Opening statements from the prosecutors and the defense lawyers in the trial of Brendt Christensen, accused kidnapper and killer of visiting Chinese scholar Zhang Yingying, are expected to start on Wednesday next week, a federal judge in charge of the case said.
Jury selection continued on Thursday from 9 am (1400 GMT) at the federal courthouse in Peoria of Illinois state, after eight more jurors were pre-approved in the previous day.
Hosted by US District Judge James Shadid, the prosecutors and the defense lawyers will first select 70 potential jurors from a pool of more than 470 candidates, and then further pare down the number to 12 jurors and 6 substitute jurors.
The News-Gazette reported on Thursday Shadid said at the court that he expects lawyers to make their opening statements on Wednesday.
Prosecutors said that they may be able to present their case in eight days or less, more quickly than the two weeks they previously said it might take.
According to the arrangement by the federal court, after jury selection, there will be opening statements and witness examination.
Then the prosecutors and the defense lawyers will present closing arguments, which will be the final opportunity for both sides to communicate with the jury. The jury needs to decide if the defendant is guilty or not unanimously.
If the jury unanimously holds that the defendant is guilty, there will be only two penalties: life in prison or death. According to US Federal law, the jury will decide if the death penalty applies to the case.
Zhang, a 26-year-old visiting Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), went missing on June 9, 2017, after getting into a black Saturn Astra about five blocks from where she got off a bus on her way to an apartment complex to sign a lease.
Police arrested 28-year-old Christensen on June 30, 2017, who was a former UIUC doctoral student and charged him with the kidnapping, torturing and killing of Zhang. He pleaded not guilty.