14 Jurors Picked In Hudson Family Murder Trial
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UPDATED 04/09/12 9:15 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Fourteen people have been selected to serve on the jury in the trial of the man accused of killing three members of Jennifer Hudson’s family.
As CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports, 30-year-old William Balfour sat six feet away as prosecutors, defense attorneys, and Cook County Judge Charles Burns interviewed a pool of 24 potential jurors Monday morning. A second pool of 25 potential jurors began facing questions Monday afternoon. Balfour was dressed in a blue shirt, tie and khakis as he listened to the questions they were asked.
Balfour is accused of killing Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donnerson, and brother, Jason Hudson, in a violent invasion of their Englewood home in 2008. He is 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.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports
Ten people were stricken from the first pool of 25 potential jurors, mostly because of the personal or financial hardship they would face by sitting on the jury for a trial expected to last a month. Those who were dismissed from the jury pool included one woman who is a stay-at-home mother who couldn’t afford to pay for child care, and a sales representative who works on commission.
“If there’s one overriding theme in this case, as far as jury selection, is the judge wanted to make sure that nobody would suffer in the pocketbook,” CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said. “He wanted to make sure that these jurors would pay attention to the witnesses, and not have to worry about, you know, where the next paycheck was coming from.”
Miller said that was important on a trial lasting as long as a month, so that jurors have no worries or distractions to prevent them from focusing on the testimony and evidence presented to them.
Two jurors with personal connections to violent crime were dismissed when they said they didn’t think they could be impartial. One woman, a middle-aged administrative assistant, was the victim of an armed robbery. The other dismissed juror said her nephew was recently convicted of murdering his pregnant wife.
Jurors were also questioned about their knowledge of singer Jennifer Hudson, whose mother, brother and nephew are the murder victims.
The goal is to pick a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates. At the rate the judge and attorneys have been going, they might not need to question all 150 potential jurors who were given questionnaires regarding the Balfour trial last week.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports
The entire jury selection process could last through Wednesday.
Many of questions the would-be jurors had to answer on their preliminary questionnaires were centered around Hudson. Prosecutors and Balfour’s defense attorneys have been taking a close look at the answers on each questionnaire.
Nine of the 66 questions released to the media Friday dealt with Hudson’s career in movies, television and as an author.
Prospective jurors are being asked if they have ever seen Hudson on television, or seen a movie in which she played a role – which they must name. The would-be jurors are also being asked if they have ever read book by or about Hudson, seen her perform in person, or read or viewed an interview with her in a newspaper, magazine, television or radio broadcast.
Other questions are more specific, such as whether the prospective jurors have ever watched “American Idol” or seen the movie “Dreamgirls.”
The questionnaire also asks about media coverage and whether jurors have read or heard about the case.
If and when Hudson is at court, fans outside and TV cameras will not see her enter through the front entrance. She will be driven through the private security gate.
It does not appear, though, that she will start attending until opening statements in a couple weeks.