By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court was set Tuesday to consider whether a woman can argue that she legally killed a man under a state law that absolves sex trafficking victims of their crimes.
Prosecutors allege Chrystul Kizer shot Randall Volar in the head at his Kenosha home, burned his house down and stole his BMW in 2018.
Kizer was 17 at the time. She contends she met Volar on a sex trafficking website and he went on to sexually assault her and traffic her through the website to others. She told detectives she shot Volar after he tried to touch her, according to a criminal complaint.
Prosecutors maintain Kizer planned to kill Volar. She’s awaiting trial on a raft of charges, including arson, car theft and first-degree intentional homicide.
Her attorneys want to argue at trial that Kizer’s actions were legal under a 2008 state law that absolves sex trafficking victims of any liability for crimes committed while they were being trafficked. Kenosha County Circuit Judge David Wilk refused to allow them to raise that argument, ruling that immunity extends only to trafficking-related charges, such as restraining someone, extortion or slave labor. He said extending immunity to homicide would be absurd.
A state appellate court reversed Wilk in June, finding that immunity applies to any offense that results directly from being trafficked. That prompted the state Justice Department attorneys to ask the state Supreme Court to take the case; they say the shooting wasn’t a result of being trafficked because it was premeditated.
The justices were set to hear arguments in the case Tuesday and issue a ruling at a later date.
Almost 40 states have passed laws over the last decade that provide sex trafficking victims at least some criminal immunity, according to Legal Action of Wisconsin, which provides legal assistance for the poor. Kizer’s case could set a precedent for how far that immunity extends.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Kizer discussed her case in an interview from jail with The Washington Post that was published in late 2019.
More than a dozen anti-violence groups from around the country have filed briefs supporting Kizer. They contend that trafficking victims often feel trapped and may feel they have to take matters into their own hands to escape their traffickers.