Chrystul Kizer’s self-defense case and the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict : NPR

Chrystul Kizer (pictured here with her lawyers in 2019) argues that it was in self-defense that she killed the man who sexually abused her.

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Chrystul Kizer (pictured here with her lawyers in 2019) argues that it was in self-defense that she killed the man who sexually abused her.

The Washington Post / The Washington Post via Getty Images

In the wake of Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last week, advocates are turning to the case of teenage Chrystul Kizer, who also argues that it was in self-defense when he killed his adult sexual abuser, set his home on fire. and stole his car in 2018.

Kizer, who was 17 at the time, is accused of shooting Randall P. Volar III in the head; Volar had previously been arrested on child sexual assault charges.

Kizer was released from jail in June 2020 after groups like the Chicago Community Bond Fund raised money to pay his $ 400,000 bond. She is still awaiting trial.

Prosecutors say the murder was premeditated. But what’s remarkable in this case is that Kizer’s attorneys are invoking a self-defense argument that It has never before been used in a homicide case in the state.

Originally, Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge David Wilk said that Kizer could not use the affirmative defense argument in this case, as it was a homicide. But Wilk’s decision was overturned by an appeals court, which ruled that under state statute, Kizer can argue an “affirmative defense” if his attorneys can show that his actions against Volar were the direct result of the trafficking he experienced.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is currently reviewing the case.

What the protesters say

Protesters spent the weekend chanting the names of Rittenhouse victims as well as Kizer’s name, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

Their argument is that if Rittenhouse successfully argued its case on self-defense, then Kizer’s case should have the same result.

“Chrystul Kizer was in this building [Kenosha County Courthouse] advocating for their justice as well, “said Democratic State Representative David Bowen.” And we don’t listen to any of you. And we didn’t hear anyone who was making noises for Kyle Rittenhouse. ”

Protesters demonstrate against Kyle Rittenhouse’s verdict at Civic Center Park in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday.

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Protesters demonstrate against Kyle Rittenhouse’s verdict at Civic Center Park in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday.

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Kizer’s case also tests how the law often cannot be applied equally to everyone, particularly black girls and women like Kizer.

Sharlyn Grace, former executive director of the Chicago Community Bond Fund, told Wisconsin Public Radio last year that it is important to highlight Kizer’s case in particular.

“We consider these cases to be incredibly important … to protect, uplift and support individual women, who are overwhelmingly black women,” Grace said.

“Because the reality is that Chrystul Kizer was not kept safe by police, prosecution and incarceration, and in fact, after she was forced to defend herself and decided to survive, those systems damaged her even more.”

The legal argument and why it may or may not work

Julius Kim, a lawyer and former criminal prosecutor in Wisconsin, says invoking the affirmative defense essentially shifts the burden of proof to the prosecution.

If the defense can prove that Kizer was a victim of sex trafficking, then it behooves the state to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was not a victim of sex trafficking or that the crime she committed was not a crime.” a direct result of that sex trafficking, “Kim tells NPR.

As the protesters raise the Kizer case in the context of the Rittenhouse trial, Kim points out a key difference: The videos played during the Rittenhouse trial showed the “imminence” of danger, “he says, and that kind of element is missing from the case. of Kizer, as the state argues that Kizer traveled to Volar’s home with the intention of killing him.

Self-defense arguments are common in any violent altercation, Kim says, but much less common when it comes to child sex trafficking cases, which often go unnoticed in the first place. Kizer is a “sympathetic defendant,” he says, and your case will ultimately prove whether the affirmative defense argument can stand in a case involving murder.

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