Some pan death-penalty trial in Illinois that ended capital punishment

Yingying Zhang and Brendt Christensen

CHICAGO (AP) – The trial of a former graduate student charged with kidnapping and killing a University of Illinois scholar from China is the first federal death-penalty trial in Illinois since it abolished capital punishment in 2011.

Some activists who fought to end executions in the state are dismayed.

Brendt Christensen is on trial in the death of Yingying Zhang, who disappeared in June 2017. Jury selection is expected to wrap up Tuesday.

A leader in Illinois’ anti-death penalty movement, Rob Warden, says federal authorities are “imposing capital punishment on a state that abolished it.” He calls that “morally offensive.”

Former Gov. George Ryan took the first step toward abolishing the state’s death penalty by placing a moratorium on executions in Illinois in 2000.

He told The Associated Press in an interview this week that holding a death penalty trial in Illinois is “a bad idea” but said “there’s nothing we can do about it.”

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