CHICAGO — The trial of the man charged with murdering three of Jennifer Hudson‘s family members resumed Tuesday with the Oscar-winner shutting her eyes as a police officer described finding her dead family members.
Hudson sat next to her fiance as prosecutors shifted their focus to presenting crime scene evidence in the case against her former brother-in-law, William Balfour (illustrated left).
Hudson hung her head and shut her eyes as Chicago police Sgt. David Dowling described finding her mother’s body sprawled in the living room with gunshot wounds through her back.
Hudson didn’t move as Dowling described finding her brother dead in his bed of a gunshot wound to the head. His sheets were pulled up as if he had been sleeping.
Balfour was estranged from his wife, Hudson’s sister, at the time of the killings. He has pleaded not guilty to murdering Hudson’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.
Hudson, wearing a black top and green skirt, sat in a fourth row bench well within view of jurors Tuesday. Her sister and Balfour’s ex-wife, Julia Hudson, sat on her left.
Chicago prosecutors created a buzz Monday by calling the Oscar winner and “American Idol” finalist as their first witness, but on Tuesday they began getting down to the nitty-gritty of their case.
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With no surviving witnesses to the murders, prosecutors must offer overwhelming circumstantial evidence that Balfour committed the grisly crime on Oct. 24, 2008. They are expected to introduce evidence in the next few days that includes cellphone records and security-camera footage that place Balfour in the area of the killings, because he denies he was there.
Another challenge will be tying Balfour to the alleged murder weapon, a silver and black .45-calibre handgun that sat Monday on a stack of papers at the prosecution table in plain view of jurors and Jennifer Hudson.
Public defender Amy Thompson told jurors during her opening statement that DNA found on the gun didn’t match Balfour, which “absolutely, positively” excludes him as the killer. But prosecutors claim that Balfour targeted the family in a horrific act of vindictiveness against his ex-wife.
Shortly after Thompson and prosecutors laid out their cases, Jennifer Hudson took the witness stand in sometimes tearful, gut-wrenching testimony. Hudson, who was in Florida at the time of the shootings, spoke of her family and her reaction to her sister, Julia Hudson, telling her in 2006 that she was marrying Balfour.
“None of us wanted her to marry him,” the 30-year-old said, her voice cracking as she struggled to hold back tears.
Later, Julia Hudson described how Balfour repeatedly threatened her and her family after she rejected his pleas in May 2008.
“He said, `If you leave me, you will be the last to die. I’ll kill your family first,’” she said, her voice quivering.
Under cross-examination, she acknowledged she was still having sex with Balfour days before the slayings.
The killings happened the day after her birthday. Prosecutors believe that Balfour became enraged by balloons he saw at the home that he thought were from her new boyfriend.
Prosecutors said Balfour went inside the three-story house around 9 a.m. and shot Hudson’s mother, 57-year-old Darnell Donerson, in the living room, then shot her 29-year-old brother, Jason Hudson, twice in the head as he lay in bed.
Investigators allege he then drove off in Jason Hudson’s sport utility vehicle with 7-year-old Julian inside, and later shot the boy in the head as he lay behind a front seat.
If convicted of at least two of the murder counts, Balfour would face a mandatory life sentence.