For over twenty years Bill Maher has been one of my favorite political commentators. Not because I agree with him on everything – because there are plenty of issues where I have a different opinion. But because he’s honest and I know that he actually means what he says. Bill Maher isn’t like Jimmy Kimmel – with the constant awkward and desperate pandering to the Left. These days Bill talks more shit about the Woke Left than he does the Religious Right and in the process risks alienating his biggest support base – this is how I know that he is an honest broker of ideas.
But this week, I had a major disagreement with one of his opinions – on the Alec Baldwin case and prosecuting those who cause accidental deaths.
When Bill has me on the show we can debate this topic live, but until then – I write.
This week Bill had on Bari Weiss (former NY Times reporter who left the paper as she refused to give into the far-Left on every subject and was disgusted by the lack of ideological diversity) and Tim Ryan (a centrist Democrat who was an Ohio congressman for twenty years and recently ran (and lost) a Senate race to JD Vance).
During the “Overtime” segment, Bill brought up the topic of Alec Baldwin and asked if he should be charged with “involuntary manslaughter” for the on-set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Bill answered the question first and stated, “No… Unless you think Alec Baldwin purposely shot this cinematographer – what the fuck are we talking about?”
I certainly understand that opinion, but like with everything – I am just looking for intellectual consistency.
Is Bill Maher suggesting that unless a killing is intentional – that the perpetrator should not be prosecuted?
People are prosecuted when they unintentionally cause the death of another – all the time.
In the world of criminal law – the killing of a human being is generally separated into two categories: murder and manslaughter. Each have subcategories but these are the two basic tracks that a criminal case can proceed down.
“Murder” is generally defined as, “the unlawful killing of a human being with malice”.
“Manslaughter” is generally defined as, “the crime of killing a human being without malice aforethought.”
Since “malice” means “evil intent” – the difference between murder and manslaughter is the “intent” or what is in the mind of the offender at the time of the crime.
For example, a man who kills his wife and son on purpose for insurance money would be charged with murder. The offender had the intent to kill his victims.
On the other hand, if two men get into a fight at a bar over the outcome of a baseball game – and one man, with his first and only punch, knocks the other man back, the ‘victim’ loses balance, falls, cracks his head on a barstool, and dies. Now the ‘offender’ who threw the punch clearly did not intend to kill this misguided Chicago Cubs fan – he only intended to throw a few punches in a bar fight. Therefore, the offender would be charged with manslaughter.
So, if Bill Maher’s logic is applied broadly – following the paradigm that the law applies to everyone equally – the man in the bar fight should not be prosecuted because he did not have the intent to kill the victim.
See why Bill’s logic would be difficult to implement broadly?
If it seems like I reference this case all the time – you are not delusional – it’s because I do.
In April of 2021 former Brooklyn Center, Minnesota police officer Kim Potter killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop. Mr. Wright actively resisted a lawful arrest and tried to flee from police in his vehicle. During a fight with the much younger and stronger Mr. Wright – Kim Potter accidentally pulled out her handgun – instead of her Taser and fired one shot.
Ms. Potter was charged with and convicted of Manslaughter and was sentenced to nearly two years in prison.
The actions of Ms. Potter were clearly an accident. That fact is not in dispute as even the prosecuting attorney acknowledged during the trial that Ms. Potter had no intent to shoot/kill Mr. Wright. Her intent was to utilize a Taser – which would have been a reasonable level of force.
So, if Bill Maher’s logic is applied broadly – following the paradigm that the law applies to everyone equally – Kim Potter should not have been prosecuted because she had no intent to kill Mr. Wright.
Why didn’t Bill Maher defend Kim Potter using the same logic that he applied in the Alec Baldwin case?
*The common “steel-man” argument goes along these lines, “Kim Potter was a trained and experienced 25-year police veteran…” However, Alec Baldwin has been acting in feature films for over thirty years. I have no doubt that Mr. Baldwin has utilized a firearm during film production far more times than Ms. Potter has utilized her Taser while on-duty.
Again. Just seeking intellectual consistency.
RaDonda Vaught has been dubbed the “Kim Potter” of nurses. The former Vanderbilt nurse made a ‘medication error’ that led to the death of a 75-year-old patient (Charlene Murphey).
Ms. Murphey was a patient at Vanderbilt hospital while recovering from a brain-injury and was sent to get a PET-scan. Ms. Murphey was prescribed a sedative, Versed, which is a routine drug given to help calm patients during the imaging.
The assigned nurse (Ms. Vaught) typed in a code and “overrode” the medicine cabinet computer system and took out the wrong medication. She mistakenly administered the powerful paralytic vecuronium instead, which led to total muscle paralysis and stopped Ms. Murphey’s ability to breathe and ultimately caused her death.
In addition, Ms. Vaught did not follow the hospital protocols of monitoring Ms. Murphey after the administration of vecuronium, so she did not realize her error in time to give an antidote that would have reversed the paralysis.
Ms. Vaught was prosecuted and found guilty of criminally negligent homicide (ie. involuntary manslaughter) and gross neglect of an impaired adult.
Unlike Kim Potter, Ms. Vaught was not sentenced to any jail time and was given probation by the judge.
So, if Bill Maher’s logic is applied broadly – following the paradigm that the law applies to everyone equally – RaDonda Vaught should not have been prosecuted because she had no intent to kill the patient.
Virtually all drunk drivers who kill an innocent driver or pedestrian are prosecuted and charged with some form of manslaughter. Clearly the decision to drink copious amounts of alcohol and then drive a vehicle is intentional. However, the law typically does not assign the necessary legal intent to a drunk driver who kills someone to charge the offender with murder.
So, if Bill Maher’s logic is applied broadly – following the paradigm that the law applies to everyone equally – drunk drivers who plow into and kill families should not be prosecuted because they had no intent to kill.
There is virtually no one who would argue that drunk drivers who cause fatal crashes should be barred from prosecution – because they lacked the requisite intent to commit specific carnage.
In this article I provided examples of cases where an offender:
- Killed someone
- Without intent (ie. on accident)
- Were prosecuted for their actions
- and the vast majority of people (including Bill Maher) agree with the decision to prosecute.
So, unless there is some exception in the law for accidental shooting deaths that occur on movie sets – why shouldn’t the same legal standard not be applied to Mr. Baldwin?
To be clear, I am not suggesting that Mr. Baldwin is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of any crime or even that there is probable cause to charge him (that is a topic for a different article).
My opposition and challenge to Bill Maher’s opinion is strictly to the idea that – just because it was an “accident”, that fact alone should be enough for Mr. Baldwin to avoid criminal charges.
If we agree as a society to write laws that forbid prosecution for those involved in accidental deaths – fine. But as long as manslaughter is still a thing in this country, we should all be treated equally under the law.
If our judicial system is not going to allow the Kim Potter’s and RaDonda Vaught’s to claim absolute immunity under the “accident doctrine” – then the Alec Baldwin’s should also not be granted extra legal privileges.