Almost two years ago, I wrote about Chrystul Kizer, a young woman who killed the man who sex trafficked her (and MANY other teenage girls of color).
To quote my original post:
Many states have also applied an existing legal concept called “affirmative defense” for victims of sex trafficking. To quote the Cornell law school, affirmative defense is:
a defense in which the defendant introduces evidence, which, if found to be credible, will negate criminal liability or civil liability, even if it is proven that the defendant committed the alleged acts.
In other words, if a girl is being trafficked, and she commits a crime to free herself, she can argue necessity, that she did what she had to do to prevent the further and continued harm she was facing at the hands of the adult man who was trafficking her, and her crime may be negated or her punishment ameliorated.
As of December 2019, the judge in the state of Wisconsin was not permitting Ms. Kizer to use affirmative defense.
Did I mention she’s Black?
As I wrote then:
She needs our help. She needs our compassion. She needs counseling and a mentor. What she doesn’t need is to have her actions viewed through a lens of racism and have the proverbial book thrown at her for taking desperate action.
Well, it turns out, Ms. Kizer’s lawyers have kept working her case, and this past June, a Wisconsin appeals court said she could indeed use affirmative defense.
The prosecutor in her case appealed, and now her case is going to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
(I do not have enough time right now to go into all the ways that prosecutors often have too much power and too little accountability, but if you want to learn more about that, and about the role prosecutors play as one of the main drivers of mass incarceration, check out the work of Fordham University Professor of Law John Pfaff, particularly his excellent book Locked In.)
If the Wisconsin Supreme Court allows the appeals court ruling to stand, it could, to quote a recent Washington Post report on the case, “have national repercussions on the way that trafficking victims involved with serious crimes are treated…” potentially benefiting trafficking victims across the US, among which Black and brown girls are over-represented.
It’s taken years, but hopefully, soon, there will in fact be #Justice4Chrystul and other survivors of trafficking.
Image of Chrystul Kizer from The Independent.
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