CHICAGO (CBS) — Jury selection began Thursday in the trial of the man accused of killing entertainer Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew nearly four years ago.
William Balfour, the 30-year-old onetime boyfriend of Hudson’s sister, is charged with the three murders.
CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports that Judge Charles Burns has set aside three more days to pick a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates.
The issues of Hudson’s celebrity and the all publicity surrounding the sensational crime will be central in the jury selection process.
Sitting among his defense team, Balfour was dressed in a crisp white shirt and gold tie, with a neat, short haircut. That was quite a contrast from his appearance on Dec. 1, 2008, when he was charged with the three murders.
Burns told the prospective jurors whatever they have read about the case is irrelevant.
But veteran defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. says the effect of pre-trial publicity can’t be washed away.
“The toughest bar is going to be finding people who know as little about the case as possible,” Adam told reporters at the criminal courthouse at 26th and California. “The media has done a huge job in getting facts out and getting this case out in the press, and you’re going to have to try to overcome that.”
Adam said he believes properly screened jurors can be fair and impartial, but he said Jennifer Hudson’s popularity should be a concern for the defense going into the trial.
“She’s a beloved woman in the press, and she’s a wonderful talent. She’s done amazing things,” he said. “It’s very tough, but you have to remember these are regular people that are going to be coming in here and sit, and they typically want to do the right thing.”
Balfour is accused of killing Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donnerson, and brother, Jason Hudson, in a violent invasion of their Englewood home. He’s also accused of kidnapping and killing her nephew, Julian King. They boy’s body was discovered in a stolen vehicle abandoned on the West Side.
Jennifer Hudson is expected to attend the trial and testify.
CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller agrees the defense team has its work cut out for it.
Judge Burns distributed multiple-page questionnaires to more than 150 prospective jurors who packed the courtroom. The judge, along with attorneys from both sides, will use the answers provided to help decide who will sit on the Balfour jury.
It’s estimated the trial could last up to a month.