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Judge denies mistrial request from defense in U of I scholar kidnapping case

On day two of the federal trial against Brendt Christensen, the man accused of kidnapping and killing Chinese U of I Scholar Yingying Zhang, his attorney’s requested a mistrial despite having admitted Christensen killed her in their opening statement.

The defense motioned for a mistrial because they claimed the jury would be prejudiced after seeing an FBI video of Christensen using his right to remain silent. The judge in the case denied the request saying, “What’s the prejudice since you admitted he killed her?”

On Thursday the jury watched the initial interview Brendt Christensen did with the FBI. During this interview, he did not have a lawyer but agreed to answer questions anyway.

In the recording, he eventually told investigators he did pick up an Asian woman who “spoke broken English” and “was late to a meeting with a professor” but he said he did not think it was Zhang. He explained that he offered her a ride but when he made a wrong turn she “freaked out” and got out of the car.

He told them he did not tell the FBI agents he first met about picking this woman up because he believed it happened on the day after Zhang went missing saying he “must’ve gotten his days mixed up.” He originally told the FBI he was at home all day playing video games and napping on the day Zhang was reported missing.

Almost an hour into the conversation Christensen refused to answer any more questions. The defense said the jury seeing their client fall silent could impact their opinion but the judge still denied their request.

The prosecution also showed the jury Google searches Christensen made in the days before and after Zhang’s murder. He visited the page of the U of I Police Department multiple times of various days, looked up articles related to the kidnapping of Zhang and searched how iPhone tracking works despite having an Android. Prosecutors claim Zhang had an iPhone.

The jury has yet to hear the tapes where Christensen talks about killing 12 other people, something the defense claims were drunken ramblings.


Stephanie Rodriguez

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