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Potential jurors in Hudson case asked about singer

- Associated Press - Friday, April 6, 2012

CHICAGO (AP) - Jennifer Hudson takes center stage in a questionnaire that potential jurors are being asked to fill out to determine if they will be allowed to decide whether or not a man is guilty in the slayings of the singer's mother, brother and nephew.

Nine of the 66 questions released to The Associated Press and other media outlets Friday dealt with Hudson's career in movies, television and as an author.

Prospective jurors were asked if they have ever watched "American Idol," the television show that brought Hudson to fame, or if they saw "Dreamgirls," the motion picture for which she won an Academy Award. They also were asked if they'd ever seen her perform or read her book, "I Got This: How I Changed my Ways and Lost What Weighed Me Down."

In what is apparently a reference to Hudson's work as a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers, one question read: "Do you belong to any organization for which Jennifer Hudson is a spokesperson?"

The rest of the questions were standard for prospective jurors in high profile cases. They were asked about their education, employment, family, military service and encounters with the criminal justice system, along with hobbies, websites they frequent, magazines and newspapers they read and how they get their news.

Legal experts say the reason is simple: Attorneys need to get a sense of whether Hudson's fame could sway those who will ultimately be selected to sit on the jury.

All those television and movie appearances could create a familiarity that poses a danger to criminal defendants.

"You don't want to get someone who is so simpatico with Jennifer Hudson and her plight, who feels like they are champions for Jennifer ... and who wants to protect her or not disappoint her," said Joseph Tacopina, a prominent defense attorney in New York.

Equally dangerous, and what the attorneys will certainly be looking for, are would-be jurors who say they don't know who Hudson is, despite living in her hometown, where she is extremely popular.

"They're either from Mars or they're being dishonest," Tacopina said. "Either one is not a good thing."

Joel Levin, a former federal prosecutor who was on the team that won a conviction of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, agreed that most of the concerns in such a case would come from the defense side of the aisle.

"Their concern is (jurors) think she's great and bend over backwards because of who she is," he said.

Hudson is expected to regularly attend the trial of William Balfour, her sister's estranged husband. He is charged in the slayings of Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, brother, Jason Hudson, 29, and nephew, Julian King, 7. Prosecutors also have indicated she could be called as a witness.

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