Update: 4:45 pm, 4/17/19, Wednesday
CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — A federal judge has approved a request to stream the trial of Brendt Christensen at the courthouse in Urbana. The proceedings will be held in Peoria.
Christensen is accused of killing UI scholar Yingying Zhang in June 2017. Nearly two years later, the trial will start.
Normally, video recording is not allowed in federal court. But, Tuesday, a federal judge chose to make accommodations because Zhang’s family lives in China. They are coming to Illinois just for the trial.
The judge wanted to make it as easy as possible for her family to watch everything. Another factor is public interest. Because of how involved the community is in the case, the courts wanted to make it available to watch.
There’s no solid plan yet for where the family will stay for the trial. It’s expected they’ll come to Urbana first and the hope is to eventually find them a place to stay in Peoria. It would require funding.
There’s a chance the funding could come from the Victim’s Rights Act. Another possibility is family members might choose to be witnesses. It could also help them get the money.
The family’s preference is they can be in person in Peoria, but only time will tell what will actually happen. Yingying’s body was never found.
The trial is set to start June 3, at 9 am. The room will open at 8 am. Anyone who wants to watch it can go to the federal courthouse in Urbana and they’ll be directed where to go.
Original: 11:30 am, 4/17/19, Wednesday
URBANA, Ill. (AP) — Video of the trial of a former University of Illinois student accused of killing a Chinese scholar will be streamed from a federal courthouse to a viewing room near campus.
Tuesday U.S. District Judge James Shadid on Tuesday approved the request “to accommodate members of the public and the victim’s family.”
The closed-circuit video will stream from the trial in Peoria to a viewing room at the Urbana courthouse.
Brendt Christensen’s trial is scheduled to begin June 3. He is accused of luring Yingying Zhang into his car before torturing and killing her in June 2017. Her body hasn’t been found.
The Zhang family’s Urbana-based attorney, Steve Beckett, says they’ll to return to Illinois from China for the trial.