CHAMPAIGN, Illinois– Thursday, federal prosecutors announced their opposition to a defense motion that would delay the start of the trial for the man accused of kidnapping and killing University of Illinois student Yingying Zhang.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed its response, saying 28-year-old Brendt Christensen has no “justifiable reasons” to delay to the start of his trial from Feb. 27 to October. The trial has already been delayed once. It was originally scheduled to start in September.
However, if the government decides to seek the death penalty, the trial could be delayed. They said that if they do decide to seek the death penalty, then it would be unreasonable to expect the defense to be ready by Feb. 27. Prosecutors said that they will decide whether to seek the death penalty by Feb. 1. The final decision ultimately rests with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Soon after the Thursday filing from prosecutors, the defense team responded with a request to have until Tuesday to reply. Defense attorneys said there are issues unrelated to a possible death penalty defense that require an extension.
Christensen is charged with kidnapping resulting in death. Zhang disappeared on June 9, and her body has not been found. The FBI is still investigating her disappearance and death.