jury being seated in hudson family murder trial
Chicago, Apr 10: The final four jurors were to be selected Tuesday for the Chicago trial of the man accused of killing three of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson's family members.
Fourteen people were selected Monday to be among the 12 jurors and six alternates after nine hours of interviewing potential jurors one by one. Cook County Circuit Judge Charles Burns and attorneys were looking to weed out anyone who might be swayed by the 30-year-old Hudson's celebrity.
William Balfour, 30, is charged with murdering Hudson's mother, brother and nephew in 2008, and faces a maximum life prison sentence if convicted.
Hudson's name came up frequently during Monday's questioning of potential jurors, though most insisted that despite what they knew about her or heard in the media about the case, they could consider only the evidence presented at the trial. Testimony begins April 23.
One woman in her 30s, a salesperson at Xerox, was dismissed Monday after she told those assembled, including Balfour, that she is a fan of Hudson's and would be unable to give the defendant a fair trial.
Only a few people said they knew little to nothing about Hudson. One woman in her 30s picked for the jury said she had heard of Hudson but had no idea what she looked like.
Among those selected to serve on the panel were several people who said they had relatives who were murdered and a man who said that 25 years ago, an attacker grabbed his sister's purse at a bus stop and slashed her throat, badly injuring her.
Also chosen were a Mexican-American truck driver who said he sometimes has trouble speaking English, an unemployed women who lives three blocks from the courthouse and a customer representative at a chocolate company who responded when asked about her hobbies that, “I like to sleep, then I like to eat, then I sleep again.”
Among those dismissed were a man whose neighbors were police and FBI agents, a Chicago school teacher who was once a character witness for a student charged with murder, and an unemployed widow whose nephew recently killed his pregnant wife.
“It's way too close to home,” she said when asked if she could hear the Balfour trial dispassionately. “It's just that there's a child involved, and I can't get past that.”
Hudson, who was not in Chicago at the time her family members were killed, told investigators she was in touch with her mother almost every day and became concerned when she couldn't reach her by late morning on Oct. 24, 2008.
Hours later, the bodies of her mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and brother, Jason Hudson, 29, were found shot to death in the family home. The body of her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, was found days later in a sport utility vehicle several miles (kilometers) away.
Balfour's lawyers have said the evidence is circumstantial. But prosecutors say the proof includes gun residue found on his car's steering wheel, and that testimony will show he lied about his whereabouts the day of the killings.