Woman, 22, who fatally gunned down man who sex trafficked her, burned down his house and stole his BMW will be allowed to plead not guilty after judge rules that victims of sex trafficking can argue a justified killing
- The Wisconsin Superme Court ruled in favor of a state law that absolves victims of criminal liability for any offenses commited as a result of trafficking
- Victim Chrystul Kizer, 22, must first provide evidence that the killing of
- Randall Volar III, 34, was in relation to sex trafficking before she can invoke immunity
- Kizer faces five felony charges for the June 2018 killing, including first-degree homicide
- Prosecutors say Kizer shot Volar III twice in the head and set his body as well as his Milwaukee home on fire before stealing his BMW
- Kizer and her defense say she fired the shots in self-defense after being pinned down, drugged and ‘nearly raped’ by the man
Kizer met Volar aged 16 through Backpage.com — a sex trafficking website
- If convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, Kizer faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison
A woman accused of killing a man can argue at trial that she was justified because he was sexually trafficking her, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a decision that could help define the limits of legal immunity for trafficking victims nationwide.
The justices ruled 4-3 that a 2008 state law that absolves trafficking victims of criminal liability for any offenses committed as a direct result of being trafficked extends to first-degree intentional homicide.
However, they said Chrystul Kizer must first provide evidence for a trial judge that her decision to kill Randall Volar, 34, was connected to being trafficked before she can invoke immunity.
‘Chrystul Kizer deserves a chance to present her defense and today’s decision will allow her to do that,’ Kizer’s attorney, Katie York, said. ‘While the legal process on this matter is far from over, we, along with Chrystul and her family, believe the decision today affirms the legal rights provided by Wisconsin statute to victims of sex trafficking facing criminal charges.’
Kizer, 22, contends she met Volar on a sex-trafficking website, called Backpage.com when she was 16-years-old. She says he sexually assaulted her and sold her to others for sex. According to court documents, Kizer put a gun in her bookbag in June 2018 and told her boyfriend that she was going to shoot Volar because she was tired of him touching her.
She traveled from Milwaukee to Volar’s home in Kenosha, shot him in the head, burned down his house and stole his BMW, according to court documents. Kizer was 17 at the time, old enough to be considered an adult in Wisconsin’s criminal justice system. She faces multiple charges, including arson and first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
The victim maintains that on the day of the murder, she was allegedly drugged and nearly raped. She added that she did not go to Volar’s house armed with the intent to kill him.
Nearly 40 states have passed laws that give trafficking victims at least some level of criminal immunity, according to Legal Action of Wisconsin, which provides legal help for low-income people.
Kizer’s attorneys had planned to invoke Wisconsin’s immunity law at her trial, but Kenosha County Circuit Judge David Wilk refused to allow it. He ruled that immunity extends only to trafficking-related charges such as restraining someone, extortion, prostitution or slave labor. An appellate court ruled last year, however, that Kizer could argue that the law shields her from prosecution.
State attorneys asked the high court to reverse that decision, maintaining that the immunity statutes can’t possibly extend to homicide.
Assistant Attorney General Timothy Barber argued in March that Kize’s interpretation would create an unprecedented expansion of the self-defense doctrine, eliminating any questions about whether killing someone was reasonable or necessary.
The court found that the extent of trafficking victims’ immunity is ambiguous but doesn’t include any limiting language and therefore applies to homicide. If Kizer can show a connection between her actions and being trafficked, prosecutors will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defense doesn’t apply, the court said.
‘The defendant must produce some evidence on which a reasonable jury could find that the defense applies,’ Justice Rebecca Dallet, a liberal, wrote for the majority. ‘Thus our interpretation does not create the kind of blanket immunity for victims of human trafficking that the State fears.’
Kenosha police had been investigating Volar at the time of his death for child trafficking and possession of child pornography.
In February 2018, Volar was arrested on charges of child enticement, using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, and second-degree sexual assault of a child.
Photo and video evidence found at his home indicated that Kizer was one of his victims among others. Volar was inexplicably released from jail the day after his arrest, without bail, and remained free until his death.
Meanwhile Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said Wednesday’s decision ‘brings needed clarity regarding the scope of the affirmative defense for survivors of the vile crime of human trafficking.’
The Wisconsin Supreme Court decision isn’t binding on other states but could inform attorney strategies in similar cases elsewhere in the country, legal experts say.
Anti-violence groups lined up to support Kizer, filing briefs saying that trafficking victims often feel so trapped they believe they have to take matters into their own hands.
In June 2020, Kizer was released from the Kenosha County Jail after several adocacy groups rooting for her joined forces and together helped raise her $400,000 bail.
If convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, Kizer faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison, but a judge could set a parole eligibility date.
Ian Henderson, policy and systems director for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, one of the groups that signed onto the briefs, praised the court’s decision.
He said trafficking victims often react out of a flight-or-fight mentality and the ruling ‘avoids them being criminalized for defending themselves.’
DailyMail.com does not typically identify people claiming to be victims of sexual assault, but Kizer discussed her case in an interview with The Washington Post last year.
No trial date has been set for the case, as of Thursday evening.