Jennifer Hudson: Jury says stardom no factor in murders verdict

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Still, some experts say Hudson’s stardom may have influenced jurors — even if they sincerely believed it didn’t.

“She is certainly quite beloved … so there is likely to have been very positive feelings toward her,” said Edward Schwartz, a New England-based jury consultant. When a case is based almost wholly on circumstantial evidence, “likeability” factors can play an even greater role, he added.

While Balfour showed no emotion when the verdict was announced, a few of his relatives looked upset, one muttering that the verdict was unfair. As she had several times during the trial, Hudson looked back at Balfour’s supporters, then whispered something to her sister.

With no surviving witnesses to the 2008 slayings, prosecutors built a convincing circumstantial case. Hudson’s sister described how Balfour repeatedly threatened her, citing him as saying ominously, “‘If you ever leave me, I’m going to kill you. But I’m going to kill your family first.’”

Balfour’s attorneys suggested 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.

Public defender Amy Thompson said Friday she would appeal the verdict.

Hudson, 30, rose to prominence as a 2004 “American Idol” finalist. She became a bona fide star after winning the 2007 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the movie “Dreamgirls.”

She attended every day of testimony, sobbing when photos of her relatives’ bloodied, bullet-ridden bodies were displayed to jurors. Several jurors, too, said they would never forget the images.

Balfour lived in the Hudsons’ three-story Englewood home after marrying Julia Hudson in 2006. He moved out in early 2008 after their falling out.

The killings occurred the morning of Oct. 24, 2008. Prosecutors said Balfour became enraged when he stopped by the family home where Jennifer Hudson grew up and saw a gift of balloons from Julia Hudson’s new boyfriend.

After she left for work, Balfour went back inside with a .45-caliber handgun and shot Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, in the back; he shot Jason Hudson, 29, twice in the head as he lay in bed.

Prosecutors said Balfour drove off in an SUV with 7-year-old Julian King and shot him in the head as he lay behind a front seat. His body was found in the abandoned vehicle after a three-day search.

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

“I hope she can put this thing behind her and get on with the rest of her life,” he said.

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