U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- Every news agency in the country raced to be first in announcing the jury verdict in the case against former police officer Kim Potter, found guilty of both first- and second-degree manslaughter for the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright in April.
What none of those news agencies have done is speculate how this case—which will undoubtedly be appealed—could affect a continuing investigation into the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins as actor/producer Alec Baldwin was practicing for a scene in a western film in production at the time near Santa Fe, N.M.
After all, there has been plenty of discussion about Baldwin’s alleged mishandling of a single-action revolver, and how it discharged, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza on Oct. 21.
If Potter was negligent in mistaking her semiautomatic sidearm for a taser carried on the opposite side of her duty belt, wouldn’t Baldwin be equally negligent for not carefully checking his “prop” gun to determine if it was truly unloaded or if there were blanks or live ammunition in any of the six chambers?
Consider some facts: There is a plausible argument that anybody familiar with firearms, and who carries one on the job, would automatically feel the difference in weight and grip shape between a loaded handgun and a lighter-in-weight taser.
Likewise, anyone familiar with basic firearms safety rules would automatically—almost by reflex—check a firearm they’ve been handed, regardless who handed it to them. Here’s what Fox News legal analyst Greg Jarrett said about the Baldwin situation: “Look, he can be charged with involuntary manslaughter for failing to exercise what the law calls due care. What’s that? Well, for an actor, it’s following the union rules, which state you have to do two things. You have to watch the armorer inspect the guns, the barrel, the cylinder before it’s handed to you and then you have to repeat the procedure. There’s no evidence that Alec Baldwin did either thing. That could constitute gross negligence, recklessness, involuntary manslaughter.”
Baldwin obviously did something else one should never do. He evidently aimed the gun directly at Hutchins, otherwise, she would not have been fatally wounded. Whether he was told to, or did it on his own, at that point as the film’s on-site producer, he could easily have stopped the rehearsal and told Hutchins and Souza “no way am I doing this, film it from an angle.”
Minnesota and New Mexico have different statutes regarding manslaughter, and it will be up to investigators to determine whether the lines were crossed in the Baldwin case. Here are the statutes: Minnesota First and Second degree manslaughter, New Mexico manslaughter explained by Justia U.S. Law.
Potter is headed to prison, but many on social media are now furiously arguing the verdict was wrong, and some even contend charges should never have been filed. Others contend justice was done. It might be instructional to ask them how they felt about the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial last month.
In Potter’s case, she was involved in a struggle with Wright, a black motorist wanted on what legal expert Alan Dershowitz—writing at The Hill—called “an outstanding weapons charge.” Potter testified she “feared for the safety” of Sgt. Mychal Johnson, who was grappling with Wright, Dershowitz recounted.
In the heat of the moment, it is arguable anybody could have made the error Potter made. In his essay, Dershowitz observed, “Under American law, honest mistakes are not crimes — even if they result in tragic deaths.” Keep in perspective that this principle would apply equally to Baldwin as it should to Potter.
Baldwin, who is not facing any charge at this writing, was not involved in a physical scuffle with anybody. He was on a movie set, involved in preparation for filming a scene in which he was apparently supposed to have aimed, and possibly fired, a gun toward the camera. That’s nothing new or unusual for a western. What is unusual is that apparently, live ammunition was on the set, a longtime No-No in the motion picture and television industry. Investigators have yet to say how live rounds got on Baldwin’s set, or how at least one got into Baldwin’s gun. Baldwin has issued a Christmas message, according to the New York Post.
The actor—who killed a Russian sailor/saboteur on screen in “The Hunt for Red October,” and killed a bunch of people in his remake of Steve McQueen’s “The Getaway”—should be no stranger to firearms on set. He’s been in motion pictures for years, and during his ABC interview, which Jarrett said was a foolish thing to do, he insisted he didn’t press the trigger. Since that interview aired, social media has seen one discussion after another about the credibility of such a claim. Single-action revolvers typically don’t discharge without the trigger either being pressed or wired back to prevent engagement with the hammer notch. Something happened that so far has not been credibly explained.
If charges are filed, it still remains to be seen against whom. Baldwin claims he’s not at fault. He was handed a revolver, which was allegedly said to be unloaded. Anyone familiar with Colt revolvers and reproductions can tell in a heartbeat if one of these guns is loaded because the case heads of blank or live cartridges would be visible, at which point everything stops and the gun is physically unloaded. That did not happen.
As a result, the gun discharged while Baldwin was holding it and a bullet flew its course.
It hasn’t helped Baldwin’s image that he spoke in support of gun control in the past. For someone to advocate for “gun safety,” that person needs to invariably practice the safety he is preaching.
The parallel in both cases is that someone died, unintentionally. In Potter’s case the victim was wanted, and was involved in a physical altercation. In Baldwin’s case, the victim was literally just sitting there. Potter was charged, tried and convicted. Baldwin shut down production, went home and gave a television interview.
If Baldwin ever is charged, he might a defense in something Dershowitz said in his Op-Ed.
“The Minnesota appellate courts should carefully review the record in this case,” Dershowitz wrote “including the evidence and the judge’s instructions. The function of appellate courts is to be a step removed from the passions of the crowd and to apply the law neutrally and fairly. Such an application of the law to Officer Potter should result in an immediate decision to free her on bail, and then a subsequent decision to reverse her conviction, with instructions to dismiss the indictment.”
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