State v. Kizer

Decision Date06 July 2022
Docket Number2020AP0192-CR
Citation403 Wis.2d 142,976 N.W.2d 356,2022 WI 58
Parties STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent-Petitioner, v. Chrystul D. KIZER, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtWisconsin Supreme Court

For the plaintiff-respondent-petitioner, there were briefs filed by Timothy M. Barber, assistant attorney general, with whom on the briefs was Joshua L. Kaul, attorney general. There was an oral argument by Timothy M. Barber.

For the defendant-appellant, there was a brief filed by Katie R. York and Colleen Marion, assistant state public defenders. There was an oral argument by Katie R. York.

An amicus curiae brief was filed by Caitlin Kendall Noonan, Rebecca Donaldson, Erika Jacobs Petty, and Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc., Milwaukee and Lotus Legal Clinic, Inc., Brookfield, for Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. and Lotus Legal Clinic, Inc.

An amicus curiae brief was filed by Naikan Tsao, Lynn Hecht Schafran, Jennifer M., Becker, Sigrid McCawley, Lindsey Ruff, and Foley & Lardner LLP, Madison, Legal Momentum, New York City, and Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, New York City, for Legal Momentum, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Harvard Law School Gender violence Program, Cornell Law School Gender Justice Clinic, Diverse & Resilient, Jewish Women International, Lovelace Consulting Services, Inc., National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Rights4Girls, Sanctuary for Families, The Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, and World Without Exploitation.

DALLET, J., delivered the majority opinion of the Court with respect to all parts except ¶¶27-29 & n. 9-11, in which ANN WALSH BRADLEY, REBECCA GRASSL BRADLEY, and KAROFSKY, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to ¶¶27-29 & n. 9-11, in which ANN WALSH BRADLEY and KAROFSKY, JJ., joined. REBECCA GRASSL BRADLEY, J., filed a concurring opinion. ROGGENSACK, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which ZIEGLER, C.J., and HAGEDORN, J., joined.

REBECCA FRANK DALLET, J.

¶1 In Wisconsin, victims of human trafficking or child sex trafficking have "an affirmative defense for any offense committed as a direct result" of the trafficking. See Wis. Stat. § 939.46(1m) (2019-20).1 Chrystul Kizer wants to rely on this defense when she is tried on charges of first-degree intentional homicide and several other felonies in connection with the death of the man she says trafficked her. We do not decide whether Kizer may rely on this defense at trial. Instead, we decide two general questions regarding the interpretation of § 939.46(1m) and the scope of the defense. First, what does it mean for an offense to be "committed as a direct result of the violation" of the human-trafficking statutes? And second, is § 939.46(1m) a complete defense to first-degree intentional homicide or does it merely mitigate a first-degree conviction to a second-degree one?

¶2 We hold that an offense is "committed as a direct result" of a violation of the human-trafficking statutes if there is a logical, causal connection between the offense and the trafficking such that the offense is not the result, in significant part, of other events, circumstances, or considerations apart from the trafficking violation. We also hold that § 939.46(1m) is a complete defense to first-degree intentional homicide. Accordingly, we affirm the court of appeals’ decision.

I

¶3 This case is still in a pre-trial posture and we therefore state the facts as alleged in the criminal complaint. In June 2018, Kizer traveled from Milwaukee to the Kenosha home of the man she says trafficked her. Kizer allegedly admitted to detectives that after she arrived, she "had gotten upset and she was tired of [him] touching her," and shot him. Kizer then started a fire at the house and drove away in his car. She was subsequently charged with first-degree intentional homicide, operating a motor vehicle without the owner's consent, arson, possession of a firearm by a felon, and bail jumping.

¶4 At a pre-trial conference, Kizer's counsel suggested that her defense at trial would rest at least in part on § 939.46(1m). After the State argued that the defense was not available to Kizer, the circuit court2 ordered briefing and argument on that issue and the scope of the defense. The circuit court determined that the defense "is available to [Kizer] so long as [she] is charged with one of the acts in § 940.302(2) ... and ... the cause of the offenses listed in 940.302(2) was the victimization, by others, of" Kizer. That meant that Kizer could not rely on the defense, since she was not charged with a violation of § 940.302(2), which prohibits human trafficking.3

¶5 The court of appeals granted Kizer's petition for leave to file an interlocutory appeal and reversed the circuit court's decision. See generally State v. Kizer, 2021 WI App 46, 398 Wis. 2d 697, 963 N.W.2d 136. There, as here, Kizer and the State agreed that the circuit court's interpretation of § 939.46(1m) was incorrect, since the defense applies to "any offense committed as a direct result of the violation of s. 940.302(2) or 948.051 without regard to whether anyone was prosecuted or convicted for the violation of s. 940.302(2) or 948.051." § 939.46(1m) (emphases added); see also Kizer, 398 Wis. 2d 697, ¶4, 963 N.W.2d 136. Before the court of appeals, however, the parties disagreed about what it means for an offense to be "committed as a direct result of the violation" of the human-trafficking statutes, as well as whether § 939.46(1m) is a complete or mitigating defense to first-degree intentional homicide. See Kizer, 398 Wis. 2d 697, ¶¶5, 7, 963 N.W.2d 136. The court of appeals held that, when determining whether to instruct a jury on the defense, circuit courts should consider whether there is " ‘some evidence’ " that "the victim's offense arises relatively immediately from the trafficking violation of which the victim is a victim, is motivated primarily by the trafficking violation, is a logical and reasonably foreseeable consequence of that violation, and is not in significant part caused by events, circumstances or considerations other than that violation." Kizer, 398 Wis. 2d 697, ¶15, 963 N.W.2d 136 (quoting State v. Schmidt, 2012 WI App 113, ¶¶8-9, 344 Wis. 2d 336, 824 N.W.2d 839 ). This list, the court of appeals emphasized, was non-exhaustive and simply intended to provide some guidance to circuit courts. See id. The court of appeals also concluded that § 939.46(1m) is a complete defense to first-degree intentional homicide. See id., ¶23. We granted the State's petition for review.

II

¶6 This case involves the interpretation of § 939.46(1m), which is a question of law that we review de novo. See, e.g., State v. Matthews, 2021 WI 42, ¶7, 397 Wis. 2d 1, 959 N.W.2d 640. "[S]tatutory interpretation begins with the language of the statute. If the meaning of the statute is plain, we ordinarily stop the inquiry." State ex rel. Kalal v. Cir. Ct. for Dane Cnty., 2004 WI 58, ¶45, 271 Wis. 2d 633, 681 N.W.2d 110. "The goal of statutory interpretation is to give the statutory text its ‘full, proper, and intended effect.’ " Matthews, 397 Wis. 2d 1, ¶9, 959 N.W.2d 640 (quoting Kalal, 271 Wis. 2d 633, ¶44, 681 N.W.2d 110 ). To that end, we "generally give words their common, everyday meaning, ‘but we give legal terms of art their accepted legal meaning.’ " Id. (quoting Estate of Matteson v. Matteson, 2008 WI 48, ¶22, 309 Wis. 2d 311, 749 N.W.2d 557 ).

III

¶7 We begin with the full text of § 939.46(1m) :

A victim of a violation of s. 940.302(2) or 948.051 has an affirmative defense for any offense committed as a direct result of the violation of s. 940.302(2) or 948.051 without regard to whether anyone was prosecuted or convicted for the violation of s. 940.302(2) or 948.051.

Sections 940.302(2) and 948.051 prohibit, respectively, human trafficking and child sex trafficking. Thus, under § 939.46(1m), a victim of human trafficking or child sex trafficking has an affirmative defense "for any offense [the victim] committed as a direct result" of the trafficking offense, regardless of whether anyone is charged with or convicted of trafficking.

¶8 Section 939.46(1m) does not define what it means for an offense to be "committed as a direct result" of the trafficking offense. Nor does the statute state expressly whether it is a complete defense to first-degree intentional homicide or if it is a mitigating defense—a defense that, if successful, reduces a first-degree intentional homicide to a second-degree one. We address those two disputed issues in turn.

¶9 We do not decide, however, whether Kizer is entitled to a jury instruction on this defense at trial as to some or all of the charges against her. Both parties acknowledge that regardless of how we interpret the defense in § 939.46(1m), it will be available to Kizer at trial only if she puts forth "some evidence" to support its application. See State v. Johnson, 2021 WI 61, ¶17, 397 Wis. 2d 633, 961 N.W.2d 18. If she puts forth such evidence, the burden will be on the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defense does not apply. See Moes v. State, 91 Wis. 2d 756, 765-66, 284 N.W.2d 66 (1979).

A

¶10 We first analyze what it means for an offense to be "committed as a direct result of the violation" of the human-trafficking statutes. See § 939.46(1m). The State's argument comes in two parts. First, it offers several different definitions of "direct result," including "the consequence of an action without any intervening circumstances, or without compromising or mitigating elements," "the primary, proximate, immediate cause, marked by the absence of intervening agency," and "both actual and proximate cause and immediacy related to trafficking." Based on those definitions, the State contends that § 939.46(1m) applies only to an offense that is caused by the underlying trafficking crime and not by "superseding or intervening causes." The State then combines its...

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2 cases
  • Brown v. Eplett
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • September 7, 2022
    ...284 N.W.2d 66, 69–71 (1979) ; State v. Schleusner , 154 Wis.2d 821, 454 N.W.2d 51, 54 (Ct. App. 1990) ; see also State v. Kizer , 403 Wis.2d 142, 976 N.W.2d 356, 360 (2022) ; State v. Stoehr , 134 Wis.2d 66, 396 N.W.2d 177, 188 (1986). In cases where the defense operates as a negative defen......
  • Brown v. Eplett
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • September 7, 2022
    ... ... first-degree reckless injury. He pleaded not ... guilty to the charges and the State's case against him ... was tried before a jury over the course of four days ...          Brown's ... theory of the case ... 1979); ... State v. Schleusner, 454 N.W.2d 51, 54 (Wis. Ct ... App. 1990); see also State v. Kizer , 976 N.W.2d 356, ... 360 (Wis. 2022); State v. Stoehr , 396 N.W.2d 177, ... 188 (Wis. 1986). In cases where the defense operates as a ... ...

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