CHICAGO (Reuters) - Not a single fingerprint or scrap of DNA was found to prove who murdered three family members of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson in 2008, but prosecutors said there was overwhelming circumstantial evidence to convict her jealous brother-in-law as the jury began deliberations on Wednesday.
Hudson, her head bowed at times when graphic photographs were shown to the jury, sat with family members in the Chicago courtroom.
The defense attorney for accused killer William Balfour poked holes in the prosecution’s mostly circumstantial case in her final statement and accused the police of concocting evidence to convict her client.
“They were trying to convict a pre-chosen defendant,” defense attorney Amy Thompson told the Cook County Criminal Court jury in her closing statement following two weeks of testimony.
Balfour, 30, a sometime drug dealer married to Hudson’s sister Julia, is on trial for shooting to death Hudson’s mother Darnell Donerson, 57, her brother Jason Hudson, 29, and her nephew Julian King, 7.
Balfour’s lawyer said police fixated on Balfour, while the real killer was an unknown enemy of Hudson’s drug-dealing brother, Jason Hudson, whose body was found in his bed, shot twice in the head while he slept.
Donerson, armed with a broom, was shot three times, and Julian was killed in the back seat of Jason Hudson’s sports utility vehicle. His body was not discovered until three days later in the vehicle, which had been abandoned.
Jennifer Hudson had testified on the first day of the trial that she had never liked Balfour, and begged her sister not to marry him.
She flew back to Chicago on October 24, 2008, after learning that her mother and brother were dead in the South Side home they had shared, and her nephew was missing. She ultimately identified all three of their bodies.
Jennifer Hudson burst on the music scene in 2004 when she performed on the television singing contest “American Idol.” She subsequently won a Grammy for her debut album, and an Academy Award for her supporting role in the movie “Dreamgirls.”
Hudson hung her head or buried it in her fiancé David Otunga’s shoulder when prosecutor Jennifer Bagby showed gruesome photographs of the victims.
Balfour, Bagby said, was obsessed with his estranged wife, Julia, stalking her and consumed with jealousy, though he had several other girlfriends and the couple still occasionally had sex.
The night before the murders, prosecutors said, Balfour sent her text messages while in bed with one of his girlfriends, then went to the Hudson family home in Chicago’s tough Englewood neighborhood to try to catch her with her new lover.
Using cell phone records and witness accounts, prosecutors painstakingly traced Balfour’s whereabouts for the jury and how he enlisted friends to help him create an alibi. Balfour even went so far as to be purposely videotaped at a gas station, they said.
Prosecutors pointed to Julia Hudson’s testimony that Balfour had frequently issued threats, saying he would kill her family first, then her. She had been angry with him the morning of the murders, blaming him for having her wages as a bus driver garnished.
Balfour changed his clothes three times the day of the murders, and avoided telling Julia Hudson where he was when she called after the bodies were found, prosecutors said. He had turned off his cellphone for four hours, giving him time to get rid of evidence and wipe down the discarded gun and stolen SUV, they said.
“If you’re innocent, you get back to your wife. You man up,” prosecutor James McKay said, gnashing his teeth in anger. “A child is missing.”
“A guy who changed his clothes three times, do you really expect him to leave fingerprints? To leave DNA?” McKay said.
Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Lisa Shumaker