- Associated Press - Friday, May 11, 2012

CHICAGO (AP) - A Chicago jury on Friday convicted Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson’s former brother-in-law of murdering her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in what prosecutors described as an act of vengeance by a jilted husband.

Hudson, who expressed her undisguised disdain for William Balfour when she took the witness stand and who endured weeks of excruciating testimony about the October 2008 killings, was overcome with emotion as the verdict was read. She bit her lip, tears welling in her eyes and streaming down her cheeks. A minute later, she looked over at her sister, Julia Hudson, and smiled.

Balfour, who faces a mandatory life prison sentence, showed no emotion. A few of his relatives looked upset, one repeatedly shaking her head and muttering that the verdict was unfair. As she had during the trial, Hudson looked back at Balfour’s supporters, then whispered something to her sister.

Jurors deliberated for three days before reaching their verdict against Balfour, a 31-year-old former gang member who was the estranged husband of Hudson’s sister at the time of the triple murders. Just an hour before their unanimous verdict on all counts, they sent a note to the judge that three jurors still weren’t fully convinced of his guilt.

With no surviving witnesses to the Oct. 24, 2008, slayings or fingerprints, prosecutors built a circumstantial case against Balfour by calling 83 witnesses over 11 days of testimony. Witnesses said he threatened to kill the entire family if Julia Hudson spurned him.

Balfour’s attorneys proposed an alternate theory: that someone else in the crime-ridden neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side targeted the family because of alleged crack-cocaine dealing by Jennifer Hudson’s brother, Jason Hudson. During the 30 minutes in which they called just two witnesses, however, they presented no evidence to support that theory.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who spoke to Hudson after the verdict, said the star was visibly relieved. She said Hudson had been determined to attended every day of the trial out of a sense of obligation to her mother.

“She told me, `If it was me (who had been killed) my mother would be here every day. So, I’m going to be here every day,’” Alvarez said.

Public defender Amy Thompson said she would appeal the verdict.

“It has always been our position and it still is that William Balfour is innocent of these murders,” Thompson said.

Alvarez reiterated to reporters what prosecutors had told jurors: that the evidence against Balfour was overwhelming.

Jurors told reporters afterward that their deliberations were thorough and cordial, and that Jennifer Hudson’s celebrity didn’t influence them. They said it took time to piece everything together, and that a key was cellphone records showing Balfour was in the area when the killings happened.

Jennifer Hudson, who was in Florida at the time, attended every day of the two weeks of testimony, sobbing when photos of her relatives’ bloodied, bullet-ridden bodies were displayed to jurors during closing arguments.

Alvarez said Hudson would not speak to the media about the verdict but would release a statement “at the appropriate time.”

The jury foreman said he hoped the verdict would bring Hudson closure.

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