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Updated 05/08/12 – 6:05 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Closing arguments are set to begin Wednesday morning in the trial of the man accused of killing three members of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson’s family.
After prosecutors called 83 witnesses over 11 days, defense attorneys for William Balfour rested their case on Wednesday, after calling only two witnesses.
Balfour, 30, is charged with killing 57-year-old Darnell Donerson, 29-year-old Jason Hudson, and 7-year-old Julian King on Oct. 24, 2008. Prosecutors have claimed Balfour killed the victims in a jealous rage, because his estranged wife, Julia Hudson – Jennifer’s sister – was seeing another man.
Defense attorneys have denied Balfour was involved in the deaths, instead suggesting they might have been tied to Jason Hudson’s own alleged drug dealing.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports prosecutors wrapped up their case Wednesday, focusing on how authorities found a key to Jason Hudson’s SUV on Balfour after his arrest. It could be the most pivotal evidence in the case, as it’s the only physical evidence directly linking Balfour to the murders.
But defense attorneys have suggested the evidence might be tainted.
Julian’s body was found in Jason Hudson’s Chevy Suburban three days after the murders. Prosecutors have alleged Balfour stole the SUV after killing Donerson and Jason Hudson, took Julian with him, and killed the boy inside the vehicle before ditching it on the West Side.
The prosecution’s final witness, a Chicago police detective, testified one of the keys found in Balfour’s pocket after he was arrested on Oct. 24, 2008, fit the stolen SUV.
CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said, “You always want to end big, and that’s what the state did.”
Chicago Police Det. Chester Bach testified that key was in Balfour’s pocket the day of the murders, when he was taken into custody. Bach said he personally tested every key found in Balfour’s possession, and a GM key fit the stolen SUV.
“For the prosecution, that was the key piece of evidence,” Miller said.
Other than they key, the case against Balfour has been largely circumstantial.
But, away from jurors, Balfour’s defense team raised some serious concerns about that evidence – including questions about why the key wasn’t initially listed in police reports, or inventories; and why it took three years for police to test the key.
Defense attorney Amy Thompson recalled another Chicago police detective, Thomas Kelly, who acknowledged there is no listing regarding keys in an evidence report from Balfour’s arrest.
“There’s a big hole right now. Why did they wait three years to test they key that was found in the defendant’s pocket, and the ignition of the SUV? We don’t know, and I suspect the jury may never know. It’s a burden the prosecutions’ gonna have to overcome in their closing argument,” Miller said.
Closing arguments are scheduled to start at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. The jury is expected to get the case Wednesday afternoon.
Jennifer and Julia Hudson have been in court every day, except when graphic photographs of the victims’ bodies have been shown. They’re expected to be in the courtroom for closing arguments, too.