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


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

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

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

The Washington Post / The Washington Post via Getty Images

In the aftermath of Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal in Kenosha, Wisconsin last week, lawyers return to the case of teenage Chrystul Kizer, who also claims it was self-defense when she killed her attacker sex, set fire to her house and stole her 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 for sexual assault on a minor.

Kizer was released from jail in June 2020 after groups such as the Chicago Community Bond Fund raised funds to pay her $ 400,000 bail. She is still awaiting trial.

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

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

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 pleaded his case using self-defense, then Kizer’s case should have the same outcome.

“Chrystul Kizer was in this building [Kenosha County Courthouse] pleading for his justice too, ”said Democratic State Representative David Bowen. “And we haven’t heard from any of you. And we haven’t heard anyone make noise about Kyle Rittenhouse. ”

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

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

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

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

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Kizer’s case also raises a test of how the law often may not apply equally to everyone, especially black girls and women like Kizer.

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

“We view these cases as incredibly important… to protect, uplift and support individual women, the vast majority of whom are black women,” Grace said.

“Because the reality is that Chrystul Kizer was unprotected by police, prosecution and incarceration and, in fact, after being forced to defend herself and chose to survive, she was then more hurt by these systems. “

The legal argument and why it may or may not work

Julius Kim, a lawyer and former Wisconsin criminal attorney, says invoking the affirmative defense essentially flips the burden of proof onto the prosecution.

If the defense can prove that Kizer was sexually trafficked, then the onus is on the state to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was not sexually trafficked, or that the crime she committed was not a direct result of this human sex trafficking, ”Kim told NPR.

As protesters raise Kizer’s case in Rittenhouse trial, Kim points out one key difference: Videos released during the Rittenhouse trial showed the “imminent” danger, “he says, and that type of element is missing. in Kizer’s case, since the state maintains that Kizer went to Volar 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 his case will ultimately test whether the affirmative defense argument can hold in a case involving homicide.

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