CHICAGO — Jennifer Hudson arrives each day at the trial of the man accused of killing three of her close family members with her personal bodyguards in tow. She uses a secret entrance to elude photographers, eats in private and waits for proceedings to start in normally off-limits judge’s chambers.
The Oscar winner, recently named one of the world’s most beautiful women by People magazine, slips out of the courtroom during particularly gory testimony.
Do the accommodations for the actress and singer add up to special star treatment?
“Absolutely not,” said Irv Miller, a judge’s liaison at the trial, which is in its second full week.
Most accommodations, he insisted, are courtesies routinely extended to victims enduring the grim ordeal of sitting through a murder trial. Others, he conceded, are necessary because Miss Hudson — a 2004 “American Idol” finalist and 2007 Oscar winner for her role in “Dreamgirls” — is a celebrity.
“Star status means things have to be a little different,” he said. “You just can’t have a celebrity walking about, going to the cafeteria — people running up to ask for autographs.”
Others, however, say the courthouse has gone too far.
“It’s outrageous,” said Manny Medrano, a Los Angeles-based defense attorney and former television reporter who regularly comments on high-profile cases. “It sends the wrong signal to the world — that if you are a celebrity, you won’t be treated like everyone.”
Her treatment may be a result of Chicago’s relative lack of experience with celebrity cases. In Southern California, Mr. Medrano said, people expect celebrities to be treated at court like everyone else.
Lindsay Lohan, who has had cases in different Los Angeles-area courthouses, always goes through a public entrance. Britney Spears, who sometimes goes to court for updates in her conservatorship, is brought underground and enters the courtroom through a back door.
In Chicago, the unease of the Hudson trial judge shows. Cook County Judge Charles Burns spent months compiling special decorum rules, including bans on tweets from court, and appears to eye journalists’ every move in his courtroom. He threw one out for half a day after spotting her holding a pen in the corner of her mouth, deeming it a distraction.
The only recent examples of stars at Chicago’s criminal courts building were the 2008 child pornography trial of R&B singer R. Kelly and talk-show host Oprah Winfrey serving on a jury in a 2005 murder case.
Miss Winfrey was allowed to use a hidden entrance. R. Kelly, whose trial and eventual acquittal took place in the same courtroom as the Hudson murders trial, came and left through the same front door as everyone else.
“He was a criminal defendant,” he said. “So, he wasn’t going to be accorded privileges. Not only is Hudson not a defendant, she’s a prosecution witness.”