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CHICAGO (CBS)–William Balfour, the former brother-in-law of Jennifer Hudson, was found guilty Friday of killing three members of the singer’s family in 2008.
The six-man, six-woman jury’s verdict was announced about 4:40 p.m. Friday and came within a few hours after jurors told the court they were “split” on a verdict but would continue trying to reach one.
Jennifer Hudson was present for the verdict with her fiance and sister, Julia. Jennifer Hudson’s eyes filled with tears as the guilty verdicts were read.
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Balfour was accused of killing Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew. Prosecutors claimed Balfour, now 31, shot the victims in a jealous rage, believing his then-estranged wife, Julia Hudson, was seeing another man.
According to the prosecution, Balfour killed 57-year-old Darnell Donerson in the Hudson family’s Englewood living room on Oct. 24, 2008, and then killed 29-year-old Jason Hudson as he lay in bed.
Balfour then allegedly kidnapped 7-year-old Julian King – Julia’s son – and shot him in the head in the back seat of Jason Hudson’s SUV, which he stole, then abandoned on the West Side. Julian’s body was found three days after the murders.
“This was a vicious, cold-blooded, inhumane execution of three people, including a 7-year-old child, a child who just happened to be home from school that day,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez told reporters.
Alvarez says the singer and her family members were “emotional but relieved” at the trial’s resolution. The singer later issued a written statement, thanking the efforts of police and prosecutors.
“We thank all of the State’s witnesses who came forward on our behalf. We have felt the love and support from people all over the world and we’re very grateful. We want to extend a prayer from the Hudson family to the Balfour family,” the statement said.
Besides being found guilty of three counts of murder, Balfour was convicted of home invasion, residential burglary, aggravated kidnapping and possession of a stolen vehicle. He faces life in prison, without possibility of early release, when he is sentenced June 8.
Balfour was stoic in the courtroom as the verdicts were read.
One of his attorneys, Amy Thompson, said an appeal is already planned.
The murder of the Oscar-winning actress’s family members grabbed national attention nearly four years ago, calling into question whether Balfour could receive a fair trial in Hudson’s hometown.
Friday was the third day of deliberations for the jury, which had been sequestered two nights for deliberations in the high-profile trial.
Jurors said they combed through the evidence and testimony carefully during their more than 17 hours of deliberations.
“We really took everything apart, before we started piecing it back together,” juror Paula Halcomb told reporters during a news conference after the verdicts. “We really took our time with all of the testimony, all of the witnesses – one at a time.”
Juror Jacinta Gholston said she and two other panel members took longer to be convinced of the circumstantial case against Balfour and “needed to see the picture clearer.” Jurors said cell phone records helped convince them Balfour committed the crimes.
Gholston said Hudson’s celebrity did not impact the jurors.
“This was not for us the Jennifer Hudson case. This was the people of Illinois against William Balfour (case),” she said.
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Prosecutors had said Balfour followed through on repeated threats to kill Julia Hudson’s family.
But defense attorneys argued prosecutors could not prove Balfour was guilty, pointing to the lack of fingerprint and DNA evidence linking him to the crimes.
Defense attorney Amy Thompson called the prosecution’s case a story full of holes. She insisted those holes created reasonable doubt about Balfour’s guilt.
“The one consistency in this case is that every piece of DNA evidence absolutely excludes William Balfour,” Thompson told the jury during closing arguments. “The one person in Chicago we know didn’t do it is him.”
The defense has said Balfour had nothing to do with the murders and suggested they were instead linked to Jason Hudson’s own alleged drug dealing.
The statement from Jennifer Hudson was posted on her website Friday. In its entirety it reads:
“We have many people to thank but our first thank you is to God, always. We are so grateful to prosecutors James McKay, Jennifer Bagby and Veryl Gambino and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and her team for their dedication and tireless work from the beginning. We have the best police department and they have been with us every step of the way. We thank all of the State’s witnesses who came forward on our behalf. We have felt the love and support from people all over the world and we’re very grateful. We want to extend a prayer from the Hudson family to the Balfour family. We have all suffered terrible loss in this tragedy. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them (2 Corinthian 4:3-4). It is our prayer that the Lord will forgive Mr. Balfour of these heinous acts and bring his heart into repentance someday.”