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Alec Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter. Here's ...

A prosecutor announces she will charge Alec Baldwin and armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed over a shooting on a movie set, after more than a year of investigation. 

Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin was on the set of his new film Rust when the prop gun he was holding went off, killing a cinematographer and wounding a director. 

A New Mexico prosecutor has now announced she will charge Baldwin and armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed with involuntary manslaughter, after more than a year of investigation into the October 2021 shooting on a film set.

Baldwin last year sought to clear his name by suing people involved in handling and supplying the loaded gun that was handed to him on set.

So what actually happened and why is he now facing charges? 

How did the tragedy unfold? 

Baldwin, also a co-producer on Rust, was rehearsing with a revolver on the set outside Santa Fe on October 21, 2021. 

He said he was told the gun was "cold", meaning it had no live ammunition. 

But it fired a live round, with Baldwin telling a US ABC journalist he hadn't even pulled the trigger. 

One bullet hit a crew member's chest and another hit a second member's shoulder.

According to a police report, David Halls, the assistant director who handed the gun to Baldwin, did not know it contained live rounds.

Halls signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, the prosecutor Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a statement.

Gutierrez Reed, who had handled the gun before Halls, also faces involuntary manslaughter charges.

Who did Alec Baldwin's gunfire hit? 

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and director Joel Souza were wounded by gunfire.

A black-and-white selfie of Halyna Hutchins.
Halyna Hutchins was killed on the set of the movie Rust when a prop gun misfired.(Instagram: Halyna Hutchins)

Hutchins died shortly after while Souza has since recovered from his injuries. 

Hutchins was a 42-year-old rising cinematographer who was born in Ukraine. 

After working as an investigative journalist in eastern Europe, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue film making. 

She married her American husband Matthew in 2005 and later gave birth to her son Andros, now 9. 

In 2019, the American Society of Cinematographers named Hutchins as one of "10 up-and-coming directors of photography who are making their mark".

Following her death, her husband said his "loss is enormous" and said his wife inspired all with her passion and vision. 

Baldwin told photographers Hutchins was his friend. 

Why is Alec Baldwin being charged? 

Because he was holding the revolver when it fired the live round.

And District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said on Thursday there was "sufficient evidence to file criminal charges" against him. 

She said the decision came after a thorough review of evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico. 

"On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice," Ms Carmack-Altwies said.

A police man in uniform and a lawyer with short blond hair walk
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies at a news conference last year. (AP: Andres Leighton)

Baldwin's attorney, Luke Nikas, said the decision to file charges against the actor "represents a terrible miscarriage of justice". 

What is involuntary manslaughter? 

Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a person unintentionally, but still unlawfully, kills another person.

Professor Peter Joy from Washington University in St Louis explained the charge as it related to the Rust shooting, in The Conversation. 

"... a prosecutor will need to show the unlawful nature of either Baldwin’s or Gutierrez-Reed’s actions to get a conviction in this case," Professor Joy wrote. 

He said that in order to convict someone of involuntary manslaughter, a prosecutor has to prove that the defendant acted either recklessly or with criminal negligence.

To prove someone acted recklessly, a prosecutor has to show that the defendant was aware of the risk they were creating with their actions.

Alec Baldwin looks pensive in this 2015 file photo.
Baldwin has denied responsibility for Hutchins's death and said live rounds should never have been allowed onto the set of the low-budget movie.(AP: Seth Wenig/File photo)

In contrast, Professor Joy said, the charge of criminal negligence is filed when a defendant is not aware of the risk, but a reasonable person in the position of the defendant would have been aware of the risk.

"The question for a potential jury is whether Baldwin was guilty of either reckless or criminally negligent actions that resulted in the death of Halyna Hutchins…" Professor Joy said. 

"The prosecutor is alleging that Baldwin had a duty to ensure that the gun and the ammunition he used were properly checked and that without doing that check himself, Baldwin should never have pointed the gun at anyone.

"Although that is what the prosecutor is claiming, a complicating factor is that there was another person, an on-set safety person responsible for the weapons and ammunition."

Will Alec Baldwin go to jail? 

It depends on the outcome of court proceedings.

To convict Baldwin of manslaughter – assuming the case goes to trial – Professor Joy said the prosecutor will have to convince a jury of two things.

"First, that Baldwin could not reasonably rely on Gutierrez-Reed to do her job and ensure that the gun did not have any live ammunition in it," Professor Joy said. 

"And second, that Baldwin acted recklessly, or at least with criminal negligence, by not checking the gun and the ammunition himself before pointing the gun at the person he killed."

Involuntary manslaughter carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison in New Mexico and a $US7,259 fine ($10,492).

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