Sentencing has begun in the Brendt Christensen trial in the U.S. state of Illinois. Christensen was found guilty by a jury two weeks ago for the kidnapping and death of Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying back in 2017.
The same 12 jurors will now decide whether Christensen should spend the rest of his life behind bars without parole, or be sentenced to death.
CGTN’s Dan Williams has the latest from Peoria.
A return to court to face the killer of their daughter. The family of Zhang Yingying arrived at Peoria Federal Court for day one of sentencing. The jury has already found Brendt Christensen guilty of kidnapping and killing Zhang.
The task now for the jury, to decide whether Christensen should remain in prison for the rest of his life or be sentenced to death. Christensen’s father is expected to testify during sentencing.
In opening statements, the court heard that Christensen’s family had a long history of mental illness.
Defense attorneys told the jury that Christensen suffered from depression, mental illness, and alcohol abuse.
They argue that executing Christensen will not undo the loss to Zhang’s loved ones.
The prosecution began its opening statement by quoting the last entry in Zhang’s diary. It read “Life was too short to be ordinary.”
The prosecution argued Zhang was the shining light of her family and Christensen extinguished that bright future by carrying out a premeditated and brutal murder.
Zhang was last seen alive on June ninth, 2017, getting into Christensen’s black Saturn Astra. Authorities said her blood and DNA were discovered inside Christensen’s apartment and car. Her body has never been found.
Earlier in the trial, the prosecution played recordings to the jury of Christensen talking to his then-girlfriend Terra Bullis, who was wearing an FBI wire. On them, Christensen was heard boasting about how he had killed Zhang.