Alec Baldwin risks being prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter over the accidental shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, legal experts have warned.
The Hollywood star could face the charges because of his role as the executive producer of the film, rather than for pulling the trigger, suggested US attorney Joseph Costa.
The comments came after news emerged of a crew walk-out in protest over working conditions and safety concerns shortly before the shooting.
Ms Hutchins, a 42-year-old mother of one, died on a film set near Santa Fe, New Mexico on Thursday afternoon after Baldwin fired a prop gun which he thought was loaded with blanks.
“As an executive producer, you are in a position of control and you can get prosecuted criminally,” Mr Costa, an attorney with Costa Law in Los Angeles, told the New York Post.
“It’s the equivalent of drinking and driving, meaning someone may not have intended to cause great harm but they do.”
The distraught actor, who described how his heart was broken by the tragedy, was pictured at the weekend hugging Ms Hutchins’ husband, Matthew and his young son.
Mr Hutchins said the 63-year-old actor had been “very supportive”.
The father of the late cinematographer meanwhile absolved Baldwin from blame, telling the Sun on Sunday that responsibility rested with the film’s armoury team.
The showbusiness website TMZ reported that the gun was used recreationally off the film set, while anonymous crew members told the New York Times there had been two other accidental weapon discharges on the set of Rust.
The incident is being investigated by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office.
Rebecca Roiphe, of the New York Law School, said Baldwin could be charged with involuntary manslaughter if he failed to exercise the appropriate degree of care.
“But even if a prosecutor determines that he was in some way at fault, these sorts of accidents are not regularly charged criminally,” she said.
“A prosecutor would likely look at a number of factors to determine whether it would be appropriate to do so here.”
Prosecutors would look at how personally culpable Baldwin was, or whether mistakes were made by a number of people, she said.
“If he was seriously cutting corners, prosecutors may look at it differently,” she added.
Columbia Law School professor James Liebman argued that Baldwin was more at risk for having pulled the trigger than in his capacity as executive producer.
“Manslaughter requires proof that the defendant was actually, subjectively, conscious of a serious risk of the harm that ensued,” he said.
“If Baldwin was told by someone on whom it was reasonable to rely that the gun was safe or unloaded, that should absolve him of liability under either theory.
“If, however, he wasn’t so assured, or if he had reason to seriously doubt the reliability of the person who said the gun was safe, then he could be liable under either theory – but the case for his liability as the shooter would be much stronger than the case for it as the producer.”
At the weekend, it emerged that the 24-year-old armourer on the set of Rust had said she was “nervous” about taking on an earlier role.