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Wisconsin Supreme Court rules in favor of Chrystul Kizer, allowing sex trafficking defense in homicide trial

Prosecutors say Kizer killed a man before she set his home on fire in a first-degree intentional homicide. Kizer says she defended herself against a man who trafficked her.
Image: Chrystul Kizer
Chrystul Kizer at a hearing in the Kenosha County Courthouse on Nov. 15, 2019. Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

The high court of Wisconsin upheld a lower court ruling Wednesday that allows Chrystul Kizer to argue self-defense to justify killing the man who she said sexually abused her when she was a minor.

Kizer, 22, is awaiting trial on a first-degree intentional homicide charge, as well as other felony charges, in the death of Randall Volar III. Prosecutors say Kizer shot and killed Volar in 2018, when she was 17, before she set fire to his home.

In a 2019 interview, Kizer said that she met Volar when she was 16 and that he sexually abused her multiple times. She didn't remember going for a gun or setting a fire, she said.

"I didn’t intentionally try to do this,” she said.

Kizer has tried to use a legal defense under Wisconsin law that allows victims of trafficking to have “an affirmative defense for any offense committed as a direct result” of being trafficked.

An appeals court allowed Kizer to proceed with the defense at trial, a decision the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed 4-3 on Wednesday. The high court's ruling said that the defense was available to Kizer "regardless of whether anyone is charged with or convicted of trafficking" and that the facts of the case are to be determined at trial.

The court also looked into the question of whether Kizer's crime was a "direct result" of being trafficked and determined that the statute governing the matter is too abstract and that it doesn’t offer a definition of the phrase.

"Unlike many crimes, which occur at discrete points in time, human trafficking can trap victims in a cycle of seemingly inescapable abuse that can continue for months or even years," the court ruling read.

It went on to say that because of that cycle, a crime "that is unforeseeable or that does not occur immediately after a trafficking offense is committed can be a direct result of the trafficking offense, so long as there is still the necessary logical connection between the offense and the trafficking."

Kizer said that she met Volar, then 34, through Backpage — a now-shuttered sex ads website — and that he sold her to men for sex.

Kizer said in a Washington Post interview that on the night of the fire, she went to Volar's home after an argument with her boyfriend at the time. She had a gun in her purse.

According to her account, Volar had given her a drug that night and they began to watch a movie. Volar began to touch her, and they fought when she refused to have sex with him.

“I just thought that I didn’t want to do that stuff anymore because I was trying to change,” she said.

He pinned her to the ground, and her actions were a result of self-defense, she said.

Kizer originally gave a different story to police, saying that she saw another woman shoot Volar and that she didn't know him, according to The Post. She said she lied because she was scared.

Volar had been arrested in 2018 on charges of child enticement, using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime and second-degree sexual assault of a child, but he was released the same day, according to The Post.

The Kenosha County district attorney's office previously confirmed it was working on a case against Volar at the time of his death.

Kizer's case was given renewed attention after teenager Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted last year. Rittenhouse was charged with the fatal shootings of two people, as well as injuring a third, during the protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, argued that he was in fear of his life at the time of the shooting. A jury found him not guilty.