PEORIA (AP) — The attorney for a former University of Illinois doctoral student has told jurors that the defense is admitting that their client kidnapped and killed a visiting Chinese scholar in 2017.
George Tesseff said in his opening statement Wednesday that he realized it was exceptional for a defense attorney to say his client committed the crime.
But he said that 29-year-old Brendt Christensen was “on trial for his life,” alluding to the possibility of a death sentence if he is found guilty of kidnapping and killing 26-year-old Yingying Zhang.
While the defense agreed Christensen kidnapped and killed Zhang, Tesseff said they took issue with prosecutors’ explanation of “how and why.”
Defense teams in death penalty trials often have the goal of ensuring their client doesn’t get the death penalty and so their focus is on that and not on winning a not-guilty verdict.