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High Court Justice Weighs In On Tweeting Ban At Hudson Murder Trial

Darnell Donerson, 57; Jason Hudson, 29; and Julian King, 7; were all shot and killed in 2008. Authorities say William Balfour, the estranged boyfriend of King's mother, Julia Hudson, killed them. (Credit: CBS)

Darnell Donerson, 57; Jason Hudson, 29; and Julian King, 7; were all shot and killed in 2008. Authorities say William Balfour, the estranged boyfriend of King’s mother, Julia Hudson, killed them. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court is weighing in on the restrictions the trial judge has placed on tweeting from the courtroom in the trial of William Balfour for the murders of actress/singer Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports, Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride is careful to hedge his comments, saying, “I don’t want this to be taken in the wrong way as a commentary on any judge who might not approve of it.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

Nonetheless, he indicated that he is aware of the controversial decision by Cook County Criminal Court Judge Charles Burns to bar tweeting from the Balfour trial.

“I read the papers,” he said.

Burns media liaison and CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller, in explaining the ban, said before the trial began: “Tweeting takes away from the dignity of a courtroom. The judge doesn’t want the trial to turn into a circus.”

But the chief justice said he saw no problem with the tweeting that occurred during testimony at the recent high-profile trial in Galesburg of reputed serial killer Nicholas Sheley.

“It worked well there, so I guess that would be my commentary,” Kilbride said.

Kilbride was instrumental in changing Illinois Supreme Court rules to allow live television and radio coverage of trials on an experimental basis. Cook County’s application to join 13 other counties is on hold, while the court judges whether the experiments elsewhere are successful, although Kilbride said he believes they will be.

Kilbride is from the Quad Cities area, along the Mississippi River. Iowa for several decades has allowed live and taped coverage by television and radio stations in its trial courts, and allowing similar coverage in Illlinois courts was one of Kilbride’s priorities when he became chief justice.

The experiment won unanimous court approval, but the chief judge of each circuit must submit a detailed application outlining how it would work.

Balfour is charged with the Oct. 24, 2008, murders of Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson; her brother, Jason Hudson; and her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King.

Prosecutors claim he killed them in a fit of jealous rage because he believed his estranged wife – Jennifer Hudson’s sister, Julia Hudson – was cheating on him. Defense attorneys claim he had nothing to do with the murders.

On Friday, Balfour’s girlfriend, Shonta Cathey, testified that Balfour confessed to the murders.

Testimony in the trial is set to resume Monday.