PEORIA, Ill. – Closing arguments are set for the federal death penalty trial of a former University of Illinois doctoral student charged with kidnapping and killing a 26-year-old visiting scholar from China.
Monday’s closings follow a week and a half of testimony. If jurors convict Brendt Christensen, they must then decide whether he should be sentenced to die for beating Yingying Zhang to death with a baseball bat in 2017. The penalty phase could last weeks.
Defense attorneys began the trial by admitting Christensen killed Zhang. It’s part of a strategy to try to persuade jurors to spare Christensen’s life.
The case is being closely followed in China and by Chinese students in the U.S.
Champaign-based University of Illinois has more than 5,000 Chinese students, among the largest enrollments in the nation.