PEORIA COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Life or death. That’s the question the jury for Brendt Christensen will have to answer Wednesday. After more than a month of testimony and evidence, federal prosecutors and the defense team have rested their cases for good.
Christensen kidnapped and killed UI scholar Yingying Zhang two years ago. He faces life in prison or the death penalty. In the courtroom Tuesday, both legal teams got into a heated debate which somehow ended in laughter.
After the defense rested its case, the government was allowed a rebuttal. They called and FBI agent back to the stand to replay some phone calls recorded while Christensen was in jail trying to hammer home their suggestion of his lack of remorse.
But, before that, even though court was in session at 9 am, the jury wasn’t brought in until 45 minutes later because both legal teams were arguing about motions and jury instructions. They had to do with the admissibility or legitimacy of several things like Christensen’s mental health, medications he’s taking, his counseling sessions, jail calls, his pet cat and even Spongebob Squarepants. It was referenced in a text Christensen once sent his ex-girlfriend.
The judge asked the defense about the last one, whether it was going to come into play during assistant federal defender Elisabeth Pollock’s closing argument. Her response was the quote of the day, “I can categorically represent I’m not mentioning Spongebob in my closing.” Everyone in the courtroom laughed out loud.
Closing arguments are set for Wednesday morning, then the jury will be off to deliberate. In order for Christensen to be sentenced to death, the decision has to be unanimous. If even one juror holds out, he’ll automatically get life in prison without the possibility of release.