A shocking admission of guilt in the kidnapping trial of Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying.
The attorney for defendant Brendt Christensen told the court his client did indeed kill Zhang.
But Christensen will not change his plea of ‘not guilty’.
CGTN’s Dan Williams has the story from Peoria, Illinois.
As the family of Zhang Yingying arrived at Peoria’s Federal Courthouse, few could have predicted the drama that would follow during the opening statements of this trial.
Brendt Christensen, seen arriving in this prison van, had pleaded ‘not guilty’ to charges of kidnapping and killing Zhang Yingying who went missing on June 9, 2017, in nearby Urbana, Illinois.
But in his opening statement, George Taseff told the court that Christensen had indeed killed Yingying.
“Brendt Christensen killed Yingying Zhang, and nothing we say or do during this phase of the trial is intended to sidestep or deny that Brendt Christensen was responsible for the death of Yingying Zhang,” said Taseff.
But despite that admission, Christensen will not be changing his ‘not guilty’ plea.
Taseff told the court that Christensen was “on trial for his life” and that there were several factual issues that must be debated before sentencing.
Federal Prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty for Christensen.
For family and friends of Yingying, the admission of guilt from the defense team was difficult to take.
“I’m kind of shocked and disbeliefed and angry at the same time. I think the mother took it very hard and she was a bad situation right now,” said Kim Tee, Zhang family friend.
This is the trial that demands answers as to what exactly happened to Yingying over two years ago. The trial today provided some answers with hints of more harrowing details likely to be revealed in the days and weeks ahead.
Dan Williams, CGTN, Peoria, Illinois.