CHICAGO (AP) - Prosecutors and attorneys for the man charged with murdering three of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson's family members resumed vetting potential jurors on Tuesday as they sought to fill the final four spots for his upcoming trial.
Lawyers filled 14 of the 18 jury spots Monday after interviewing candidates one by one, and were expected to settle on the group that will make up the 12 jurors and six alternates for William Balfour's murder trial during Tuesday's session. Testimony is set to begin April 23.
Balfour, 30, is charged with murdering Hudson's mother, brother and nephew in 2008, and he faces a mandatory life prison sentence if convicted of murdering at least two of the victims.
Cook County Circuit Judge Charles Burns spent Monday's session trying to weed out anyone who might be swayed by the 30-year-old Hudson's celebrity. The Academy Award-winning actress's name came up frequently during questioning, although most potential jurors insisted that despite what they knew about her or had heard about the case, they would be able to consider only the evidence if picked for the trial.
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 an SUV several miles 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.
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