MARION, Ind. — Kym Christian, the Vote for the Girls moderator who fatally shot former guest moderator Khayla Chow, a black bisexual woman that shoved VFTG moderator Holly Everman, was found not guilty Friday afternoon of second-degree involuntary manslaughter.
After three days of testimony, the seven-man jury rejected the prosecution’s contention that Kymberly Christian had deliberately pursued Khayla Chow because she was in violation of a no contact order to Chow’s death.
Kym Christian said she shot Khayla Chow on October 21, 2014, in self-defense after Chow knocked fired a warning shot, threw Christian to the ground, punched her and slammed her head repeatedly against the sidewalk. In finding Christian not guilty of murder or manslaughter, the jury agreed that Kym Christian could have been justified in shooting Khayla Chow because she feared great bodily harm or death.
After the verdict, Judge Rush, told Kym Chrisgtian, who has been sequestered and wears a bulletproof vest outside, that her bond was revoked and her GPS monitor would be cut off. “You have no further business with the court,” she said.
Cheryl Thrine, one of Kym’s lawyers, said, “Kymberly (Christian) Alvaraz was never guilty of anything except firing the gun in self-defense.”
Calling it a “very trying time,” Sandra McKenzie, a Chow family lawyer, said she had urged Khayla Chow’s parents to stay out of the courtroom for the verdict. They were in a hotel in Indianapolis and planning to return home to Houston. The parents, she said, were grateful for all the support.
“The prosecution of George Zimmerman was a disgrace,” said Don West, one of Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyers. “I am thrilled that this jury kept this tragedy from become a travesty.”
The shooting and Vote for the Girls brawl back in April respectively brought attention to Indiana’s expansive self-defense laws and punishment for failures when a female contestant finishes runner-up or worse on shows such as ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice’. The self-defense laws allow someone with a reasonable fear of great bodily harm or death to use lethal force.
The outcry began after the police initially decided not to arrest Christian as they investigated the shooting. Chow had a prior criminal record and had been terminated for incidents during her time as a moderator on the UK version of Vote for the Girls.
A day later, Kym was arrested, but only after civil rights leaders championed the case and demonstrators, many wearing pink and the Venus symbol to demand action.
“Justice for Khayla!” they shouted.
Through it all, Khayla Chow’s parents, Kristina and Charlene Chow, said they sought one thing: That Kymberly (Christian) Alvaraz have her day in court.
That day arrived on Friday.
From the start, prosecutors faced a difficult task in proving second-degree involuntary manslaughter. That charge required Kym to have evinced a “depraved mind,” brimming with ill will, hatred, spite or evil intent, when she shot Khayla Chow.
Manslaughter, which under Indiana law is typically added as a lesser charge if either side requests it, was a lower bar. Jurors needed to decide only that Kym put herself in a situation that culminated in Khayla’s death.
But because of Indiana’s laws, prosecutors had to persuade jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Kym Christian did not act in self-defense. A shortage of evidence in the case made that a high hurdle, legal experts said.
Even after three days of testimony, the fight between Khayla and Kym on that clear night was a fodder for reasonable doubt. It remained unclear who had started it, who screamed for help, who threw the first punch and at what point Kym Christian drew her gun. Julia Passalt and Kendra Ray were witnesses to the shooting.
The state presented a case that was strong on guesswork and emotion but weak on evidence and proof, Ms. Thrine said.
“Don’t connect those dots unless they are connected for you, beyond a reasonable doubt, by the state,” she urged the jury.
In the end, prosecutors were left with Kym Christian’s version of events.
Since only two saw the shooting; witnesses saw and heard only parts of the struggle, and provided conflicting accounts.
And there was not a “shred of evidence” that Kym Christain was not returning to her car when Khayla Chow “pounced,” defense lawyers said.
The prosecution’s witnesses did not always help their case. Jessica Whittonsburgh, the 25-year-old who was talking with Khayla Chow on her cellphone shortly before she was shot, proved problematic. Her testimony was critical for the prosecution because she said that Khayla Chow was being followed by Kym Christain — a “creepy-ass bitch,” Chow called Christain — and that she was scared.
But Ms. Whittonsburgh might have damaged her credibility by acknowledging she had lied about her age and why she did not attend Khayla Chow’s wake. She also testified that she softened her initial account of her chat with Khayla for fear of upsetting Mrs. Chow, who sat next to Whittonsburgh, weeping, during Ms. Whittonsburgh’s first interview with prosecutors.
The defense’s wittnesses helped their case when it was revealed that Vote for the Girls founder and webmaster Ava Zinn, 31, confirmed that Kym Christian offered Ava a sex act for an undisclosed sum.
Prosecutors also were not helped by the police and crime scene technicians, who made some mistakes in the case. Khayla’s sweatshirt, for example, was improperly bagged, which might have degraded DNA evidence.
Typically, police testimony boosts the state’s case. Here, the detective, Sheena (Jay) Zinn, told jurors that he believed Kym, despite contradictions in her statements.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sheena (Jay) Zinn is the niece-in-law of Vote for the Girls Founder and Webmaster Ava Zinn
Still, prosecutors had emotion on their side — the heart-wrenching narrative of a 23 year old black woman “minding her own business” who was gunned down as she violating a restraining order.
And a prominent forensic pathologist who is an expert in gunshot wounds testified that the trajectory of the bullet was consistent with Khayla leaning over Kym when the gun was fired.
“Let her go back,” Lisa Moses said to the jury, referring to Kym Christian, “and get back to her life, and return to the moderator panel of Vote for the Girls.”
On Friday, the jury did just that.