In the wake of Kyle Rittenhouse‘s acquittal in Kenosha, Wisconsin, advocates are spotlighting the case of Chrystul Kizer who is also arguing self-defense in the 2018 shooting death of her adult abuser.
Kizer is accused to shooting Randall P. Volar III in the head, setting his house on fire and stealing his car when she was 17 years old. Volar had previously been arrested for child sexual assault. It took months for the charges to be brought against Volar, even after police uncovered evidence of sexual abuse of at least a dozen of underaged Black girls.
Kizer is still awaiting trial, but was released from jail in June 2020 through the efforts of groups including the Chicago Community Bail Fund, who helped raise $400,000 to pay her bond.
Prosecutors argue that Kizer’s actions were premeditated, but her legal team is arguing self-defense.
According to NPR, Kenosha County Circuit Judge David Wilk originally denied Kizer’s self-defense claim because it involved homicide. That decision was overturned by a state court of appeals who stated that Kizer can argue “affirmative defense” if her legal team can show how the action she took against Volar was the direct result of the abuse she endured.
The case is currently being reviewed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
As protesters chanted the names of Rittenhouse’s victims following his acquittal, they also reportedly added Chrystul Kizer’s name, as well.
They are arguing that if Rittenhouse could successfully use self-defense to avoid jail time for the killing of two men, then Kizer should as well.
“Chrystul Kizer was in this building [Kenosha County Courthouse] advocating for her justice, too,” State Rep. David Bowen said in an interview. “And we didn’t hear any of y’all. And we didn’t hear anybody that was out making noises for Kyle Rittenhouse.”
Kizer’s case, advocates say, is a test of how the law often unequally applies to some but not others –– especially Black women and girls.
“We see these cases as incredibly important … to protect and uplift and support the individual women, who are overwhelmingly Black women,” former executive director of the Chicago Community Bail Fund Sharyln Grace said in an interview last year.
“Because the reality is that Chrystul Kizer was not kept safe by police and prosecution and incarceration and, in fact, after she was forced to defend herself and chose to survive, she was then further harmed by those systems.”
Legal Experts Weigh In
Attorney and former Wisconsin criminal prosecutor Julius Kim told NPR that if Kizer’s attorneys use the affirmative defense argument, the burden of proof is then put onto prosecution.
If Kizer’s lawyers can prove she was a victim of human trafficking, the state will have to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either she wasn’t a victim of human sex trafficking or that the crime she committed was not a direct result of that human sex trafficking,” Kim told the outlet.
Kim pointed out that the difference between the cases of Kizer and Rittenhouse is that video played in court showed the “imminency of the danger” in Rittenhouse’s case, which he says, is missing in Kizer’s case. Prosecutors argue that Kizer went to Volar’s house with the intent to kill him.
Overall, Kizer’s case, Kim says, will be a test of how the seldom-used argument of self-defense in child sex trafficking cases holds up in court.
Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor. These additional resources are also available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
For more mental health resources, click HERE.