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Life sentence in Jennifer Hudson family slayings

The man convicted of gunning down the mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew of Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Hudson was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday.

Hudson, who attended every day of William Balfour’s trial earlier this year, sat next to her sister at the hearing and at one point dabbed her eyes with a tissue.

The sentencing hearing came a little more than two months after a jury convicted Balfour in the Oct. 24, 2008, shooting deaths of Hudson’s 57-year-old mother Darnell Donerson, her 29-year-old brother Jason Hudson and her 7-year-old nephew Julian King. The judge sentenced Balfour to three terms of life in prison plus 120 years on other charges.

“You have the heart of an arctic night,” Cook County Circuit Judge Charles Burns told Balfour. “Your soul is as barren as dark space.”


Guilty verdict in Hudson murders

William Balfour, the 31-year-old former brother-in-law of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, was found guilty of murdering Hudson’s mother, brother, and 7-year-old nephew. The jury took three days of deliberations to reach a guilty verdict, and Balfour now faces a mandatory life sentence in jail.

Balfour had been married to but separated from Hudson’s sister, Julia, at the time of the shootings, and the prosecution tried to prove that he had threatened to kill the Hudson family dozens of times while attempting to reconcile with her. “He said, ‘If you leave me, you will be the last to die. I’ll kill your family first,'” Julia Hudson testified.

Balfour had pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in the October 2008 killings. Jennifer Hudson also testified for the prosecution and attended all 11 days of the trial.

Read more:
Lawyers ready closing arguments in Hudson murder trial
Judge releases Jennifer Hudson’s sister’s 911 call
Jennifer Hudson hears painful testimony
Jennifer Hudson testifies, now evidence becomes focus in murder trial

No verdict yet in Hudson murder trial

Jurors finished a second day of deliberations Thursday without a verdict in the trial of the man charged with murdering Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew. The jury is scheduled to resume deliberations Friday morning in the trial of Hudson’s former brother-in-law, William Balfour. Judge Charles Burns has ordered the jurors sequestered at a hotel to ensure they won’t view media coverage of the trial.

Balfour, who turned 31 on Thursday, pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in the October 2008 slayings. The former gang member faces a mandatory life prison sentence if he’s convicted on all charges.

Prosecutors say Balfour murdered Hudson’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in an act of vengeance because his estranged wife at the time, Hudson’s sister Julia Hudson, refused to reconcile with him. READ FULL STORY

Lawyers ready closing arguments in Hudson murder trial

Two weeks of expert witnesses, grisly crime-scene photos and tearful testimony by Jennifer Hudson culminates Wednesday in closing arguments at the trial of the man accused of killing three of the Oscar-winner’s relatives.

The prosecution is likely to argue that overwhelming circumstantial evidence presented by 83 witnesses during their 11-day case proves Hudson’s former brother-in-law, William Balfour, killed the star’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.
The defense — which began and then closed their case Tuesday after a mere 30 minutes — is expected to note that no witnesses tied Balfour directly to the killings and that prosecutors haven’t met their burden of proving Balfour was the killer. The defense theorized in their opening that Hudson’s brother’s alleged crack-cocaine dealing might have led to the killings. They offered no testimony to support that theory but could still try to argue that it is a credible alternative explanation for the slayings.

After the closings, jurors will withdraw to a back room at the 80-year-old courthouse to begin deliberating on a verdict. READ FULL STORY

Court denies Jennifer Hudson receiving special treatment

Jennifer Hudson 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 normally off-limits judge’s chambers. The Oscar winner, recently named one of the world’s 50 most beautiful women by People magazine, slips from the courtroom during particularly gory testimony.

Do the accommodations for the actress and singer add up to special 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.” READ FULL STORY

Judge releases Jennifer Hudson's sister's 911 call

Moments after finding her mother’s body, the sister of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson sobs as she pleads for help in a disturbing 911 recording released to the news media Monday.

“Oh my God…. Somebody’s killed my mother,” Julia Hudson says, while a dispatcher tries to get her to calm down and repeat her address. “She’s on the floor and I see blood coming from her head.”

A judge in Chicago released the tape after a request by the Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times Media and The Associated Press. The tape was played in open court last week during the trial of William Balfour, who is accused of killing the actress’ mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.

Prosecutors tried to bar the tape’s release because of the sensitive nature of the case and because the jury has not begun deliberating.

But Cook County Judge Charles Burns noted in his ruling that the jury has been warned not to watch or read news reports about the case. Burns said there’s no evidence Balfour’s due process rights would be harmed.

On the tape, Julia Hudson begs a dispatcher for help after finding her mother shot dead inside the family’s home on Chicago’s South Side.

Hudson’s horror and confusion are apparent on the tape as she wonders aloud, “Where my brother at? What happened?”

She also cries in panic that she doesn’t know the location of her son, 7-year-old Julian.

“I don’t know where Julian is or nothing and I’m here by myself,” she says. She tells the dispatcher she “just got home from work” and “there’s a bullet hole in our front door.”

Balfour has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges in the October 2008 killings.

Jennifer Hudson trial continues as Oscar winner hears painful testimony about slain family

The trial of the man charged with murdering three of Jennifer Hudson’s family members resumed Tuesday with the Oscar winner shutting her eyes as a police officer described finding her dead family members.

Hudson sat next to her fiancé as prosecutors shifted their focus to presenting crime scene evidence in the case against her former brother-in-law, William Balfour.

Hudson hung her head and shut her eyes as Chicago police Sgt. David Dowling described finding her mother’s body sprawled in the living room with gunshot wounds through her back.

Hudson didn’t move as Dowling described finding her brother dead in his bed of a gunshot wound to the head. His sheets were pulled up as if he had been sleeping.

Balfour was estranged from his wife, Hudson’s sister, at the time of the killings. He has pleaded not guilty to murdering Hudson’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.

Hudson, wearing a black top and green skirt, sat in a fourth row bench well within view of jurors Tuesday. Her sister and Balfour’s ex-wife, Julia Hudson, sat on her left. READ FULL STORY

Jennifer Hudson testifies, now evidence becomes focus in murder trial

Chicago prosecutors created a buzz by calling Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson as their first witness during the trial of the man accused of killing her mother, brother and nephew. But the hard part starts Tuesday, when they’ll have to get down to the nitty-gritty of their case.

With no surviving witnesses to the murders, prosecutors must offer overwhelming circumstantial evidence that William Balfour, the ex-husband of Hudson’s sister, committed the grisly crime on Oct. 24, 2008. 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 killings, 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, who testified — and attracted a large crowd of national and local media — earlier in the day. READ FULL STORY

Jennifer Hudson in tears during murder trial testimony

Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson broke down in tears Monday while testifying at the trial of the man accused of killing her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in a jealous rage four years ago.

Hudson was the first witness called after prosecutors and attorneys for William Balfour finished their opening statements. During her brief but emotional testimony, she told jurors her family didn’t want her sister to marry Balfour and she spoke about the last time she saw her family members.


Trial begins today for man accused of killing Jennifer Hudson's family

A gift of balloons. That, prosecutors contend, is what sent singer Jennifer Hudson’s then brother-in-law into such a jealous rage that he shot dead her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in a horrific act of vindictiveness in the home where the Hollywood star grew up.

A prosecutor is expected to tell jurors that Monday during opening statements at the trial of William Balfour. He is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the Oct. 24, 2008, slayings that generated nationwide headlines because of Hudson’s fame. READ FULL STORY

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