The Daily Illini

Alleged kidnapper Brendt Christensen’s defense asks judge to recuse himself

Brendt Christensen’s defense team has filed a motion asking for U.S. District Judge Colin Stirling Bruce to recuse himself from the case. The intentions of the motion have not yet been made publicly clear.

Christensen, former University graduate student, is accused of kidnapping and killing visiting Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang in June 2017.

In documents filed Wednesday, the defense implies there are grounds for Stirling’s recusal in court documents not made available to the public. The filing does not elaborate further.

Christensen’s lawyers also argue they will need until June 2019 to prepare for trial, citing the amount of evidence defense attorneys must go through with less manpower than federal prosecutors have available.

The prosecution holds a trial is needed sooner and wants it for October 2018.

According to the defense, efforts to defend their client would include a multigenerational analysis of Christensen’s family tree, genealogy and more. The defense cites New York epidemiologist David Freedman, who claimed events such as low birth weight are connected to later problems with mental illness.

Both sides agreed to a trial date of Feb. 24, after prosecutors announced their intention to seek the death penalty in January. The prosecution notes the possibility of the death penalty adds a new layer of complexity to the case.

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