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Halyna Hutchins death: Alec Baldwin NOT EXONERATED by investigative report despite what his lawyer says

The hotly-anticipated report cites 'serious management failures' by the 'Rust' production company after an investigation of the on-set shooting
UPDATED APR 22, 2022
Alec Baldwin (R) shared a statement from his lawyer claiming he was 'exonerated' in the probe report (Instagram, and Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images)
Alec Baldwin (R) shared a statement from his lawyer claiming he was 'exonerated' in the probe report (Instagram, and Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images)

Alec Baldwin's attorney has claimed that a report released on Wednesday, April 20, by the New Mexico safety regulators "exonerates" his client. However, former prosecutor Nick Arama has argued that is far from the truth.

The hotly-anticipated report cites "serious management failures” by the 'Rust' production team after an investigation of the on-set shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza's shoulder in 2021. However, Baldwin's attorney Luke Nikas claimed that the investigative report had found his client's role was “limited to approving script changes and creative casting" and that they were "pleased that the New Mexico officials have clarified these critical issues.”


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“We are grateful to the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau for investigating this matter,” Nikas wrote in a post shared on Baldwin’s Instagram. “We appreciate that the report exonerates Mr. Baldwin by making clear that he believed the gun held only dummy rounds and that his authority on the production was limited to approving script changes and creative casting. Mr. Baldwin had no authority over the matters that were the subject of the Bureau’s findings of violations, and we are pleased that the New Mexico authorities have clarified these critical issues. We are confident that the individuals identified in the report will be held accountable for this tragedy.”


"Except that isn’t what the report says," Arama wrote in Red State, noting that the report didn't say that his power was “limited” to, but “included” script changes and actor candidates. "Words matter, and included doesn’t mean limited. Plus, as they note, that wasn’t his only role, as the report laid out," the former prosecutor added, citing an excerpt from the report:

Alec Baldwin, Actor and Producer, and Joel Souza, Director, negotiated with various producers to help create and fund the Rust project. Alec Baldwin’s authority on the set included approving script changes and actor candidates. Alec Baldwin handled the revolver and fired the round that struck and injured Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza.

Arama said that despite the spin of Baldwin's legal team, the report doesn't say the actor bears no responsibility for what transpired. On the other hand, the report lists a variety of problems, including no action being taken to implement any corrective action regarding the two misfires that had previously occurred on the set. It also highlights how the 'Rust' production team tried to cut costs by limiting the days where the armorer would be paid for their job, prompting questions from Hannah Gutierrez-Reed about her dual role as the armorer and prop assistant. According to her, she was allotted only eight days as the armorer and was slammed for spending more time on weapons safety than her duties as a prop assistant.

Candles are placed around a photo of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a vigil held in her honor at Albuquerque Civic Plaza on October 23, 2021, in Albuquerque, New Mexico (Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

It's worth noting that Gutierrez-Reed had made it clear to line producer Gabrielle Pickle that being an armorer was “a very serious job and since we’ve started I’ve had a lot of days where my job should only be to focus on the guns and everyone’s safety.” She explained, “There are working guns on set every day and those are ultimately going to be a priority because when they are not that’s when dangerous mistakes can happen." She reportedly raised concern again on her final day as an armorer as to how they would handle things for the remainder of the filming.

The tragic shooting took place on October 21. Gutierrez-Reed, who had been called back in to help, said the shooting could have been prevented. Meanwhile, the report also noted how Lane Luper, the first assistant camera person, quit the project because of the production's failure to conduct safety meetings. Considering that the management had enough time to understand the issues that were going on, and report excoriates the 'Rust' team for demonstrating “plain indifference” to the hazards.

As a result of the inspection, OHSB determined that Rust was responsible for a serious violation of the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Act (“the Act”). While no specific state or federal OSHA standards exist for firearms used in the film industry, it is clear both the employer and the film industry recognized the hazard associated with the use of firearms on movie sets, and the potential for serious injury to employees. Further, Rust demonstrated plain indifference to the safety of employees by ignoring recognized hazards inherent to the use of firearms and ammunition by failing to take appropriate corrective or investigative actions after two firearms-related incidents (misfires) occurred on October 16, 2021, and after employee(s) notified management that they did not feel safe with how weapons were being handled on set. Rust failed to follow company safety procedures, which likely would have prevented the accident from occurring.

Baldwin cannot pin the blame on others as he's one of the producers. It remains to be seen in civil actions how much responsibility he had concerning this. Nonetheless, it's also worth noting that aside from multiple civil actions there's also a criminal investigation underway. "So when Baldwin’s attorney is claiming his client is exonerated, the police have not determined that," Arama added.