More than three years after the horrific murders that stunned a nation, on Monday (April 23) the man accused of murdering three members of Oscar-winning singer Jennifer Hudson's family went on trial. According to the Associated Press, in opening statements a prosecutor was expected to tell jurors that William Balfour was sent into a jealous rage when he saw a balloon bouquet arrive at Hudson's childhood home that he believed was from estranged wife Julia Hudson's new boyfriend.
Balfour is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the October, 24, 2008 killings, which took the lives of Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, 29-year-old brother, Jason Hudson and seven-year-old nephew, Julian King. Prosecutors were expected to tell the jury that Balfour believed the balloons were from Julia Hudson's new beau and that when she drove away from the home she saw Balfour in her rear view mirror still lingering outside.
According to prosecutors, Balfour went inside the house a short time later and used a .45-caliber handgun to kill Donerson in the living room, then shoot Jason Hudson twice in the head as he lay in his bed. After allegedly fleeing the scene in Jason Hudson's SUV with Julia's son, Julian, in the vehicle, Balfour allegedly shot the boy nicknamed Juice Box in the head; Julian's body was found in the abandoned vehicle several miles away after a three-day search.
The challenges faced by prosecutors in the case are that there were no eyewitnesses to the murders and it's not clear what physical evidence exists to link Balfour to the slaying. Prosecutors have said gunshot residue was found on the steering wheel of Balfour's car, but the defense has said the other evidence so far is circumstantial.
A gun that Balfour allegedly stole months earlier from Jason Hudson was recovered in a lot near where the SUV was found and will be offered up as the murder weapon. Details emerged earlier this year about the incidents leading up to the murders , including allegations that Balfour had previously threatened Julia because he thought she was having an affair with a co-worker.
The AP noted that while evidence is scarce, establishing a motive for the killing is not as difficult. High-school dropout and former Gangster Disciple Balfour had allegedly threatened to kill the Hudson family at least two dozen times, beginning in 2008 when he moved out of the house.
Lead prosecutor James McKay says that the day before the killings Balfour told Julia, "If you ever leave me, I'm going to kill you, but I'm going to kill your family first." Hudson said she didn't take him seriously because Balfour hadn't acted on numerous previous threats. If convicted of at least two of the murders, Balfour, 30, who was on parole at the time of the killings after serving a nearly seven-year stretch for attempted murder and carjacking, would face a mandatory life sentence.
Prosecutors have said that Balfour claims he was not near the Hudson home at the time of the killings, but are expected to offer up cellphone records that allegedly prove he was in the area when two teenage neighbors who live nearby heard gunshots.
Jennifer Hudson is expected 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.