Christiansen Trial Begins Amid Questions Concerning Star Witness

tertia-van-rensburg-37121-copy-300x224The trial of Brendt Christiansen, the man accused of murdering Chinese exchange student Yingying Zhang, has begun. Amid claims that there is surveillance evidence showing Christiansen admitting Zhang into his car the night she was murdered, the prosecution will introduce evidence gathered by his longtime girlfriend, who wore a wire for federal investigators, against Christiansen at trial. She will claim that Christiansen repeatedly indicated to her that he wanted to be a serial killer and made other inflammatory proclamations.

Defense attorneys, however, are questioning her sanity and her competency to bear witness against her former boyfriend. They are attempting to subpoena psychiatric evaluations of the former girlfriend citing that it is relevant to the quality of her testimony. Additionally, the witness, referred to only as T.B., will provide evidence that she introduced him to the “BDSM lifestyle” which vaguely translates into fetishists who enjoy bondage and domination. 

“Damaged and Unstable”

Christiansen’s attorneys claim that T.B. is severely “damaged and unstable” and required mental health treatment multiple times throughout the course of her life. Christiansen’s lawyers characterize T.B. as panicked and heavily medicated during the course of their relationship and maintain that her psychiatric problems directly relate to the credibility of her testimony.\

Meanwhile, there is a case to be made that this is witness intimidation. Attorneys for Christiansen want to air all of the witness’s dirty laundry and personal medical history as a means of both damaging her credibility and causing her to clam up on the stand. 

Nonetheless, there is some evidence that T.B. communicated with Christiansen at some point stating that she could not remember “all of last night” and that she was having “short-term memory issues” related to dysphoria. 

Government Disclosure of Communications between T.B. and Investigators

The defense also claims that the government is hiding information related to T.B.’s mental health issues and refusing to disclose them to the defense. If this is the case, and it is later determined that the government did have access to this information, any conviction would be vacated on appeal. 

Since Christiansen was there for all of the communications, one would imagine that, if he is telling the truth, then the government would have access to such evidence. This includes claims that his former girlfriend told him that she had Stockholm Syndrome and it affected her brain.

How Strong is the Case Against Christiansen?

Much of the case relies on the prosecution’s narrative that Christiansen was a wannabe serial killer who was just starting to get a feel for killing. That evidence relies on testimony gleaned from wiretaps and testimony provided by T.B. It is not apparent what evidence is on the tape and what will be provided based on testimony alone. If T.B. comes unglued on the stand, it could seriously hurt the prosecution’s case. If she does not, then jurors are likely to sympathize with her and accept her testimony. Meanwhile, police have yet to find a body.

Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney in Chicago

If you have been accused of a major crime, David Freidberg, Attorney at Law will ensure that the prosecution proves every element of their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Give us a call at (312) 560-7100 to set up an appointment today.

(image courtesy of Tertia van Rensburg)