Media Credit: Photo (NyPost) (celebrityvipplunge) (Chicago.cbslocal.com ) / Video (itn) (ABCNews)
Posted: Tuesday April 24, 2012 @5:25 p.m. PST
Jennifer Hudson listened with her head down and eyes closed as a police officer testified Tuesday about finding her mother’s body in a pool of blood in the living room.
As prosecutors introduced evidence about the murder scene, Hudson sat next to her fiancé in the Chicago courtroom while Sgt. David Dowling also described finding the bloodied body of Hudson’s brother in bed.
Later, Hudson left the courtroom with her sister, Julia, avoiding the testimony of a forensic investigator who identified crime-scene photos that showed the bodies.
The grisly testimony came in the second day of the trial of Hudson’s former brother-in-law, William Balfour, charged with fatally shooting her mother Darnell Donerson, brother Jason Hudson and 7-year-old nephew Julian King in 2008.
The Oscar-winning actress was the first witness on Monday, breaking down on the stand as she told the jury that the family had warned Julia against marrying Balfour because he treated her badly.
Sgt. Dowling testified that Hudson’s mother was found in the South Side Chicago house with gunshot wounds to the back and that her brother had a gunshot wound to the head.
A search for the then-missing nephew ended three days later with the boy’s body being found in an SUV, another witness testified.
According to AP, Proceedings begin Monday in the murder trial of William Balfour, accused of murdering Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.
Judge Charles Burns plans to start questioning would-be jurors one by one, trying to weed out anyone who could be swayed by Hudson’s celebrity status.
Hudson is expected to be at the trial every day once testimony begins, court officials say. She is also on the 300-name list of witnesses who could testify.
Legal experts widely agree on the No. 1 challenge at trials involving megastars. It is the task of identifying 12 jurors able and willing to assess guilt solely on what they hear in court.
This dilemma became clear last week, when 150 potential jurors filled out their questionnaires in court. Nine of the 66 questions dealt with Hudson’s career: Would-be jurors were asked if they’d ever seen her Academy Award-winning film “Dreamgirls” and if they belong to an organization for which Hudson is a spokesperson, presumably a reference to Weight Watchers.
It was obvious many potential jurors had heard of the killings with some gasping when the judge first read the name of the case.
When Burns asked if anyone felt they couldn’t hear the evidence “without sympathy, bias or prejudice” to step up, he looked on with apparent alarm as five, 15, and then 20 people rose. He finally told everyone to sit down and disregard the question, for now.
Hudson will need to refrain from overt displays of emotion as potentially starstruck jurors’ eyes dart back at her, said Gerald Uelmen, a defense attorney at O.J. Simpson’s murder trial.
The risk is that jurors may be watching her rather than testifying witnesses, and they could be influenced by how she reacts,” he said. “She would be well advised not to engage in any facial expressions or outbursts. That could be grounds for a mistrial.”
Prosecutors say Balfour, the 30-year-old estranged husband of Hudson’s sister, shot the family in a jealous rage because Julia Hudson was dating another man.
The bodies of Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and brother, Jason Hudson, 29, were found shot to death in the family’s home on Oct. 24, 2008. The body of her nephew, Julian King, was found days later in a vehicle several miles away.
Balfour’s attorneys have said the evidence is circumstantial although prosecutors say proof he committed the crime will include gun residue found on his car’s steering wheel.
Judges don’t insist jurors be blank slates but they merely want to know if jurors can set aside their biases and preconceptions, said Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles.
“You certainly don’t want a juror who hasn’t heard of Jennifer Hudson, for instance,” Levenson said. “That would raise other serious questions, like, where’s this person been living – under a rock?”