When Zhang Yingyings case entered the conviction stage, the defendant admitted that homicide was for non-death penalty.

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 When Zhang Yingyings case entered the conviction stage, the defendant admitted that homicide was for non-death penalty.


Two years after Zhang Yingying, a Chinese visiting scholar, disappeared at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the defendant, Christensen Fang, finally admitted the murder in a court hearing on June 12, local time.

According to the Illinois News Bulletin, the case of Zhang Yingying opened at 9 a.m. local time on June 12 in the Federal Court of Peoria, Illinois. In his opening statement, Christensens defense attorney, George Tasseff, pointed out that Christensen is responsible for Zhang Yingyings death and Christensen admitted killing Zhang Yingying.

On June 9, 2017, Zhang Yingying disappeared at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On-campus surveillance showed that she lost her connection and entered the suspects car. On June 30, 2017, Christensen was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping Zhang Yingying, but he refused to plead guilty. After his arrest, he admitted that he had taken Zhang Yingying, but finally let him off. However, the prosecution believed that Zhang Yingying had actually brought her back to her apartment, controlled her actions and cleaned up the apartment and car afterwards. The Federal Public Prosecutors Office decided to prosecute Christensen for kidnapping and murdering Zhang Yingying and seek the death penalty.

On June 12, local time, Zhang Yingyings mother Ye Lifeng (right) and brother Zhang Xinyang (middle) arrived at the federal court in Peoria, Illinois. Picture/Visual China

The prosecution uncovered the cruel details of the case

According to the News Bulletin, U.S. Assistant Federal Attorney Eugene Miller opened the case on December 12 with the words He kidnapped her, he murdered her, he covered up his crime and then used a 45-minute speech to expose the details of Christensens cruel crime.

According to WTTW, the local media, prosecutors learned the details of the crime through the wiretapping device of Christensens girlfriend. Miller pointed out that on the day of the incident, the defendant Christensen disguised himself as an undercover police officer, persuaded Zhang Yingying, who was waiting on the roadside for missing the bus, to get on the bus, then kidnapped him back to his apartment and raped him in his bedroom. During this period, Christensen kept beating Zhang Yingying and pinching her throat for nearly 10 minutes. After that, Christensen dragged Zhang Yingying into the bathroom, hit her on the head with a baseball bat, beheaded her, and finally abandoned her body elsewhere. During the whole process, Zhang Yingying constantly resisted and struggled to escape.

Miller said Christensen cleaned apartments and vehicles completely afterwards. But investigators found blood on his mattress, carpet, baseball bat and so on. DNA tests showed that the bloodstains matched Zhang Yingying.

Previously, the defense had asked for the exclusion of evidence such as blood and DNA found in Christensens apartment. At a hearing held on February 11, local time in the United States, the judge rejected the motion and ruled that the blood and DNA found in the Christensen apartment could be used as evidence in court.

The accuseds face was expressionless at the trial

Although Zhang Yingyings body has not been found so far, the prosecution believes that Christensens words prove that Zhang Yingying has confirmed her death. In his opening statement, Miller said that in the tapping tape provided by his girlfriend, Christensen attended Zhang Yingyings campus prayer meeting on June 29, 2017, when he told his girlfriend, She will never be found... Shes gone forever.

In another eavesdropping recording provided by Kristensens girlfriend, Kristensen claimed that Zhang Yingying was his thirteenth victim. However, Christensens defense attorney said it was what the defendant said when he was drunk, and the FBI series of investigations did not find any evidence related to other victims.

According to ABC, Christensen was sitting on the dock, expressionless, with his pen turning as the prosecution spoke. Zhang Yingyings father, sitting about 4.5 meters away from Christensen, remained motionless and looked straight ahead, only occasionally turning his head to look directly at Christensen. Zhang Yingyings boyfriend testified to the judge that he and Zhang had planned to get married in October 2017.

Twelve jurors decide the fate of the suspect

After the prosecutions opening statement, Christensens defense lawyer, Tasseff, also made his opening statement. Brent Christensen killed Zhang Yingying. Nothing we did or said at this stage of the trial was to avoid or deny it. Brent Christensen should be responsible for Zhang Yingyings death, he said.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Tasseff also told the jury that Christensen was on trial for his life, suggesting that he would focus on the plea of innocence in order to avoid the death sentence.

The opening statement of the prosecution and the defense on June 12 is the beginning of the conviction stage. According to the Associated Press, on June 11, the Federal Court of Peoria, Illinois, announced that 12 jurors and 6 alternate jurors had been selected for Zhang Yingyings kidnapping and disappearance, and 12 jurors were seven men and five women. The jury will decide whether the defendant Christensen is guilty and, if so, whether he should be sentenced to death.

At the conviction stage, the jury will decide whether Christensen is guilty or not after attending a series of trials. According to the rules, Christensen can only be convicted if 12 jurors agree that the defendant is guilty. This phase is expected to last about a week and a half.

If Christensen is convicted by a jury, the court will enter the sentencing stage. The same group of jurors will decide again whether the defendant will be sentenced to death as required by the prosecution. Only when 12 jurors agreed that the death penalty should be imposed would Christensen be sentenced to death.

The image of Zhang Yingying before she was kidnapped was recorded by the bus surveillance camera. Information Picture/Visual China

Review of the case

9 June 2017

Zhang Yingying, a Chinese visiting scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), boarded his car a few minutes after talking to the suspect Brent Christensen, and lost her connection.

June 14, 2017

Zhang Yingyings photo appeared on the official website of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Kidnapping the missing person, which the FBI characterized as a kidnapping case.

30 June 2017

The US FBI arrested 27-year-old UIUC assistant professor Christensen on suspicion of kidnapping and killing Zhang Yingying. The FBI said it believed Zhang Yingying had died.

20 July 2017

The U.S. Federal Court of Illinois formally charged with kidnapping Zhang Yingying. Defense attorneys say they want to plead not guilty to Christensen.

October 3, 2017

The United States Federal Grand Jury charged the suspect with additional charges and formally decided to prosecute Christensen for Kidnapping to Death.

19 January 2018

The U.S. federal prosecutor filed notice to the court against Christensen on death row charges.

February 12, 2018

The court held a hearing in Zhang Yingyings case and the trial of Christensen was postponed until April 2, 2019.

January 2019

The prosecution and the defense have a heated debate on which evidence should be allowed to appear in court.

February 11, 2019

U.S. judge rejected Christensens defense lawyers motion to exclude certain blood tests and DNA as evidence.

February 28, 2019

U.S. Illinois federal judge Sandy ruled that Zhang Yingyings case was postponed until June 3.

June 11, 2019

After several days of screening, the jury list consisting of seven men and five women was finalized, and they would ultimately decide whether the defendant was guilty and if he was guilty, whether he should be sentenced to death.

12 June 2019

On the first day of the trial of the conviction stage, the prosecution disclosed the details of the suspects crime, and the defense lawyer admitted for the first time that the suspect was responsible for Zhang Yingyings death.

Interpretation 1

Why did the defendant admit the murder at this time?

The main purpose is to win a non-death sentence.

Deng Juting, an associate professor at the Law School of Renmin University in New York and a researcher at the National Institute of Development and Strategy, told Beijing News that there are two stages in the death penalty sentence in the United States: conviction and sentencing, i.e. first, the defendant should be convicted of intentional homicide, and then, whether the defendant has aggravated circumstances of death penalty or not should be determined. u3002 Cristensons defense attorney at this time admitted that the defendant should be responsible for Zhang Yingyings death. There may be 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 the issue of whether to kill again is entangled, it will arouse the disgust of the jury, which will be detrimental to the defendant at the sentencing stage.

Deng said that although the defense has admitted that the defendant should be responsible for Zhang Yingyings death, it has not admitted all the accusations of the prosecution. Their main purpose is to fight for a non-death sentence.

Deng believes that the main concern after Zhang Yingyings case is that the defense admits that the defendant is responsible for the death, but will seek a non-death sentence, so they will vigorously refute the evidence put forward by the prosecution to convince the jury that Christensen should not be sentenced to death; and the prosecution will provide a large amount of evidence to prove to the jury that Christensen has the aggravating sentiment that he should be sentenced to death penalty. Festival.

Interpretation 2

What is the purpose of pleading not guilty to murder?

Intention to deny the aggravating circumstances of death penalty

Although Christensens defense attorney said in his opening statement that the defendant was responsible for Zhang Yingyings death, he still did not change his position of defending innocence.

According to ABC reports, in the previous trial, although Christensen insisted on innocence, the defense did not deny that the police had caught the wrong person. The 12-day opening statement proves that the defenses aim is not to win a verdict of innocence, but to convince the public jury to exempt Christensen from death.

In this regard, Deng Quting analysis said that this is not in fact contradictory. The defense would like to express the view that although Christensen killed Zhang Yingying, he should not be sentenced to death.

In fact, in his opening remarks, the defense lawyer repeatedly stressed that Christensen was at a low point in his life, including his ex-wifes divorce, his girlfriends being with another man on the day of the crime, 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 these problems facing Christensen were to emphasize that the defendant was not aiming at Zhangs long-term premeditated killing, and thus deny one of the aggravating circumstances that could lead to the death penalty.

Suspect Christensen. Information Picture/Visual China

Interpretation 3

Illinois has abolished the death penalty. Is it possible to sentence the defendant to death?

The Federal Court may propose the death penalty.

Zhang Yingyings family legal aid lawyer Wang Zhidong introduced that presumption of innocence is an important principle in American criminal justice, that is, before the end of the conviction trial, the accused can not be assumed guilty. Under this principle, the burden of proof lies entirely with the prosecution, which must produce sufficient evidence to prove the other partys crime. Although the other party can also submit its own evidence, it only needs to refute the validity of the prosecutions evidence without proving its innocence.

At the same time, because the consequences of criminal sanctions are extremely serious, the most stringent standard of proof applicable to the prosecution is to exclude reasonable doubt. Jurors are required to conduct a careful and fair analysis of all evidence from the perspective of a rational person, and to judge whether the evidence submitted by the prosecution and the facts presented by the prosecution can convince the jury that the suspect is guilty from the perspective of rational and common sense suspicion. If the jury is convinced that the charges are correct, it must be found guilty; if the jury believes that there is any possibility of innocence, it must consider the suspicion in the interests of the suspect and decide not to be guilty.

Wang Zhidong said that in the U.S. federal law, the possible penalty for the death penalty of kidnapping is death penalty or life imprisonment.

In fact, Illinois has abolished the death penalty since 2011, according to ABC. Christensen became the first defendant in the state to face death penalty charges from federal prosecutors.

Deng explained that Christensen was currently tried in the Federal Court of Peoria, Illinois, and not in the state court, so he could be sentenced to death. Deng said that the United States has two court systems, one is the state court system and the other is the federal court system. Although many states, including Illinois, have abolished the death penalty, the federal court still retains the death penalty. Zhang Yingyings case is a complaint filed by the Federal Court, so the death penalty can be imposed.

Follow-up

The familys greatest wish is to find Zhang Yingying and take her home.

On the morning of June 13, Beijing Time, Wang Zhidong, a legal aid lawyer for Zhang Yingyings family members, confirmed to reporters in the Beijing News that the defense lawyer admitted that the suspect Christensen had caused Zhang Yingyings death. Regarding why the defense lawyer made this statement, Wang Zhidong said that it was a strategy to try to exempt Christensen from death penalty. Christensen did not plead guilty, he and his lawyers did not admit any cruel details of the crime he committed, and the nature of the court trial is still the conviction stage has not changed.

Wang Zhidong introduced that prosecutor Millers opening statement lasted 45 minutes, describing in detail the whole process of Christensens crime, the means are extremely cruel and appalling. But Wang Zhidong also said that the opening statement is not evidence, and the details of these charges will be proved one by one by the witnesses and evidence provided by the prosecution in the next trial, We must realize that this is only the first day of the conviction stage. Since Christensen does not plead guilty, he needs to go through the necessary trial procedures and finally convict him.

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 known that the suspect has inflicted harm on Yingying by such cruel means, and Yingyings family is very angry, painful and unacceptable. They hope that the criminals can be brought to justice and sentenced to death as soon as possible. At the same time, their greatest wish from beginning to end is to find Yingying and take her home.

Return visit

Zhang Yingyings Missing Land Builds Memorial Garden

On June 12, local time, Zhang Yingyings case was opened by both sides. On the second anniversary of the disappearance of Zhang Yingying, a Chinese scholar, in the United States, reporters from the Beijing News visited the residence of the suspect Christensen, the station where Zhang Yingying left on the day of her disappearance and the place where she met the suspect. Reporters found that the suspects apartment, Zhang Yingying suspected of being imprisoned, has now become the office of the District Management Office.

At the station where Zhang Yingying was taken away by the suspect, a small garden was built in memory of her. Reporters at the scene saw that the memorial garden is not large, planted a variety of plants, but also dedicated to Zhang Yingying erected a monument, Zhang Yingyings relatives, friends and classmates on the monument covered with their own handprints, insert a small sign with their names, in order to commemorate Zhang Yingying.

At the bus stop where Zhang Yingying was waiting for the bus, under a big tree, there are still all kinds of flowers and photographs of Zhang Yingying and her favorite dolls.

Source: Responsible Editor of Beijing Newspaper: Chengyu_NBJ11143