Hailing HYDRA on Agents of SHIELD

The Agents of SHIELD episode “Providence” presented multiple legal issues, from SHIELD being branded a terrorist organization, to whether the remaining SHIELD Agents attempting to do their duty have a legal right to do so.

Cap_ItHasToMeanSomethingPlus, Agent Coulson’s “this has to mean something, we are Agents of SHIELD, that carries weight,” speech was an excellent tour-d-force on their moral obligations to not give up and be the “shield” against harm. This is the man with vintage Captain America trading cards whose faith was tested and rewarded.

With a lanyard.

Grant Ward: Terrorist or Deep Cover?

Every prospective defense attorney is hoping Agent Ward is an actual member of HYDRA and not a double agent, because there would be virtually no way to defend him for his “undercover” actions. Prosecuting him for murdering at least FIVE SHIELD Agents and multiple acts of terrorism would be easy to prove. If he is deep undercover, there are major problems to defending him.

HYDRA_9407Agent Ward has committed the following crimes:

Killed Victoria Hand and two SHIELD Agents;

Killed two SHIELD Agents at “The Frig”;

Assisted in locating “wonder weapons” at the Frig that were not launch into space;

Going out of his way to shoot through the floor to find Quinn’s gravity weapon;

Illegally entering Cuba and Canada

Undercover agents infiltrating terrorist organizations are not actually supposed to become terrorists. For example, undercover officers are not supposed to “assume a position as one who leads, directs, manages, or officiates over the direction or goals of an organization” or “cause dissension within an organization or incite unlawful activity by any individual or organization. . . .” Rubin v. City of L.A., 190 Cal. App. 3d 560, 569 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 1987), citing “Standards and Procedures for the Anti-Terrorist Division.”

Agent Ward assumed a leadership position within HYDRA by directing what to capture at the Frig. The gravity weapon would not have been acquired but for Agent Ward’s knowledge and purposely shooting through the floor to locate the “element.”

Ward also used deadly force against five SHIELD Agents. These deaths are very straightforward to analyze as murder from head shots to victims, to multiple rounds fired into Victoria Hand at close range, to shooting the Agents at the Frig in the back. No question these actions are the willful taking of human life.

If Ward is a double agent, taking his heroic parachute analogy to an extreme, he really has no standing to argue it was “necessary” to use deadly force in order to maintain his cover.

HYDRA_9430Deadly force is analyzed under the context of an arrest, with the question being  “whether the force used to effect the seizure was reasonable in the totality of the circumstances, not whether it was reasonable for the police to create the circumstances.” Bouggess v. Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Gov’t, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21599, 6-8 (W.D. Ky. Apr. 19, 2006), [citations omitted].

There is just no way Ward could argue he had to use deadly force because he created the very circumstances that resulted in the deaths of the SHIELD Agents. Moreover, these actions were not in any way to arrest HYDRA Agents, but to win their trust.

It would be very straightforward factual analysis to prove Ward is a terrorist, that he killed at least five people, and armed a terrorist organization with advanced weapons. If this is a “long con,” Ward would need multiple pardons for his body count.

If Ward is in “deep cover” with orders to kill SHIELD Agents, whoever authorized the operation would subject SHIELD to a 1983 action for the deliberate indifferent training Ward had for his undercover actions in not protecting the Constitutional rights of others. Gaymon v. Esposito, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 116159, 44-55 (D.N.J. Aug. 16, 2013).

Undercover agents are supposed to be a shield against harm, not cause it. If Ward is undercover, his mission has caused significant legal issues that show more a traitor than someone acting under orders.

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Josh Gilliland
Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.