Most Americans have probably heard Miranda rights read in TV shows and movies so frequently that they know them by heart, especially the part about how you “have the right to remain silent” and “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
Alec Baldwin has been in a lot of movies and TV shows, but he doesn’t seem to have thought carefully enough about the chances that his words could be used against him when he agreed to a televised interview about the Oct. 21 shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, which happened at his hands.
Legal experts, however, say he probably should have thought twice, even if he is only facing civil suits rather than criminal charges (so far).
Baldwin, who was wielding a firearm on the set of the film “Rust” when Hutchins was shot and killed, sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview that aired Thursday, giving his firsthand account of the tragic shooting for the first time.
Chased down by paparazzi on a getaway in Vermont with his wife Hillaria in October, Baldwin told reporters that he wasn’t allowed to talk about the shooting, as there was an ongoing investigation.
It is unclear whether, by speaking to the media now, he is going against the orders of authorities in New Mexico, where the shooting took place, but he told Stephanopoulos that he decided to speak out to clear up “misconceptions” about what happened.
“I feel like I really can’t wait for that process to end,” Baldwin said. “I wanted to … say that I would go to any lengths to undo what happened.”
However, it seems the wiser course of action would have been to say nothing at all, as Los Angeles-based attorney Rachel Fiset told Fox News.
“Alec Baldwin is clearly devastated by the tragic accidental killing of Ms. Hutchins,” she said, explaining that the actor “likely feels compelled to speak publicly as a result” and “is sympathetic at times as it relates to the trauma he is experiencing.”
“He is trying to direct the narrative in a way that shifts blame for this tragedy away from him,” she continued. However, Fiset said, “it is never a good idea to speak publicly during an active investigation and this case is no different.”
“Any statements made on television during an investigation could result in unintended admissions that could be used against him later at trial or could prejudice the prosecutor against him,” the attorney explained. “If statements relating to facts turn out to be disproved, it will hurt his credibility with law enforcement or at trial. His admissions that someone is to be blamed – but not him – could also potentially be used against him later in either a civil or criminal case if it is determined that he had some responsibility for set safety as a major producer of the film.”
Baldwin has been heavily criticized for the purported poor safety conditions on the set, which he addressed during the interview, insisting that he was merely a “creative” producer and was not responsible for overseeing set safety.
He also told Stephanopoulos that it is an actor’s responsibility “To do what the prop/armorer tells him to do.” Other actors with extensive experience with on-set firearms, including George Clooney and Adam Baldwin, have slammed Baldwin, saying that they always check their own firearms on movie sets.
Baldwin also stated that he never pulled the trigger and that the gun went off after he cocked the hammer.
When Stephanopoulos noted that “it wasn’t in the script for the trigger to be pulled,” the actor replied that “The trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger.”
“I cock the gun. I go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that?’” Baldwin explained. “And then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off. I let go of the hammer of the gun – the gun goes off.”
“So, you never pulled the trigger?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“No, no, no, no, no,” Baldwin insisted. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them.”
This feigned regard for gun safety is rather glaring to those who — ahem — know more about gun safety than Alec Baldwin, so it hardly supports the point that he tried to establish through the course of the interview that he bore no responsibility for Hutchins’ death.
He cocked the weapon and pointed it at another human being. Baldin’s insistence that he would “never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them” just emphasizes that he at least wants us to believe he was still treating the weapon with relative care, despite being told it wasn’t loaded. If that was the case, he had no business pointing it at Hutchins and pulling the hammer back.
It’s already been well-established that Baldwin neglected the golden rule of firearm safety — treating every weapon as though it is loaded — so he can hardly fall back on his claim to adhere to any other weapons safety rule now.
Whether Baldwin is trying to establish that he’s not to blame for Hutchins’ death or to emphasize that he is a paragon of on-set gun safety, he’s likely failed miserably at both, and it could come back to haunt him.
Former assistant U.S. attorney Neama Rahmani, president and co-founder of Los Angeles-based West Coast Trial Lawyers, called the interview “a mistake.”
“From a legal perspective, Baldwin’s interview was a mistake,” Rahmani told Fox. “His statements can and will be used against him in the civil lawsuits and any potential criminal prosecution.”
“Baldwin says he didn’t pull the trigger, but that doesn’t absolve him from civil and potential criminal liability,” Rahmani said. “Baldwin’s finger should have been nowhere near the hammer or the trigger, even if we are to believe the gun misfired. Nor should Baldwin ever point a firearm at another human being, even if cinematographer Halyna Hutchins told him to and he believed it wasn’t loaded or had blanks.”
Baldwin seems to have achieved little by giving this interview, beyond solidifying the impression that he shows little regard for making simple, sensible decisions, both with regard to firearm safety and not making statements that will be viewed by millions of people and could later be used against him in criminal cases or civil lawsuits.
It’s ironic, really — by trying to correct “misconceptions” about the shooting, he seems to have ultimately confirmed what we knew all along: Alec Baldwin is clueless when it comes to absolutely basic gun safety, and it cost a woman her life.
The sick part is, he still doesn’t even seem to realize it.
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