In State v. David Buckley, 2016 VT 59 (May 27, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed defendant’s conviction by jury of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct.
Issue: Defendant confronted employees of a repossession company who were on his property to tow a car. He had a shotgun, and allegedly pointed it at the employees, which defendant disputed and denied at trial. At the end of the trial, there was no instruction on self-defense, defense of another, or defense of property, and defendant did not object to the jury instruction that was given. Defendant then appealed his conviction, arguing that the court’s failure to provide an instruction on self-defense, defense of another, or defense of property sua sponte was plain error.
Holding: The Court affirmed the conviction, finding that the jury instructions reflected the evidence and the parties’ positions at trial. The Court found that defendant denied pointing his gun and threatening to shoot the repossession company employees in self-defense or in defense of his brother. With regard to defense of property, courts in other jurisdictions have come to the same conclusion as the Vermont court, finding that landowners are not justified in using deadly weapons to confront mere trespassers. Because of this well established law in Vermont and elsewhere, there was no plain error in failing to provide a defense of property instruction at trial.