Reporting Dana Kozlov
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UPDATED 04/05/12 12:27 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – The first step of jury selection began Thursday in the trial of William Balfour, the man charged with murder in the deaths of three members of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson’s family.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports William Balfour, 30, is accused in the shooting deaths of Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew in 2008. He is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, 57; her brother, Jason Hudson, 29; and her nephew, Julian King, 7.
Balfour is the estranged husband of Hudson’s sister, Julia, who had started seeing another man not long before the murders. Julia Hudson had told Balfour she didn’t want to speak to him. Balfour was allegedly made repeated death threats against the family.
Nearly four years later, the Hudson family’s home in Englewood – where Darnell Donerson and Jason Hudson were found dead – has been boarded up and neglected.
Three days after Jennifer Hudson’s mother and brother were found dead, her nephew’s body was found inside Jason Hudson’s sport-utility vehicle, which allegedly had been stolen by Balfour.
Balfour is scheduled to go on trial later this month and, on Thursday, 150 potential jurors will take the first step in jury selection by filling out questionnaires. In-court interviews will begin next week and jury selection should take about three days.
The trial itself is expected to last about a month.
“A lot of the stuff’s going to be boring stuff. There’s going to be a lot evidence about DNA, things like that that are going to just take a lot of time that really shouldn’t,” CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said. “But, you know, that’s going to take the most amount of time in the case.”
Police arrested Balfour shortly after the murders. Detectives also recovered the gun used in the shootings, about a block away from where King’s body was found.
Balfour has been locked up since his arrest.
Balfour was separated from Julia Hudson at the time, and police honed in on him as a suspect almost immediately.
Jennifer Hudson grieved privately after the murders, but eventually returned to the stage, talked to Oprah Winfrey about her loss, and started a foundation with her sister, in Julian’s name.
“Everything is hard. It’s a day-by-day process. But we have family, we have friends, we have a community, we have God. So we’re gonna make it and we’re gonna be okay,” Julia Hudson said last fall.
Cook County prosecutors have told the judge they expect Jennifer Hudson to attend the trial every day, once opening statements begin. But she is also on the prosecution’s witness list.
“I suspect and I’m pretty sure she will be called by the prosecutor, not only because she has to testify that her mother, and her brother, and her nephew were alive, and they’re now deceased,” Miller said. “But also because there’s maybe some threats that she heard from William Balfour to her sister.”
The trial judge has decided to allow Balfour to get a haircut before the trial starts, and also to wear civilian clothes during the trial.
Jury selection is expected to take about three days. Once it’s over 12 jurors and six alternates will be selected.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin April 23. Hudson is expected to attend