No right to eat others in defense of property where they have a legal right to be there

by James Norman


NC v. Troll (N.C. App 2017)

In 1995, Buford Troll built a bridge over a creek running through a 25 acre plat (the Bjornfeld plat). In 2017, three brothers (Billy, Grant, and Purvis Gruff) purchased the Bjornfeld plat with the intent of living there and grazing thereupon.

Bridge over Bjornfeld Plat (used under CC license)

Bridge over Bjornfeld Plat (used under CC license)

While the brothers were moving in, Troll attacked each of them in turn, attempting to eat them. Troll was arrested, tried, and found guilty for three counts of attempted murder. He appealed from those convictions, claiming that the court committed reversible error by not giving the jury an instruction on defense of property.

At trial, the defendant attempted to present the defense that Troll was defending his property, which he had acquired by adverse possession in 2015, from the unlawful entry by the victims. The Court agreed that the bridge indeed belonged to Troll through his open, hostile, and continuous use. The court had questions of whether the use was exclusive as there was evidence that the bridge was used by the previous owner, who paid tolls for it's upkeep, but still granted that Troll had a right to claim title to the property. However, with that title comes the easement to allow the brothers Gruff to cross. As such, the court concluded, that even if Troll had the right to defend his property using deadly force, he could only do so against someone who had no legal right to be there. The Gruff brothers clearly were authorized to be present on the bridge, so Troll had no right to defend his property by attempting to eat them for merely "trip-trapping" over his bridge

The Court concluded that the failure to advise the jury on defense of property was not error.

Further, the Court stated that there was no error in not giving an instruction for self defense as to Purvis Gruff as Troll initially attempted to eat Mr. Gruff, who defended himself by butting Troll off of the bridge.