Jury Picked For Trial Of Accused Hudson Family Killer
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UPDATED 04/10/12 4:57 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A full jury has been selected in the trial of William Balfour, the man charged with killing three members of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson’s family.
After questioning a total of 67 potential jurors, attorneys and the judge agreed on 18 people who will be seated to hear the trial, although they have yet to pick the six people who will be the alternate jurors.
The first 14 jurors were selected Monday after a full day of jury selection. The final four were picked by Tuesday afternoon, filling the full panel of 12 jurors and six alternates for the trial, which will begin on April 23.
The jurors will decide whether or not Balfour is guilty in the October 2008 murders of Jennifer Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson; her brother, Jason Hudson; and her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports prosecutors, defense attorneys, and Cook County Judge Charles Burns questioned the potential jurors one-by-one around a conference table in a small room near Burns’ courtroom.
During the process, Balfour sat with his attorneys, dressed in a blue shirt and tie.
Among the four final jurors picked on Tuesday were:
–A retired CTA dispatcher, whose adult son is paralyzed from the chest down, after he was shot and robbed nearly 20 years ago;
–a former Jesse White tumbler, who was once convicted of shooting a BB gun, and had to perform community service;
–a Near North Side mother of two, who is a courier for a big shipping company;
–and a young North Side woman with a master’s degree, who works as business data analyst.
Thirteen potential jurors were dismissed Tuesday, including a woman from the south suburbs who feared she might miss out on a promotion at the Fortune 500 company where she works if she had to attend the trial.
Other dismissed jurors on Tuesday included:
–A newspaper entertainment and food columnist who was let go after revealing she has written about Jennifer Hudson’s music career, and is the friend of a friend of one of the defense attorneys;
–an unemployed South Side woman, who said she might have met Balfour’s estranged wife, Julia Hudson, who is the singer’s sister.
Several people were dismissed from the jury pool because Burns determined serving on a trial expected to last a month would have been to great of a financial burden for them.
“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 Monday. “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.”
At least seven prospective jurors who were questioned Monday could not serve in the month-long trial because it would cost them money. Among them are a stay-at-home mom who couldn’t afford childcare, a concert ticket seller whose boss told him he would only get paid for 10 days if he served on the jury, and a sales representative who works on commission.
The judge also excused one doctor who said he hadn’t had a vacation in nine years, and absence for jury service would be a hardship on his patients.
One woman in the jury pool told the judge she is a fan of Jennifer Hudson, and could not be fair at trial. She was immediately dismissed.
And Jennifer Hudson’s stardom will be a challenge for Balfour’s defense team, looking to find jurors who wouldn’t be swayed by their biases.
The prospective jurors answered questions about their knowledge of the celebrity in a jury questionnaire last week, but the topic barely surfaced during the one-on-one interviews.
“The jury questionnaire had a lot of questions about Jennifer Hudson. Each one of these jurors answered those questions last Thursday,” Miller said. “So everybody knew how they felt about Jennifer Hudson.”
The judge instructed the jurors who were seated not to read, watch, or listen to any news coverage of the case or the trial.
Burns also told the jurors not to watch American Idol, because Jennifer Hudson – a former Idol contestant – might appear on the show.
The judge has a previous commitment next week, so opening arguments have been scheduled for Monday, April 23.