Here's why legal experts think that the Alec Baldwin case will be a tough one to win
Actor Alec Baldwin via Shutterstock

New Mexico district attorneys revealed on Thursday that they expected to charge actor Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter with an enhancement due to the firearm involved. Legal experts are beginning to speculate on whether the charges will stick and if Baldwin could be held criminally liable.

According to investigators, the props expert handed the gun with the live round in it to the first assistant director, who in turn handed it to Baldwin claiming it was "cold," meaning it wasn't loaded with a live round. There are questions about whether Baldwin could be held accountable as the producer of the film.

"I think it's very likely that Baldwin gets acquitted," said MSNBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos. "All sides agree that Baldwin didn't intentionally shoot anyone. When you look at New Mexico's involuntary manslaughter statute, there are only two situations that could apply to this case. One, of course, is traditional involuntary manslaughter, which is recklessness. The doing of a lawful act, operating a firearm on a movie set, but doing it with criminal negligence, which is a bit of a misnomer because it really means recklessness. It's the conscious disregard of a known risk."

Cevallos said that the other piece of the case is using a firearm with ordinary negligence.

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"That ordinary negligence standard just asks whether or not your conduct fell below the applicable standard of care, which is why this case is going to ultimately be a battle of the experts," he continued. "You will see firearms experts, stunt experts, prop experts, all kinds of experts to educate this jury. There's the possibility Baldwin isn't being charged as the shooter but as a producer. That was something that had to be considered. When you look at the statute, he wasn't operating a firearm when he was producing. The question would be, did his oversight of the movie amount to such negligence that it is criminal negligence, it's recklessness? That would mean the state has information he disregarded about something incredibly unsafe going to the firearms that was happening on the set. I think the prosecution here has a very uphill climb."

That's why he thinks Baldwin will likely be acquitted by the jury.

Former FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann said that over the course of the past few years since the incident, nothing Baldwin has said is damaging to him.

"It's not like Donald Trump where there have been people like me and many others who said that his statements are quite damaging if there is to be a case with respect to Mar-a-Lago," explained Weissman.

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The interesting piece of the Baldwin case is that it comes at an important time for the public when the idea of "intent" is first and foremost in the public conversation. Outside of Hollywood, Donald Trump and President Joe Biden are facing scandals around the mishandling of classified information.

In the case of Biden, documents that no one knew he had were discovered at his home and office. Donald Trump actively stole boxes and boxes of documents, including classified information and refused to give them back. The intention of both men has been a big piece of the legal conversation.

"The way I look at this is, given the industry practice, is it really so negligent or unreasonable for Alec Baldwin to have assumed that there wouldn't be a real gun with live ammunition in it and that when he hired people that they would not do their job?" Weissmann continued. "That's really going to be a fact issue for the jury here. I do think that to Danny's point, that the D.A.'s comments suggest a real lack of understanding of intent. The D.A. said, but for Alec Baldwin's actions, this tragedy wouldn't have happened. But that's not the standard for criminal law. It's not a question of 'but for.' It's whether the person acted with the necessary intent to do this. There's a real difference between Alec Baldwin and the person whose job it was to make sure this wasn't a live gun with ammunition in it."

The same sentiment was echoed by former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, who said that there has to be proof of criminal negligence.

"That will likely be the key question in Alec Baldwin's case. Was this an unfortunate accident, or the result of 'reckless disregard for others'?" he asked.

"Baldwin and Biden: intent matters in the criminal law," Weissmann also said on Twitter. "Was it really negligent of Baldwin to assume he was not being handed a loaded real gun on a movie set? Is that negligent on his part (the std for *involuntary* manslaughter)."

Civil rights attorney Andrew Laufe questioned what Baldwin knew at the time of discharging the firearm. "Were people on the set using it with live ammo for target practice, then replacing it with blanks when needed for filming? If so, was Baldwin aware? Were charges based upon an indictment or criminal complaint?"

A respondent cited the "armorer," the staffer on the set who handed the gun to the AD, which then went to Baldwin.

"Does that, however, relieve Baldwin from confirming a functioning firearm is not loaded with bullets which he intends to discharge?" asked Laufe.

See the MSNBC analysis below or at the link here.

Baldwin will be acquitted: legal analyst