A young American woman will be allowed to plead not guilty to murder on the grounds her victim sexually abused her, according to a decision issued by a US judge Wednesday in a closely watched case.
In June 2018, then-17-year-old Chrystul Kizer allegedly killed 34-year-old Randall Volar at his home in Kenosha, Wisconsin before setting his house on fire and driving away in his car.
Kizer told detectives she "had gotten upset and she was tired of (him) touching her," and told the Washington Post that Volar had paid her for sexual acts, a crime which is considered sex trafficking of a minor in the northern state.
After much legal back and forth, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin on Wednesday finally ruled that Kizer's legal team could claim self-defense from sexual abuse in her murder defense.
"Even an offense 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."
Before his death, Volar had already been the subject of an investigation into the sexual abuse of minors -- pornographic videos had been found at his home, including ones showing Kizer herself.
After his death, Kizer was charged with murder and, if convicted, would have faced a sentence of automatic life in prison, as required by Wisconsin law.
But Kizer's lawyer invoked a Wisconsin law allowing minor sex trafficking victims to be absolved from crimes committed as a "direct" cause of the abuse.
Prosecutors pushed back -- they claimed Volar's murder was not the "direct result" of the abuse Kizer suffered, but that it had been planned as part of Kizer's efforts to steal his car.
But, the state's high court ruled, "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," a situation which Kizer can point to as part of her criminal defense.
Despite the ongoing legal delays, Kizer has been met with strong public support, including from celebrities such as actress Alyssa Milano, while supporters raised $400,000 for the then-teen's bail fund in June 2020.
And an online petition calling for the murder charges against Kizer to be dropped on self-defense grounds received 1.5 million signatures.