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Tailei Qi appears before superior court, will undergo second evaluation on capability to proceed

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Tailei Qi, the suspect accused of the first-degree murder of UNC professor Zijie Yan on Aug. 28, made his second appearance at the Orange County Courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. This was Qi’s first appearance in superior court.

Tailei Qi, the suspect charged with the first-degree murder of UNC professor Zijie Yan on Aug. 28, made his second court appearance and his first in superior court at the Orange County Courthouse on Tuesday morning. The clerk of the superior court has not yet received an indictment.

Qi has been charged with both first-degree murder and having a gun on educational property. The first-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of the death penalty and a minimum sentence of life without parole. District Attorney Jeff Nieman said after Qi's first appearance that he would not be seeking the death penalty.

The defense will make a motion later on Tuesday that Qi is not competent to proceed with further appearances. Qi has been evaluated by a doctor sought out by the defense, the defense lawyer said, and the report will be filed under seal.

The state moved for a state-led evaluation on Qi's capacity to proceed at Central Regional Hospital, which the judge ordered to be recorded following a request from the defense, despite concerns that it might impact the work of the medical professionals doing the evaluation.

Nieman said after the hearing that this second evaluation is commonplace.

Tailei Qi, the suspect accused of the first-degree murder of UNC professor Zijie Yan on Aug. 28, made his second appearance at the Orange County Courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. Qi spoke in court for the first time since his arrest.

Qi spoke in court for the first time since his arrest. He pleaded for new counsel and said the second medical evaluation was not necessary. Allen Baddour, the judge presiding over the case, urged Qi not to speak without conferring with his counsel — Qi spoke to the judge anyway.

Tailei Qi, the suspect accused of the first-degree murder of UNC professor Zijie Yan on Aug. 28, made his second appearance at the Orange County Courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. Qi pleaded for new counsel and said that a second medical evaluation was not necessary.

The defense also requested a preservation motion, which sets up the preservation of evidence in a case that involves many agencies. Nieman said this motion is also fairly common.

Qi, a Chinese citizen in the United States on an educational visa, is currently being held without bond in the Orange County Jail.

UNC's campus was put under lockdown at 1:04 p.m. on Aug. 28, shortly after a 911 call reported shots fired at Caudill Laboratories, UNC Police chief Brian James said at a press conference that evening. Upon arrival at Caudill Labs, police found that Yan had been shot.

Qi was booked by UNC Police into the Orange County Detention Center in Hillsborough at 12:38 a.m. on Aug. 29, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office custody report. Yan worked in the UNC Applied Physical Sciences Department, the same department that Qi studied in as a graduate student.

Qi's next court appearance is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14, pending his second medical evaluation.

Tailei Qi, the suspect accused of the first-degree murder of UNC professor Zijie Yan on Aug. 28, made his second appearance at the Orange County Courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. This was Qi’s first appearance in superior court.

@ethanehorton1 | @wslivingston_

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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Ethan E. Horton

Ethan E. Horton is the 2023-24 city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a city & state assistant editor and as the 2023 summer managing editor. Ethan is a senior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and political science, with a minor in history.


Walker Livingston

Walker Livingston is the 2024 enterprise managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer city & state editor and assistant city & state editor. Walker is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and American studies, with a minor in data science.