Missing Chinese scholar trial pushed to April 2019



A US federal judge has set an April 2019 date for the trial of Brendt Christensen, the former student accused of kidnapping and killing Chinese visiting scholar Zhang Yingying at the University of Illinois last summer.

US District Court Judge Colin Bruce set the trial for April 2 next year during a hearing on Monday.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on April 3, with the actual trial due to start on April 9. The trial is expected to last at least five weeks.

Neither the prosecutors nor the defense attorneys objected the new schedule.

Screenshot from surveillance video, showing Zhang Yingying getting off a bus.

Last month, the US government filed a notice to seek the death penalty for Christensen. After that, both sides agreed that a delay of the trial previously scheduled for February 27 would be necessary.

The legal consultant to Zhang's family, Wang Zhidong, told Xinhua that his clients were disappointed at the delay but would respect the court's decision.

Christensen’s lawyers had earlier said the case is so complex that they will need more time for preparation, including to potentially research 28-year-old Christensen’s genealogy and prenatal care. Defense attorneys may reportedly try to introduce mitigating factors, which can include evidence of mental illness or a difficult upbringing.

rendt Christensen, suspected abductor of Zhang Yingying.

Zhang, 26, went missing after she got into a car at a bus stop at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign campus on June 9, 2017. Her body has not been found but she is believed to be dead.

Christensen was arrested three weeks after Zhang’s disappearance. He has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping resulting in death.

The suspect will be held in jail until the trial.

The state of Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011. Capital punishment is still available in federal cases, though it is rarely sought, according to reports.