Editorial | Good decision

Editorial | Good decision

The judge in the Brendt Christensen case has made accommodations so family and friends of Yingying Zhang can view the trial in Urbana.

The news that the June trial of accused murderer Brendt Christensen will be streamed from a Peoria courtroom to a viewing room at the Urbana federal courthouse is welcome indeed.

U.S. Judge James Shadid announced the measure as an accommodation to the family and friends of Yingying Zhang, the visiting University of Illinois scholar from China whom authorities have alleged was kidnapped and killed in June 2017 by Christensen.

Shadid, who presides at the Peoria federal courthouse, was assigned last year to take over the case from U.S. Judge Colin Bruce, who presides in Urbana.

That led to Shadid's decision to move the trial from Urbana to Peoria, which was a disappointment to the victim's family. The victim's family has been warmly embraced by Champaign-Urbana residents, and traveling to Peoria for the trial would be a hardship. Shadid wisely recognized the family's concerns, resulting in his decision to take extra measures to make certain Zhang's family will have the option of either remaining in Urbana to watch the multi-week trial or traveling to Peoria to witness it in person.

This is a unique set of circumstances in the federal courts. While cameras are permitted in many state courtrooms, including in Illinois, they are not permitted in federal courts.

In some circumstances involving child witnesses, a child's testimony in federal court will be given in one courtroom and the images and audio transmitted to the courtroom where the trial is being held.

In this case, people will be allowed to watch in a viewing room as opposed to a courtroom. However, Shadid said the traditional rules of decorum will apply in the viewing room.

It remains to be seen how many people wish to watch the trial in person or from a viewing room. But several of the hearings held in Urbana have drawn crowds so large that many of those present, including members of the news media, were not able to find a seat in the courtroom.

The throngs have included Chinese students attending the UI, as well as representatives of the news media from China. Given that reality, Shadid's order will accommodate more than just members of Zhang's family and rightfully so.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
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