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Jennifer Hudson Family Murder Trial: Prosecutors turn to evidence on day 2 against William Balfour

In this courtroom sketch, singer and actress Jennifer Hudson testifies Monday, April 23, 2012, in Chicago at the murder trial of William Balfour, charged in the October 2008 killings of her mother, brother and nephew. Looking on is Cook County Judge Charles Burns.
AP Photo/Tom Gianni

(CBS/AP) CHICAGO - Chicago prosecutors will turn to evidence Tuesday, after calling Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson to the stand on Monday as their first witness during the trial of William Balfour, the man accused of killing her mother, brother and nephew in Oct. 2008.

With no surviving witnesses to the murders, the prosecution must offer overwhelming circumstantial evidence that Balfour, the ex-husband of Hudson's sister, committed the crimes. 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 murders, since 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 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.

Prosecutors allege 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. Wearing a simple, all-black dress, the singer-actress broke down at one point, dabbing tears as she testified just yards away from Balfour.

Hudson 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. Asked later if she was ever friends with Balfour, whom she knew from junior high school, Hudson answered with disgust.

"Never," she said firmly. "I tried to keep my distance from William Balfour."

Prosecutors then called her sister to the stand and began playing a recording of the 911 call Julia Hudson made after discovering their mother's bloodied body.

"Oh my God, oh my God," she is heard yelling at a dispatcher, who tells her to stop screaming because he can't understand her. "My momma, my momma!"

Balfour, who pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder, slumped in his chair and kept his eyes fixed on his former wife, whose divorce from Balfour was finalized just last year.

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.

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.

Complete coverage of the Hudson family murders on Crimesider

  • Crimesider Staff

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