Jury selection continued on Monday (April 9) in the trial of William Balfour, who is accused of murdering three members of Oscar-winning singer Jennifer Hudson’s family. It is expected to take three days to find the 12 jurors and six alternates for the trial from among the 150 prospective jury members and, according to the Chicago Tribune, the shadow of Hudson’s fame could become a factor in the selection.
Balfour is accused of murdering Hudson’s mother (Darnell Donerson), brother (Jason Hudson) and nephew (Julian King) on October 24, 2008 and while the singer has rarely spoken out in public about the tragedy, her fame could have an impact on the proceedings.
The judge in the case, Charles Burns, will attempt to purge the jury pool anyone who might be swayed by the star’s celebrity, while the lawyers on each side will strive to find a mix of deliberators who will favor their arguments, regardless of how they feel about the star.
Balfour, 30, is facing a maximum life sentence if convicted, but Burns warned any would-be jurors who oppose the death penalty that he cannot be put to death because the state of Illinois outlawed capital punishment in 2011.
Testimony is slated to begin on April 23 and officials expect Hudson to attend every day of the trial, which could last a month. She is also on a list of 300 potential witnesses, though it has not yet been confirmed that she will take the stand. Burns also instructed the potential jurors to avoid watching news coverage of the case, though it’s possible they will see Hudson on TV this Thursday, when she will return to sing on “American Idol,” where she finished in seventh place in 2004.
Everyone involved in the case is aware of how Hudson’s presence could sway the trial, which explains why nine out of the 66 questions on the questionnaire filled out by would-be jurors last week were related to her career. Among them was one that asked if they’d ever seen her Oscar-winning turn in the movie “Dreamgirls,” as well as others about her work on television and if they’d ever read books by or about Hudson.
Details emerged recently about the incidents leading up to the murders . At the time her career was peaking, Hudson made a point of calling or texting her mother at home in Chicago every day between 9 and 11 a.m., according to reports. But when she didn’t hear back by late in the morning of October 24, she texted and realized something was wrong when there was no response.
A few hours later, the bodies of her mother and brother were found in the family’s Englewood home, followed three days later by the discovery of her young nephew’s body in a stolen vehicle abandoned on the city’s west side. Balfour was the estranged husband of Hudson’s sister, Julia.