Jury pool assembled for Christensen trial

Local News

CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — This weekend, defense lawyers for Brendt Christensen filed a motion to disclose his girlfriend’s mental health. Christensen is accused of kidnapping and killing UI scholar Yingying Zhang in June 2017.

Prosecutors plan to use Christensen’s girlfriend as a witness. They dated for two months before Zhang disappeared. The couple was involved in a dominant-submissive relationship.

Defense lawyers say the government has evidence it paid for her mental health treatment and they want those records released.

Monday, after six days in court, 70 potential jurors have been qualified to serve on the jury. Tuesday, 12 jurors and 6 alternates are set to be selected for trial.

Christensen’s legal team and US Attorneys will begin eliminating potential jurors through a series of strikes. Court recessed Friday with 69 qualified potential jurors. Monday morning, three more qualified.

Two previously qualified jurors were excused on the grounds of personal hardship. Judge Jim Shadid told both legal teams there are still five qualified potential jurors who have mentioned having conflicts which may interfere with their abilities to serve.

He says if the size of the pool decreases to between 62 and 64, only four alternates will be selected. The alternate jurors will listen to all the evidence and testimony along with the 12 jurors.

The alternates won’t deliberate, but will be ready to step in if any of the main jurors have to stop serving. Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 9 am, Wednesday.

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