest to. Twelve days prior, The First District Attorney’s Office posted detailed descriptions of the charges they were bringing against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed on their Facebook page.

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will be charged in the alternative with two counts of manslaughter. The first charge, involuntary manslaughter, must be proven by showing there was underlying negligence. In New Mexico, this “is a fourth-degree felony and is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.” The second charge, involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, “requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death.” This charge is also a fourth-degree felony; however, it includes a firearm enhancement. A firearm enhancement is an added mandatory penalty that makes the crime punishable by a mandatory five-year jail sentence.

Baldwin maintains his innocence and claims he did not pull the trigger, but an FBI analysis asserts that the gun would not have gone off without a pull to the trigger. According to Carmack-Altwies, the trigger pull is a key piece of evidence. Since Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are being charged in the alternative, the jury must decide between the two charges. According to Carmack-Altwies, it does not matter how the live ammunition wound up on set that day. She claims that just because it was an accident does not mean it was not criminal; when Baldwin pointed the gun at someone and pulled the trigger, he failed to take the necessary precautions.

Fifth Amendment Concerns

In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, columnist Farhad Manjoo discusses the interesting Fifth Amendment concerns that arise from this case. After the fatal shooting of Hutchins, Baldwin was questioned in an interrogation room by detectives. He was read his Miranda rights and was assured it was just a formality. Despite his right to remain silent, Baldwin talked at length about what had happened and provided theories he had without his lawyer being present. In his various interviews with police, Baldwin made several contradictory statements. For example, he initially told police that armorer Gutierrez-Reed had handed him the gun, but later claimed it was Halls.

Manjoo’s article reminds us of the possible consequences of waiving your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Even Baldwin, a person who no doubt has access to expensive and highly-regarded lawyers, expressed the human instinct to try and assist when someone you know has been hurt. However, the statements that Baldwin had made with police could come back to cause complications at trial. Whether or not this is consequential to his trial, the circumstances heighten the importance of understanding your Miranda rights and the dangers of waiving them.

Moving Forward

Due to COVID-19 restrictions in New Mexico, the judge will take the role of a grand jury and make a ruling over whether there is probable cause to move forward. It seems unlikely that if this case proceeds to trial, a jury will convict Baldwin of these charges. Due to the tragedy that surrounds this case and the accidental nature of it all, the jury may sympathize with Baldwin, especially since there was an armorer on set whose job it was to ensure the gun was cold. One thing that is sure to follow from this accident is serious reform to how production companies handle firearms on film sets.

Prior to the charges being brought against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed, “Rust” was due to resume filming in a new location in January 2023. Souza sees completing the project as an opportunity to heal. Per the settlement of a wrongful death suit, Hutchin’s widower, Mathew Hutchins, will serve as executive producer of the remainder of the project.


Farhad Manjoo, Opinion, Alec Baldwin Didn’t Have to Talk to the Police. Neither Do You., N.Y. TIMES (Jan. 25, 2023).

First Judicial District Attorney, FACEBOOK (JAN. 19, 2023, 11:04 AM),

Isabel Keane, What to expect as Alec Baldwin’s film ‘Rust’ re-starts production – as actor faces charges for Halyna Hutchins shooting, N.Y. POST (Jan. 20, 2023).

N.M. STAT. § 30-2-3.

Simon Romero, Graham Bowley & Julia Jacobs, A Call of ‘Cold Gun!’ A Live Round. And Death on a Film Set, N.Y. TIMES (Oct. 30, 2021).

Simon Romero & Julia Jacobs, Alec Baldwin Film Set had Previous Accidental Gun Discharges, Crew Members Say, N.Y. TIMES (Oct. 23, 2021).

Steve Gordon, Why Alec Baldwin Is Unlikely To Please Guilty In ‘Rust’ Case, LAW360 (Jan. 27, 2023).

Wall Street Journal, Alec Baldwin’s Involuntary Manslaughter Charges: A Legal Analysis, YOUTUBE (Jan. 31, 2023).