Jennifer Hudson Family Murder Trial: Judge's liaison says Oscar-winner gets no special treatment
Jennifer Hudson reportedly arrives each day at the trial of the man accused of killing three of her close family members with her personal bodyguards in tow. She uses a secret entrance to elude photographers, eats in private and waits for proceedings to start in the normally off-limits judge's chambers.
Do the accommodations for the actress and singer add up to unique star treatment?
"Absolutely not," said Irv Miller, a judge's liaison at the trial, which is into its second full week.
Most accommodations, he insisted, are courtesies routinely extended to victims having to endure the grim ordeal of sitting through a murder trial. Others, he conceded, are necessary because Hudson - a 2004 "American Idol" finalist and 2007 Oscar winner for her role in "Dreamgirls" - is a celebrity.
"Star status means things have to be a little different," he said. "You just can't have a celebrity walking about, going to the cafeteria - people running up to ask for autographs."
Others, however, say the courthouse has gone too far. "It's outrageous," Manny Medrano, a Los Angeles-based defense attorney and former television reporter who regularly comments on high-profile cases. "It sends the wrong to signal to the world - that if you are a celebrity, you won't be treated like everyone."
Hudson was the first person to testify in the prosecution's case against William Balfour, who has pleaded not guilty to murdering Hudson's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew. Prosecutors say he shot Hudson's family members in a jealousy-fueled act of vengeance against his estranged wife, Hudson's sister.
Hudson, 30, has appeared in court each day since testimony began last week. She is also expected to attend each day until it ends.
Miller insists that, in most respects, Hudson is treated like anyone else.
For instance, prosecutors told Hudson before they exhibited grisly photos of her relatives' bullet-riddled bodies so she could leave the room. Such forewarning is standard at murder trials to avoid putting victims' relatives through unnecessary trauma.
The way she's getting into the building is a far cry from red-carpet treatment. One possible entrance is via a tunnel connecting the courthouse to the 8-square-block jail looming next door. It would be an unsettling experience for anyone, said Steve Bogira, who wrote "Courtroom 302" about the complex and is one of few reporters to have gone into the bowels of the building.
"It was dark and dank, and deputies said it was not uncommon to see rats down there," Bogira recalled, adding it has been about a decade since he was there. "It would be depressing for anyone. A paint job wouldn't make it less so."
Regardless, Hudson's stealth entrance has been a particular source of frustration to photographers.
More than 100 journalists were accredited to cover the trial. Their primary goal is to snap a money shot of Hudson arriving or leaving the courthouse.
They staked out the complex in vain, but after a few days, most packed up and left.