CHICAGO (AP) - 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.
The singer and actress, who wore a subdued black dress and whose hair was wrapped in a bun, at first seemed composed as a prosecutor began asking her questions. But the testimony became increasingly difficult, and she began crying when talking about seeing her family the Sunday before the killings and later when a prosecutor showed her a picture of her mother.
“None of us wanted her to marry him,” she said, her voice cracking and struggling to hold back tears. “We did not like how he treated her,” she said.
Balfour has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in the October 2008 slayings.
Early on during Hudson’s testimony, a prosecutor asked her to identify the defendant. Hudson poked her head around the judge’s bench and pointed at Balfour.
“He’s sitting right there,” she said.
Balfour looked back at Hudson. But he otherwise showed little emotion during her testimony and during opening statements.
After more than 30 minutes on the stand, Hudson grabbed a fistful of tissues and walked slowly across the courtroom directly in front of jurors. She then took a seat next to her fiance, David Otunga, best known for his stint on VH1’s reality show “I Love New York.”
A former federal prosecutor said prosecutors were shrewd to call Jennifer Hudson as their first witness.
“It rivets the jury,” said Phil Turner, a Chicago attorney. “For better or worse it increases the importance of the case in jurors’ minds.”
Turner noted Hudson now can sit through the rest of the trial, in full view of the jury. Witnesses typically are not allowed to watch trials until they have testified.
Hudson, watching from a fourth-row bench Monday afternoon, bowed her head and dabbed away tears as prosecutors played a recording of the 911 call her sister made after discovering their mother’s bloodied body.
“Oh my God, oh my God,” Julia Hudson is heard yelling at a dispatcher, who tells her to stop screaming because he can’t understand her. “My momma, my momma!”