Zhang family watches jury selection from Urbana

Local News
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UPDATE: Tuesday, 6/4/19, 6:18 p.m.

PEORIA, Ill. (WCIA) — 37 people are now in the pool of potential jurors for Brendt Christensen’s trial. The goal is to pick 70 people by Friday.

24 people were picked Tuesday. Judge James Shadid said some of those potential jurors might have conflicts which will be dealt with at a later date. Death penalty questions for the afternoon group were saved for private interviews instead of being asked in open court.

Christensen faces the death penalty if found guilty of kidnapping resulting in death.

Original: Tuesday, 6/4/19, 4:29 p.m.

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s day 2 of jury selection in the case of missing UI scholar Yingying Zhang. 

The Zhang family will spend Tuesday watching the court proceeding from the Urbana Federal Courthouse. They arrived this morning. The family watched the jury selection process from the Peoria Federal Courthouse on Monday. They only stayed for a portion of the day.

Zhang’s father, mother and brother have flown to Illinois from China for the trial.

On Monday, lawyers picked 13 people to be put into a pool of 70 potential jurors. Tuesday lawyers added another nine people to the pool. Two of them were picked over objections. That brings the total number to 22 potential jurors. They were asked the same questions as Monday’s groups — including if they have heard about the case and if they believe in the death penalty.

As of 9:45 am, potential jurors were being questioned privately. That is expected to last for several hours. Opening statements should happen next week. The first phase of the trial could take two to three weeks.

The death penalty is possible in the federal case against 29-year-old Brendt Christensen. Authorities say he tricked or forced 26-year-old Yingying Zhang into his car in June 2017. Christensen pleaded not guilty. He told the FBI he dropped Zhang off after a few blocks. Zhang’s body hasn’t been found.

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