KENOSHA, WI – There’s currently a lot of hubbub on social media as to whether Chrystul Kizer’s 2018 murder charge, which the case is still working through the courts, can benefit from a form of self-defense position via citing the recent verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case.
While there are certainly parallels between Kizer and Rittenhouse, both of whom were charged with first-degree intentional homicide at the age of 17 and both cases occurring in Kenosha, there are some substantial differences regarding the two cases.
However, that noted, it doesn’t exactly discount the possibility of a sort of self-defense proving successful in Kizer’s case.
Contrasts Between the Rittenhouse Case and Kizer Case
Realistically, most everyone is familiar with the Rittenhouse case, and subsequent not guilty verdict was reached based upon a claim of self-defense. There’s of course the venue, which was an active riot in Kenosha. Rittenhouse had throughout the evening helped put out fires and offered, and in two instances rendered, medical aid to those who needed it.
However, things went south when the decedent Joseph Rosenbaum launched an attack on Rittenhouse, leading to the first fatal shooting. Following the first incident, a mob began to mobilize against Rittenhouse, with Anthony Huber striking the teen with a skateboard and being fatally shot in response.
Gaige Grosskreutz then approached Rittenhouse and drew a firearm that was pointed at his head, which Rittenhouse non-fatally shot Grosskreutz in his right bicep. Based upon the evidence and circumstances of each individual event, the jury found Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts.
Kizer’s case, while involving a fatal shooting, bears several substantial differences regarding the lead-up and circumstances of the 2018 incident.
On June 5th, 2018, prosecutors allege that Kizer had fatally shot 34-year-old Randall Volar III, set his house on fire, and then stole his vehicle. Forensic evidence determined that Volar was seated in a chair when he was fatally shot.
A neighbor had called 911 about the fire at Volar’s home, leading to the police response, and an autopsy report noted he had two bullet wounds to his head. His vehicle was later discovered abandoned in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which police found a receipt inside of the vehicle that eventually led to Kizer, who was found staying at her boyfriend’s home in Milwaukee.
Obviously, those circumstances alone show several contrasts between Kizer’s and Rittenhouse’s cases – but there’s more to Kizer’s case that has brought up questions on if the shooting can be deemed as self-defense.
Will Kizer Be Able to Claim Self-Defense?
Kizer and Volar were apparently very familiar with each other, as Volar had met Kizer through a Backpage ad when she was 16 (Backpage is a now-defunct Craigslist-type of site that was heavily used for prostitution). Attorneys representing Kizer allege that after that encounter, Volar (for lack of a better term) began acting as a pimp of Kizer – trafficking her – and also sexually abusing her while videotaping some of the acts.
Prosecutors have apparently conceded to the fact that, at the time of Volar’s death, he was under investigation for sex trafficking underage girls. In fact, Volar had been previously arrested prior to his death from said investigation but was released from jail while Kenosha Police continued working the case.
Kizer’s lawyers attempted to use an affirmative defense to the murder charge, specifically a Wisconsin statute allowing one to be acquitted of all charges if a crime was committed by someone being sex trafficked.
However, in December of 2019, Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge David Wilk ruled that Kizer couldn’t use the aforementioned affirmative defense in a homicide case. But the circuit court’s previous decision was later overturned by the District II Court of Appeals in June of 2020 – leaving open the possibility that Kizer could use the affirmative defense to say the killing of Volar was a direct result of the trafficking she experienced.
As expected, prosecutors pushed back on the ruling from the appeals court, which now leaves the future of the potential defense strategy in the hands of the state supreme court. The Wisconsin Supreme Court will be reviewing the appeals court’s decision and will serve as the ultimate say on whether the defense by Kizer can be used in court.
So, it’s unclear whether Kizer can or cannot even use this affirmative defense yet.
It’s Uncharted Territory
Keep in mind, the Rittenhouse case used a form of self-defense during trial that proclaimed his use of lethal force was stop aggressors who’d posed an active and imminent threat of grievous bodily harm or death.
In the simplest of terms, Rittenhouse was defending his life from those who meant to do him harm or possibly kill him.
Kizer’s legal defense, however, is gearing toward an affirmative defense that has never been used in a homicide case before – as the affirmative defense has been traditionally linked to things like prostitution charges and other crimes when one is being trafficked.
What Kizer’s legal defense is arguing is that the affirmative defense should in turn extend into a de facto form of self-defense in her case, as the defendant claims she acted in response to her trafficking.
It’s certainly possible, it just hasn’t been done before.
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