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Lawyers seek justice for Chrystul Kizer after Rittenhouse verdict


Wisconsin’s self-defense law led to Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal of homicide charges, sparking protests across the state and nation. Now, advocates are demanding justice for a child sex trafficking survivor in the state, believing that if Rittenhouse could successfully claim self-defense, then she can too.

A group of protesters gathered this month at Kenosha’s Civic Center Park to protest Rittenhouse’s verdict and shine a light on the case of Chrystul Kizer, who is awaiting trial for killing her alleged sex trafficker three years ago. years old, when she was 17. She says she shot him in self-defense.

Kizer is charged with five felonies, including first degree manslaughter, for killing Randall Volar III. Her lawyers say she went on a rampage after years of abuse, and Kizer said she was underage when he sexually assaulted her.

“My heart and concern goes out to Chrystul Kizer. She is not forgotten, ”protester Lorna Revere said Sunday, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The anger that hits everyone, black people, white people who are concerned about the racism this country faces, is like – it stabs you in the chest time and time again.”

A jury this month found Rittenhouse, 18, not guilty of all counts in the fatal shootings of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and the injury of Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, during protests last summer in Kenosha against the Jacob shooting. Blake, a black man, by a white policeman.

Prosecutors said Rittenhouse was an assailant, traveling from his Illinois home to Kenosha with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle with the intention of adding to the chaos in the city. But lawyers for Rittenhouse have argued he traveled to Kenosha to protect businesses amid the August 2020 protests and is defending himself against attackers. The jury accepted the claim of self-defense. According to Wisconsin law, “a person has the privilege of threatening or intentionally using force against another for the purpose of preventing or terminating what he reasonably believes to be unlawful interference with him or her by that person. other person “.

After Rittenhouse’s verdict, protesters chanted Kizer’s name as well as the names of the men shot by Rittenhouse as they marched through the city center to protest the acquittal, according to the Journal Sentinel. Social media users have also demanded justice for Kizer, comparing his case to that of Rittenhouse.

Kizer was held until June 2020, when several groups raised $ 400,000 for her bail. Her lawyers cite a state law known as the “affirmative defense,” meaning that Kizer’s act was a “direct result” of her being sexually trafficked. An appeals court has ruled that Kizer may be able to use the defense, according to Kenosha News, and the state Supreme Court is currently reviewing that decision. This particular self-defense argument has never been used before in a homicide case in Wisconsin, according to NPR.

Julius Kim, a Wisconsin lawyer and former prosecutor, said the Rittenhouse case used a “more traditional self-defense claim” than Kizer’s because the video showed him in “imminent danger”.

“The reason the state has objected to this particular use of the affirmative defense is because they say they don’t think the affirmative defense should apply to cases of first degree intentional homicide because it sets a dangerous precedent, ”Kim said. “What they are saying is that if someone commits intentional first degree homicide but shows evidence that they committed a direct result of trafficking, that basically gives people permission to kill their traffickers. “

Kim added: “I understand why Chrystul Kizer supporters think Chrystul Kizer should be allowed to use the affirmative defense she wants… A lot of people are watching this case because they want to see if it’s going to have any implications. for others »affirmative defense cases.

The Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kizer was 17 when she shot Volar in the head and set her house on fire before stealing her car in June 2018. Kizer said she met Volar, then 34, via Backpage – a now closed sex ads website – and he sold it to men for sex. Kizer said Volar had filmed his abuse of her since she was 16 and acted in self-defense after pinning her to the ground when she refused to have sex with him. Prosecutors argued that Kizer simply wanted to steal Volar’s car. But in a 2019 Washington Post interview from prison, Kizer said she shot Volar in self-defense.

It was later revealed by the Washington Post that prosecutors and police in Kenosha had evidence that Volar, who is white, abused Kizer and other underage black girls. Just months before his death, a 15-year-old girl accused him of drugging him and threatening to kill her, according to the Post. And police found exploitation videos of Volar abusing girls who appeared to be only 12, the Post reported.

Kizer’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Before George Floyd’s protests last summer renewed interest in Kizer’s case, advocacy groups had been pushing to free her. An online petition to free Kizer has amassed more than 1.4 million signatures and, along with advocates, Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, and actress Alyssa Milano have expressed their support for Kizer online. Several advocacy groups, including the Chicago Community Bond Fund, Survived & Punished, the Chrystul Kizer Defense Committee and the Milwaukee Freedom Fund, have bailed him out of $ 400,000, according to WITI.

“It was only because of the outpouring of support following the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many other blacks in the United States that we were able to post such a large bond,” Sharlyn Grace, former executive director of the Chicago Community Bond Fund, told Wisconsin Public Radio last year.

Kizer is one of many “criminalized survivors”, people jailed for killing or injuring their alleged attackers. Cyntoia Brown spent 15 years in prison for killing a man who asked her for sex when she was 16. Marissa Alexander was convicted of aggravated assault in 2010 for firing a warning shot at her Florida home to scare off her allegedly abusive ex-husband. In New York, lawyers are demanding that authorities drop all charges against Tracy McCarter, who faces 25 years in life for the murder of her ex-husband.

“The reality is that Chrystul Kizer has not been protected by police, prosecution and incarceration,” Grace said. “And, in fact, after being forced to defend herself and choosing to survive, she was then further hurt by these systems.”

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