Sat, Jun

Truth and Consequences – New Mexico style


ACCORDING TO LIZ - Alec Baldwin – whose job requirements as an actor does not require a degree in weapons management is being charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Halyna Hutchins, the Director of Photography on the film Rust, in October of 2021. 

Alec Baldwin offered to help. He voluntarily went to the police who were investigating the shooting. He had the right to remain silent. 

He was told that he was not being charged with anything and that the reading of his Miranda rights was “just a formality.” Miranda rights were instituted to protect the innocent from manipulation by law enforcement eager to solve a case, like keeping score in a board game. 

The first right is the right to remain silent. 

But Baldwin talked, perhaps too much. After all, he was in shock, as would anyone be in a similar situation. He was effusively helpful, answering many questions about the shooting, offering theories and suggesting ways for the police to continue their investigation. 

Baldwin’s actions are eminently reasonable. Wouldn’t any one of us want someone involved in a similar situation to do the same rather than clam up and wait for a lawyer when time is of the essence? 

Something terrible happened, and Alec wanted to help determine what happened so it would not happen again in the future. In the same way, those involved acted together to prevent more gun accidents on set following the death of Brandon Lee due to haste and inadequate weapons oversight during the filming of The Crow in 1993. 

Back then no charges were brought. Although there was evidence of negligence, there were too many parties involved and clearly no criminal intent. 

Now, possibly due to the media coverage and talking head opinionating on line, New Mexico prosecutors plan to charge Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter. They claim that his admission that he never checked the gun to make sure it was safe incriminates him in the death of Halyna Hutchins. 

That is not the responsibility of an actor but influencers outside the industry, anxious for headlines, are now making it an actor’s responsibility not only to use a prop safely but somehow check that no-one has put bullets in it while he or she is on a bathroom break or in touch-ups. 

Doesn’t this make Baldwin a victim of the police and a legal system dedicated to retribution rather than justice? 

Contradictions in his different statements on who handed him the gun are irrelevant to whether the gun was loaded, but will be twisted to make him appear culpable. 

How many times does each of us misremember things, especially under stress? 

How many times has Alec Baldwin been handed a gun on sets in how many movies? 

And how many other people has he killed? None. 

Scuttlebutt indicates that this particular gun may have been used by some people on the Rust production for after-hours target practice even though a hero weapon, one used by actors on camera, should never have been taken from the props lock-up other than for filming. 

The courts have given the police wide latitude in how they treat people during interrogations including making misleading statements, outright lying, using subtle forms of duress including using teams of cops to wear down witnesses from exhaustion and, yes, capitalizing on the stress of a situation.

Does this make it right? 

Innocent people are arrested, imprisoned, and convicted far too often. Especially in a country where everyone from sheriffs to judges either rely on “success” rates to be re-elected so their interest is less in justice and more in pleasing the voters. 

And why aren’t the cops being held to a higher standard in this and too many other cases? Ethics is surely an item addressed in their training. And lying for gain is, at very least, unethical. 

Just because prosecutors who want to convict someone, not necessarily the guilty one, have convinced lock-’em-up judges who want to ensure their own re-elections that lying is somehow ethical in pursuit of the law… It ain’t. 

Would you think your financial broker ethical if he told you that the money he invested for in a hot stock was gone when you asked for your money, and then walked away with your profits? 

Would you agree your wife was ethical if she told you she was babysitting her sister’s kids when she was actually in a hotel room with your best friend? 

Recently we’ve seen what happens when cops operate without oversight, or with impunity believing those above them have their backs, which all too often they do. 

Whether fear of retribution from police unions aka protective leagues, whose sole purpose in life is to protect their members (and collect their dues), mitigates censure for misconduct, or an ends-justify-the-means approach sweeps the innocent instead of bad guys off the street, we’ve all heard stories. 

That the boys in blue are known for taking care of their own while District Attorneys love to chalk up the stats with an eye towards getting reelected. 

And even later when there is proof, when the real criminal confesses, our courts too often do not want to release the wrongly imprisoned. Unless there is enough public outcry, because doing so would admit to police wrongdoing. 

American police need to become the protectors of the people they are supposed to serve. Not the ones who are protected. Their unions must flip to being leaders in removing bad apples and better educating the rest. 

If our police stop unnecessarily throwing poorer Americans in prison, they would stop training new generations of cop-hating criminals.

Trust begets trust. 

And there doesn’t always have to be someone to blame. 

Sometimes accidents are just accidents. That’s what insurance is for. 

People will never learn from mistakes if they feel attacked. 

Whether by police or prosecutors out to make a name for themselves, or by lawyers seeking to monetize those mistakes to buy their clients’ freedom (and pad their own bottom line). 

If there is any fault to be laid at Alec Baldwin’s feet, it is not that he shot the gun but that he was part of a producing team that wanted to do too much with not enough money. 

But I seriously doubt he had much say in the day-to-day decision-making that led to the hiring of an armorer with too little experience to cut costs. Especially when the financing was self-insured, taking a big risk to save on ever-rising fees by bond companies, possibly driven by the desire of multiple investors including a hedge fund company to limit expenses not only to get their money back but show a profit, there clearly needed to have been more oversight. 

And, pray, what consists of a jury of people’s peers? 

Should they have medical training to adjudge medical malpractice suits, finance degrees to assess damages where there is fiscal impropriety and, in Alec Baldwin’s case, be filmmakers with the requisite on-set and decision-making experience necessary to make a reasoned determination?


(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)