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Student Accused in Kidnap, Torture, Death of Chinese Scholar

A hearing is scheduled in the case of a former physics student accused of kidnapping and killing a University of Illinois scholar from China whose lawyers say they want the presiding judge to recuse himself in the death-penalty case.

Monday’s hearing in U.S. District Court in Urbana is expected to address the recusal issue and other matters.

A two-page filing on Wednesday didn’t spell out why Brendt Christensen’s attorneys think Colin Stirling Bruce should step aside. And neither defense attorney Robert Tucker nor the U.S. attorney’s office would comment.

Prosecutors announced Jan. 19 they’ll seek capital punishment, saying Christensen allegedly tortured Yingying Zhang before killing her.

Monday’s hearing could also address defense attorneys’ request for a trial to be pushed into mid-2019. Prosecutors want the trial this October.

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