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Jennifer Hudson family murder trial: Evidence takes spotlight

April 24, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • This courtroom sketch shows Jennifer Hudson and her fiance, David Otunga, looking on in the courtroom during the first day of William Balfour's murder trial at the Cook County Criminal Court in Chicago, on Monday.
This courtroom sketch shows Jennifer Hudson and her fiance, David Otunga,… (Tom Gianni / AP Photo )

When Jennifer Hudson took the stand Monday in the trial of the man charged with killing her mother, brother and nephew, she was in a well-accustomed arena: center stage. And, as the first witness for the prosecution, the Academy Award-winning actress delivered a teary, riveting performance.

But Hudson was in the audience on Tuesday, and the evidentiary phase of the trial began in earnest, with Chicago police Sgt. David Dowling describing the gruesome scene when he found the bodies.

William Balfour, the ex-husband of Hudson’s sister, is charged with murdering three members of the Hudson family in October 2008. All the victims — Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson; brother Jason Hudson and 7-year-old nephew Julian King — were shot.

The prosecution maintains that Balfour acted out of jealousy.

With no witnesses, the nitty-gritty of the case will be the evidence, starting with cellphone records and security-camera footage to establish Balfour’s whereabouts. The defense is hoping to use other scientific evidence such as DNA testing to prove that Balfour couldn’t have used the murder weapon, a .45-caliber silver-and-black handgun.

On Monday, Hudson and her sister, Julia, set the scene. Hudson described how the family opposed Balfour’s marriage to Julia. Hudson’s more than 30 minutes of testimony was emotional and often tearful.

The prosecution played the recording of the 911 call that Julia Hudson made after discovering her mother’s body.

“Someone killed my mother!... There’s a bullet hole in the front door,” Julia Hudson is heard saying, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Toward the end of the tape, Julia Hudson yelled, “My momma! My momma!” Dispatchers told her that ambulances were on their way, and she screamed, “Please!”

While the tape was played Monday, Jennifer Hudson bowed her head, sniffing and holding a tissue to her face. In all, she was on the stand two hours.

On cross–examination, public defender Amy Thompson asked Julia Hudson repeatedly why she never called police or filed for an order of protection despite months of what she said were repeated threats by Balfour to kill her family and her, the Associated Press reported.

“This is a threat against your entire family, right, Miss Hudson?” Thompson asked. Julia Hudson answered softly, “Yes.”

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.

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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