PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — Lawyers for the man charged with kidnapping and killing a Chinese University of Illinois scholar have argued the case should be heard in state court, where the death penalty isn’t an option.
Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against former graduate student Brendt Christensen. He’s charged with the 2017 abduction and death of 26-year-old Yingying Zang. Authorities have not found her body.
The News-Gazette reports a federal judge in Peoria is holding several days of pre-trial hearings.
Defense attorney Robert Tucker said Friday he believes the main reason federal prosecutors are trying the case is to seek the death penalty. Illinois abolished it in 2011 for state cases.
Prosecutor Eugene Miller denied Tucker’s claim. He argued there are several valid legal reasons to try the case in federal court.