Alec Baldwin Should Have Watched More TV. Or He’s An Idiot. Or Both

An opinion piece by Farhad Manjoo in today’s New York Times begins,

Shortly after a prop gun Alec Baldwin was holding fired a bullet that killed a cinematographer and wounded a director on the set of the movie “Rust,” in October 2021, he told the police in New Mexico that he’d be willing to do whatever they requested, including sitting for an interview at the station. In an interrogation room later that afternoon, detectives began by informing Baldwin of his rights: He had the right to remain silent. Anything he said could be used against him in court. He was free to consult with an attorney; if he could not afford an attorney, one would be appointed for him. And he could stop the interrogation at any point he wished.“My only question is, am I being charged with something?” Baldwin asked.Not at all, the police said. Reading his rights, one detective told him, was “just a formality.”And so, without his attorney present, while the police recorded him, Baldwin talked. And talked. And talked. At that point, Baldwin knew only that the film’s director, Joel Souza, and its cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, had been injured; detectives would inform him at the end of the interrogation that Hutchins had died. Still, for about an hour, Baldwin not only answered detectives’ many questions about the shooting but also offered his own theories about the incident and suggested the next steps the police might pursue in their investigation.

He then says, “Defense lawyers I talked to said Baldwin’s case should serve as a reminder that if you are involved in a serious incident, it’s best not to talk to the police unless you have an attorney present.”

Gee, ya think? How could Baldwin have not known that? How could Manjoo have needed to ask defense lawyers to discover that? How could anyone not know that?

Ken White, a criminal law whiz who was my favorite ethics and law-related blogger until he sold out, quit writing Popehat and became Trump Deranged, used to make that point regularly. Don’t talk to the police without a lawyer present, even when you are a lawyer, if you are in any significant way involved in a potentially prosecutable crime, even if you don’t think it is a potentially prosecutable crime. If there is one thing all the procedurals, docudramas and true crime stories teach, it is that. (Check out “Staircase,” for example.) I bet I could go down my own staircase from my office right now, flip through “Blue Bloods,” any “Law and Order” incarnation, or about 50 Netflix series or movies that I’ve watched, and find dozens of examples where a character submits to free, open-ended lawyerless questioning by police because they “have nothing to hide,” and end up in legal trouble (or prison) as a result.

This isn’t a recent revelation; TV has been sending this lesson to us for decades. It is one of the few law-related matters that the medium usually gets right. True, “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” has caused me to scream at the screen regularly, because Vincent d’ Onofrio routinely trapped his suspect in an abusive interrogation just as his target’s lawyer inexplicably becomes a potted plant exactly when he or she should be saying, “Shut up. You don’t have to take this.” On the other side of the Big Clue ledger, every episode of “Columbo” involved wily Peter Falk trapping the killer (who was always so arrogant and confident that Columbo was a harmless dimwit) with seemingly harmless questions in what seemed like casual conversations….and the killer never had a lawyer present.

Come to think of it, the “Rust” shooting seems like a “Columbo” episode. It also resembles “Murder She Wrote,” which shared some of “Columbo’s” creators. The trick in that show, of course, was that the police investigators really were idiots, and the killers never thought to have a lawyer present when they were being questioned by an elderly mystery writer.

Well, Alec is one of those people who took the Stasi (and Democrat) line that if Donald Trump wasn’t guilty (of something), then he had nothing to fear by submitting to FBI interrogation. Maybe Baldwin really believed that.

If he did, his current predicament following the “Rust” tragedy is condign justice indeed.

30 thoughts on “Alec Baldwin Should Have Watched More TV. Or He’s An Idiot. Or Both

  1. Could be worse, he could have been interrogated by Andy Sipowicz of NYPD Blue or Hank Voight of Chicago P.D. and beaten black and blue until he confessed. I give him about five minutes of getting knocked around before he gives it up. Of course, if he hadn’t died in-universe, we could bring in FBI Most Wanted’s Jess LaCroix and have him give him the Chinese gas pedal (that’s where you plant your foot on someone’s groin and press down with all your might) like he did in one of his early appearances.

      • “The First 48” interviews are fascinating. All the guys with prior records invariably say they won’t talk without having their lawyer present and the interviews end. Experience counts. It’s surprising how many suspects are guilted into talking. The cops do often succeed in rather straight-forwardly gaining the suspects’ confidence.

      • Apparently 24’s Jack Bauer is the one who gave his name to the trope, however, since beating and abusing a suspect is now called the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique.

        When I was half the age I am now and just starting out, I was perfectly okay with the cops taking a suspect where no one would see and beating him until he told them whatever they wanted to know. After all, 99% of suspects deserved a beating for something, and we didn’t need those things like due process and the right to counsel. Of course, if you needed a bump in the ratings, a sure fire way to get it was to have the old school cop rough up a member of a “protected class,” while making ah, undiverse remarks, like telling the black suspect his people had decided to act their color or telling a gay suspect exactly what awaited him in jail.

  2. Here are a couple of comments I posted elsewhere not long after the shooting took place…

    It is ALWAYS the personal responsibility of the person in direct contact with a firearm to personally check and personally know if the firearm is safe or unsafe to handle, the “it wasn’t my responsibility to check the gun” argument is utter nonsense and won’t cut it in a court of law, it’s pure unmitigated neglect! Baldwin should serve time in jail for his willful neglect that killed another person.

    Also, those kinds of pistols are single action only and they have a hair trigger once the hammer is pulled back and latched, anyone that has ever handled one and has a functioning brain doesn’t put their finger on the trigger until they want to actually fire it. These pistols don’t just go off by themselves, the hammer MUST be INTENTIONALLY pulled back to the fire position and you don’t do that unless you intend on firing it.

    Baldwin is full of “it” and he’s a blithering idiot for speaking in public about the shooting.

    Baldwin was a damn fool for talking to the police, especially after they read him his rights.

    For the commenters pushing this kind of statement, “When the hammer is down on that kind of revolver, the firing pin protrudes and, if a live round is loaded in the chamber underneath, a sharp enough jolt can cause the pin to strike the round’s primer with enough force to set it off.” that’s being promoted on websites, the implications of what they are saying is that a sharp jolt anywhere on the pistol might set it off, and that’s utter BS! Here is the actual fact; the “sharp jolt” they are talking about is a significant direct force applied directly to the back of the hammer rapidly driving the firing pin into the cartridge primer thus firing the cartridge and there has been absolutely no indication of anything like this happening. This is an attempt at presenting reasonable doubt that is absolute nonsense and anyone pushing this garbage is ignorant.

    I’ve shot these kinds of pistols many times and there were times where I put my finger on the hair trigger in preparation of shooting like I’ve done on other pistols and the force I applied with my finger set it off before I was expecting it, but my trigger discipline was fully intact and the pistol was already pointed where I wanted it.

    Alec Baldwin should be found guilty of some kind of manslaughter and do time in jail. There is nothing that I’ve seen or heard to support murder at this point but he was clearly criminally negligent.

  3. Miranda’s for the little people. Don’t you know who Alec Baldwin is? Surely these cops in New Mexico watched every episode of “30 Rock,” right? They love Tina Fey. Alec Baldwin is smart. He’s charming. He’s Irish! He’s smarter than the cops. He lives on Manhattan, for God’s sake. Think of what the cops would have had to pay for two hours of Baldwin’s time. And he talked to them FOR FREE! The cops’ people didn’t even have to talk to Baldwin’s people about the free interview he gave them! I bet he even got them to give him a patch for his collection!

  4. Apropos of nothing to this post, which is pretty clear and concise, I do love this framing of the issue by the reporter:

    “Shortly after a prop gun Alec Baldwin was holding fired a bullet that killed a cinematographer and wounded a director on the set of the movie “Rust,” in October 2021, . . .”

    That absolves Baldwin, right? It wasn’t his fault – it was the mean, nasty, dirty gun’s fault. Baldwin merely held the gun and the gun, acting on its own volition, fired a bullet killing one and injuring another. I guess the gun identified as a shooter.


    • That pretty well sums up the left’s take on gun violence. It’s always the guns. Too many guns. They just lay around and randomly kill people.

      • Yep, unless your are a teenager defending yourself in a riot in Minnesota, or a racist in Georgia shooting up a church or a maniac in Florida (and elsewhere) shooting up malls, schools and the like. Then you are evil and subhuman, where guns are just the instrumentality to carry out your deranged plans.


      • Other Bill wrote, “That pretty well sums up the left’s take on gun violence. It’s always the guns. Too many guns. They just lay around and randomly kill people.”

        It seems to me that too many of the anti-gun activists think a bit like the writers of the Bugs Bunny psychological documentary episode called “Bugs’ Bonnets” where simply changing the hat of the person entirely changes the attitude and morals of the person. Here are a couple of segments of that episode…

        So if we extrapolate what we’ve learned from that psychological documentary, then putting a firearm in the hands of a human being instantly turns them into a murderer, period, end of argument. The same kind of thing can be said of lots of things like, putting someone behind the wheel of a car instantly makes them a race car driver or putting on Air Jordon tennis shoes makes the wearer a professional basketball player, or how about being elected to public office makes you smarter than everyone else, etc. I’m sure you all can think of a few more examples.

  5. Professor James Duane, of Regent University Law School, has a short book entitled “You Have the Right to Remain Innocent.” It’s a very interesting read, subdivided into 3 parts:
    “Don’t Talk to the Police,” “Don’t Plead the Fifth,” and “Plead the Sixth.” That last one is the right to legal counsel. The book is full of examples of people not knowing when to shut up. I’m also reminded of “My Cousin Vinny,” when one of the defendants had asked/said to the sheriff in a manner of disbelief, “I shot the clerk?” which came out in the sheriff’s testimony as a definitive “I shot the clerk.”

  6. We all have the right to remain silent. Few have the ability.

    When I was in the Air Force and had to do command directed evaluations, I would repeatedly remind the individual I was interviewing that they had the right to remain silent. I can’t recall any who availed themselves of that right. It was impossible to get them to shut up.

  7. Baldwin also ignored the less commonly mentioned warning that “The police can LIE to you.”

    Not to absolve Baldwin in any way, but there is one possible scenario in which he maybe could have thought that he didn’t pull the trigger, when he actually did. If he had has finger on the trigger and unconsciously squeezed it as he tightened his grip to thumb back the hammer, the hammer could have dropped as soon as he released it. It would still be extremely careless handling, and it’s hard to imagine someone not hearing and feeling the normal progress of the hammer cocking. He’s lied so much already, I don’t think he could try any new excuses now. The FBI has already determined the revolver is not defective.

  8. I know a judge who says her fav legal film is My Cousin Vinney. The scene where Vinney’s girlfriend is on the stand is one of my all time favorite movie scenes.

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