On June 12, local time in the United States, Zhang Yingyings case of disappearance, which attracted much attention, entered the stage of conviction. Both the prosecution and the defense made their opening remarks.
Shortly after the trial, unexpected news came. According to the local media The News-Gazette, Christensens lawyer admitted in court that Christensen had killed Zhang Yingying.
Wang Zhidong, a legal aid lawyer for Zhang Yingyings family, said that this was a strategy to try to exempt Christensen from death. Christensen did not plead guilty. Neither he nor his lawyers acknowledged any details of the cruelty of his crime. At present, the nature of the trial is still the conviction stage.
On June 9, 2017, Zhang Yingying, a graduate of Peking University, lost her connection in a black car while she was a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The prosecution prosecuted Mr. Christensen, assistant professor of physics at Zhangs university, for the crime of kidnapping to death. Mr. Christensen has refused to plead guilty.
The suspect pleaded not guilty to murder
On June 12, 2019, at 9 a.m. local time, the case of Zhang Yingying opened in the Federal Court of Peoria, Illinois. At this time, 733 days have passed since Zhang Yingying got on the Saturn Astra on June 9, 2017.
U.S. Assistant Federal Attorney Eugene Miller, in his opening statement, spoke out loud with the words he kidnapped her, he murdered her, he covered up his crime. Subsequently, the prosecutor spent another 40 minutes detailing the whole process of Christensens crime:
On June 9, 2017, Christensen disguised herself as an undercover police officer, persuaded Zhang Yingying to get on the bus, kidnapped her back to her apartment and raped her. Later, he stabbed Zhang Yingying in the bathtub, then broke her head with a baseball bat, pinched her throat for about 10 minutes, suffocated her, beheaded her, and finally abandoned her body elsewhere. The means are extremely cruel and abhorrent.
Unexpectedly, in court, the suspect Christensen admitted for the first time through a defense lawyer that he was responsible for Zhang Yingyings death.
In his opening statement, defense lawyer George Tasseff said that on June 9, 2017, the defendant deceived the victim into his car, drove back to his apartment, raped and abused Zhang, and finally killed the victim with a baseball bat in the bathroom of his apartment.
Although the defense lawyers admitted that Christensen caused Zhang Yingyings death, they still insisted on the innocent defense position, claiming that Christensen had psychological problems, partly due to the suspects alcoholism, marital breakdown and academic failure.
At the same time, defense lawyers questioned the validity of the voice recordings tapped by the prosecution, calling them drunk nonsense. In the recording, the suspect Christensen described Zhang Yingying as her 13th victim, comparing herself to serial killer Ted Bondi, and boasting to his girlfriend that she was good at destroying dead bodies.
Zhang Yingyings family legal aid lawyer Wang Zhidong believes that this is the defenses strategy of trying to exempt Christensen from death. Christensen has not pleaded guilty and the nature of the trial is still in the conviction stage has not changed.
To find a daughter is to die or live
On May 23, Zhang Yingyings parents and brother set off for Chicago again. Over the past two years, many delays in the opening of the court have made the family impatient. This time, Zhang Yingyings father, Zhang Ronggao, decided not to speak up until the case was substantially advanced. I must bring Yingying back to the United States this time, whether she is in or not.
At 9 a.m. local time on June 3, 2019, the trial of Zhang Yingying was officially opened.
The first process is jury selection. Zhang Yingyings father went to the main court to listen, while her mother and brother watched the court in a small room nearby. On the same day, the suspect Christensen appeared at the court in a blue shirt and khaki pants. He was calm as he listened to the judges inquiry about possible jury candidates.
Before Zhang Yingying disappeared, her boyfriend Hou Xiaolin had been in love with her for eight years. They met at CUHK. Both of them were Xueba. One went to Tsinghua and the other went to Peking University. On June 6, Hou Xiaolin set out to testify in court in the United States. He told Yingyings parents how they felt after their first trial, because they could not keep calm when they saw the suspects sitting less than 10 meters away from them or even laughing and talking as if nothing had happened.
On June 12, Hou Xiaolin testified in court as the first witnesses. He described how shocked and terrible he felt when Yingying disappeared.
Zhang Yingying has been missing for two years. Wang Zhidong said that the long waiting had already exhausted the family members and made them live like a year: Now it is very angry, painful and unacceptable to learn that the suspect has inflicted harm on Yingying by such cruel means. Yingyings family hopes that the criminals can be brought to justice and sentenced to death as soon as possible. At the same time, the familys greatest wish from beginning to end is always to find Yingying and take her home.
Expert: The suspect may be sentenced to death
Zhang Yingyings trial is divided into three stages: jury selection, conviction and sentencing. The whole lawsuit is expected to last for two months, and the trial will be completed as early as July.
On the morning of June 11, the jury selection phase ended with 12 jurors, 7 males and 5 females, and 6 substitute jurors.
The 12 June hearing represents the beginning of the conviction phase.
The conviction phase will last for about two weeks, including opening remarks, cross-examination and summary remarks. The verdict can be reached only after the jury has reached unanimity.
The opening remarks of both the prosecution and the defense are important, after which the prosecutions witness evidence will gradually unfold. Wang Zhidong said. But he also said that the opening statement is not evidence, and the details of these charges will be proved by the witnesses and evidence provided by the prosecution in the next trial.
As for the defense lawyers sudden admission that the defendant should be responsible for Zhang Yingyings death, Deng Juting, an associate professor of the Law School of Renmin University of China, who is qualified as a lawyer in New York, said that the defense may have two considerations. First, the defense believes that it is impossible to deny the murder facts in the face of the evidence presented by the prosecution; second, the defense may think that if it is further corrected. The conclusion of homicide will arouse the jurys disgust, which will be detrimental to the defendant at the sentencing stage.
As for the defenses plea not guilty to murder, Deng Quting analyzed that the defense wanted to express the view that although Christensen killed Zhang Yingying, he should not be sentenced to death.
In fact, the defense lawyer repeatedly stressed in his opening statement that Christensens case was at a low point in his life, including his ex-wifes divorce, his girlfriends being with another man on the day of the incident, and his failure to pursue a doctorate due to poor grades, which led to his long-term alcoholism and psychological problems. Deng Quting said that the defenses proposals of the problems Christensen faced were to emphasize that the defendant did not aim at Zhangs long-term premeditated murder, thereby denying one of the aggravating circumstances that could lead to the death penalty.
Deng believes that in the ensuing confrontation, the defense will strongly refute the evidence presented by the prosecution to convince the jury that Christensen should not be sentenced to death, while the prosecution will provide a large amount of evidence to prove to the jury that Christensen has the aggravating circumstances that should be sentenced to death.
Although Illinois has abolished the death penalty since 2011, it allows the death penalty to be applied to defendants in individual cases. Wang Zhidong said that the prosecution charged Christensen with death by kidnapping. In federal law, the possible penalty for death by kidnapping is death penalty or life imprisonment. The prosecutor in this case is seeking death penalty. If the jury agrees, Christensen could be the first defendant sentenced to death in the state in nearly 15 years.
Source: Qian Juanxiao_NBJ10675, responsible editor of Beijing News