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Jury deliberates in Hudson family killings

Jennifer Hudson appears in an undated promotional photo for her April AOL Sessions performance. (JenniferHudson.com)

May 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Jurors deliberated late into the night Wednesday without reaching a verdict after sitting through sometimes heated and embittered closing arguments at the Chicago trial of the man accused of slaying Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.

The actress and singer sobbed and dabbed her eyes when prosecutors displayed photos of the bullet-riddled bodies of her three close relatives during closing arguments earlier in the day.

Prosecutors contend Hudson's former brother-in-law, William Balfour, killed the family members in October 2008 in an act of vengeance against Hudson's sister, Julia Hudson, to whom he was married but estranged at the time.

The judge at the high-profile trial told jurors they would be sequestered - staying at a nearby hotel overnights until they reached a verdict. They deliberated for more than four hours Wednesday and were scheduled to return to the courthouse to continue deliberations Thursday morning.

With no surviving witnesses to present, prosecutors spent two weeks laying out a largely circumstantial case against Balfour, a 30-year-old one-time gang member.

Public defender Amy Thompson seized on that during her closing argument, saying prosecutors had failed to meet their burden of proving Balfour was the killer.

In a scathing final word to jurors before they began deliberations, lead prosecutor James McKay said for jurors to believe Balfour is innocent they would have to believe he was just unlucky enough to have someone else kill the Hudsons after he himself had threatened to murder them at least 25 times, as witnesses had testified.

If convicted on all counts, Balfour faces a mandatory life prison term.

Prosecutors presented 11 days of testimony and called 83 witnesses, starting with Jennifer Hudson. She told jurors about the last time she saw her three family members alive and spoke with distain about Balfour, whom she had known since eighth grade.

The defense called just two witnesses - two detectives who had testified earlier - in a bid to suggest investigators botched the triple-homicide investigation.

Prosecutors say Balfour shot Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, in the living room of the Hudson family home on Chicago's South Side on Oct. 24, 2008, then shot Hudson's 29-year-old brother, Jason Hudson, in the head as he lay in bed.

Balfour then allegedly abducted Julia Hudson's son, Julian King, and shot him as he lay behind a front seat of an SUV. His body was found in the abandoned vehicle miles away after a three-day search

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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