Vigilantes of SHIELD?

Agents Coulson, Fitz, Simmons, and Triplett (who keeps getting cooler), on the Agents of SHIELD episode “The Only Light in the Darkness,” presented an interesting spin on our heroes: are the Agents now vigilantes since SHIELD has collapsed?

Still_the_SHIELDVigilantism is when a “citizen takes the law into his or her own hands by apprehending and punishing suspected criminals.” Black’s Law Dictionary App, 9th Edition.

The Agents mounting up to take on Marcus Daniels (aka Blackout) was an action where they took the law into their own hands to stop Daniels from harming Audrey the Cellist.

There is a fine line between the defense of others and vigilantism. The Agents have a strong argument they acted to keep Audrey safe from harm. In Oregon, the defense of others is defined as:

[A] person is justified in using physical force upon another person for self-defense or to defend a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force, and the person may use a degree of force which the person reasonably believes to be necessary for the purpose.

ORS § 161.209.

Coulson and his team could argue they were “being the shield keeping others safe,” because Coulson reasonably believed that Audrey was in danger from Daniels’ imminent use of unlawful physical force.  In Daniels’ case, this was power to kill with one touch and shoot “darkforce” from his hands. This case is only made stronger by the fact that Daniels was obsessed with Audry, as evidenced by Daniels’ original arrest. These events sound  clearly under ORS § 161.209.

HYDRA_Daniels_UpgradeHowever, “the law should not encourage vigilantism.” Goldfuss v. Davidson, 79 Ohio St. 3d 116, 123 (Ohio 1997). Moreover, “[t]he law does not excuse criminally violent actions performed as retribution; the law sanctions the use of force in defense of another only to prevent an aggressor’s imminent use of unlawful force.” State v. Frazier, 1996 Kan. App. Unpub. LEXIS 49, 6-7 (Kan. Ct. App. Aug. 23, 1996), citing State v. Hernandez, 253 Kan. 705, 713, 861 P.2d 814 (1993).

There is a strong case to be made that the SHIELD Agents acted as vigilantes. First, there was no effort to warn local law enforcement of the danger; the SHIELD Agents took it upon themselves to carry out a police action. Secondly, they represented themselves to be with the CIA (which cannot operate in the US) and set up a sting operation to stop Daniels. It appeared their plan required lethal force from the inception, but it is unclear if they knew the results of using the Bruce Banner-tech enhanced stage lights as weapons against Daniels would cause him to explode into “darkforce.”

Vigilantism-DefenseofOthers1However, if prosecuted, the SHIELD Agents are not being tried in the press, but a Court of Law. A Jury in Oregon looking at the facts could conclude that all of the SHIELD Agents’ actions were done under the defense of others to protect Audrey from imminent harm.

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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, the ABA Web 100 for Best Legal Blog and Podcast categories, 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.