Jury deliberating in murder of visiting Chinese scholar


Yingying Zhang and Brendt Christensen

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PEORIA, Ill. (AP) – Jurors are deliberating in the trial of a former University of Illinois doctoral student charged with kidnapping and killing a 26-year-old visiting scholar from China.

The jury started considering the case against Brendt Christensen just before noon Monday after closing arguments in Peoria federal court. Defense attorneys began the trial by admitting Christensen killed Yingying Zhang in 2017. It’s part of a strategy to try to persuade jurors to spare the 29-year-old Christensen’s life.

The judge said he would give 30 minutes notice when the jury has reached a verdict. The case is being closely followed in China and by Chinese students in the U.S.

If jurors convict Christensen they must then decide whether he should be sentenced to die. The penalty phase could last weeks.

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