Jurors starting deliberating Wednesday, continuing late into the night without reaching a verdict after sitting through sometimes heated and embittered closing arguments at the Chicago trial of the man accused of murdering singer/actress Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew, reports AP.
Hudson sobbed and dabbed her eyes when prosecutors displayed photos of the bullet-riddled bodies of her three close relatives during closing arguments earlier in the day.
Prosecutors contend Hudson’s former brother-in-law, William Balfour, killed the family members in October 2008 in an act of vengeance against Hudson’s sister, Julia Hudson, to whom he was married but estranged at the time.
The judge at the high-profile trial told jurors they would be sequestered — staying at a nearby hotel overnights until they reached a verdict. They deliberated for more than four hours Wednesday and returned to the courthouse to continue deliberations Thusday.
With no surviving witnesses to present, prosecutors spent two weeks laying out a largely circumstantial case against Balfour, a 30-year-old one-time gang member.
Public defender Amy Thompson seized on that during her closing argument, saying prosecutors had failed to meet their burden of proving Balfour was the killer.
“They know as they sit there that they have failed to prove the case,” Thompson said, almost at a shout. “I am offended,” she went on, “that they would ask you to throw your logic away.”
In a scathing final word to jurors before they began deliberations, lead prosecutor James McKay said for jurors to believe Balfour is innocent they would have to believe he was just unlucky enough to have someone else kill the Hudsons after he himself had threatened to murder them at least 25 times, as witnesses had testified.
“I want to introduce you to William Balfour, the MegaMillions winner of bad luck,” he said. “But Mr. Innocent here did everything a guilty man would do,” including lying about his whereabouts and getting rid of the clothes he wore on the day of the triple murders.
At one point, he walked up to look directly at Balfour from a few feet away. His voice soaring, McKay boomed, “Calling the defendant a dog is an insult to dogs!”
Earlier in the day, prosecutor Jennifer Bagby displayed photographs of the victims smiling for a camera. A second later, she flashed photos of their blooded, bullet-ridden bodies.
“This defendant is the one that made (them) into these images,” Bagby said, glancing back at the photos.
Hudson bent forward, her head on her knee, crying. Her finance, pro wrestler David Otunga, put his arm around the singer and actress, rubbing her neck.
If convicted on all counts, Balfour faces a mandatory life prison term.
Prosecutors presented 11 days of testimony and called 83 witnesses, starting with Jennifer Hudson. She told jurors about the last time she saw her three family members alive and spoke with distain about Balfour, whom she had known since eighth grade.
The defense called just two witnesses — two detectives who had testified earlier — in a bid to suggest investigators botched the triple-homicide investigation.
Prosecutors say Balfour shot Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, in the living room of the Hudson family home on Chicago’s South Side on Oct. 24, 2008, then shot Hudson’s 29-year-old brother, Jason Hudson, in the head as he lay in bed.
Balfour then allegedly abducted Julia Hudson’s son, Julian King, and shot him as he lay behind a front seat of an SUV. His body was found in the abandoned vehicle miles away after a three-day search.