Chrystul Kizer, a child sex-trafficking survivor charged with killing her alleged abuser, will be permitted by an appeals court in Wisconsin to lean on a state law that could potentially acquit her if her actions are deemed a "direct result" of her abuse.
As Blavity previously reported, the 20-year-old is accused of fatally shooting Randall P. Volar III in June 2018 after she said he assaulted her. Following the deadly altercation, officials said Kizer set the white man’s home on fire and fled in his BMW. As a result, she was charged with arson and first-degree intentional homicide.
Originally, Kizer met Volar when she was 16 on the since-banned website Backpage, where she was looking to make money to pay for snacks and school supplies. Volar, who was under investigation for sexual conduct with other Black underage girls, responded to a post she left on the site. Over time, he began physically and sexually assaulting her in exchange for gifts.
The affirmative defense law will now allow a 20-year-old Kizer a chance to present evidence to a Kenosha judge, and potentially a jury, that her actions were a “direct result” of the abuse she suffered while being trafficked as a minor, The Washington Post reports.
TW:Violence & Sexual Assault
This is Chrystul Kizer she is a 19 year old in Milwaukee, awaiting trial for killing her abuser in 2017. Her story is similar to Cyntoia Brown’s. pic.twitter.com/S2Nxu64sJP
— ???? Nakers Gimme Heebee Jeebees (@blackfemmesoul) June 9, 2020
Kizer could be acquitted on a portion or all of the charges against her instead of facing a mandatory life sentence. If successful, Kizer and her defense could set a new legal precedent for trafficking victims in the country.
If Kizer and her defense team can prove to a judge that there is “some evidence” her crime was a “direct result” of her trafficking, then she will likely be seen before a jury. If the jury finds that her charges were a “direct result” of her abuse, Kizer could be found not guilty.
However, prosecutors have contended that “any offense” did not include homicide. They added that even if it did, the woman’s charges should only be decreased to lesser ones. Ultimately, the appellate court agreed with Kizer’s lawyers, who argued that “any offense” should be interpreted as such.
Despite the appeals court ruling, Kizer also maintains the potential of accepting a plea deal, a decision she has previously indicated she would be willing to do. But the recent ruling gives her legal team more options moving forward and increases her chances of being acquitted.
“We could not have gotten a better decision‚” Diane Rosenfeld, director of Harvard Law School’s gender violence program, said. “If the state had taken more seriously what Volar was doing, not only to Chrystul but to all these other girls, arguably Chrystul wouldn’t have been in this position."
The decision on this case may provide an indication on whether other states with broad affirmative defense laws, like Iowa, Oklahoma and South Carolina, allow individuals to actually invoke them when charged with violent crimes. It could also potentially impact how new affirmative defense laws are conceived.
After being released on bond after community activists raised her $400,000 bail, Kizer is spending time with her family and working a part-time job waitressing. She is scheduled to return to court later this month.