CHICAGO: Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson wiped away silent tears as a jury read the verdict she had long awaited: her brother-in-law was guilty of killing her mother, brother and young nephew.
William Balfour, the estranged husband of Hudson’s sister Julia, was accused of killing his in-laws in October 2008 and then hiding his stepson’s body to try to cover his crimes.
It was three days before the boy’s desperate mother and aunt learned that he was also dead and not just held captive.
“This was a vicious, cold-blooded, inhumane execution of three people, including a seven-year-old boy who just happened to be home from school,” State Attorney Anita Alvarez told reporters Friday.
“We are very, very happy with the verdict.”
In a statement issued after the verdict was announced, Jennifer and Julia Hudson said the entire family was relieved and grateful.
“We have felt the love and support from people all over the world and we’re very grateful,” the sisters said. “We want to extend a prayer from the Hudson family to the Balfour family… It is our prayer that the Lord will forgive Mr. Balfour of these heinous acts and bring his heart into repentance someday.”
Prosecutors said Balfour acted out of an obsessive jealousy when he shot his way into Hudson’s childhood home and killed everyone inside after getting into yet another argument with his estranged wife.
Julia Hudson was at work at the time of the shooting and came home to find her mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, dead on the floor in her nightgown.
She was so distressed that she ran outside to call police and did not realize immediately that her brother, Jason Hudson, 29, was dead in his bed or that her son was gone without a trace.
Julian King was eventually found hidden under a shower curtain on the floor of his uncle’s stolen sport utility vehicle, which had been parked across town.
Crime scene photos shown at trial showed his lifeless little arm stretched out across the back seat.
The murders in Chicago’s South Side upended Hudson’s life less than two years after the one-time “American Idol” contestant collected a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in “Dreamgirls.”
The two-week trial opened a window onto the troubled Englewood neighborhood where Hudson was raised and which her family never left.
Many of the witnesses had criminal records or drug problems and several testified about how Hudson’s brother was a small-time drug dealer.
Hudson, choking back tears, testified in April that no one in her family wanted her sister to marry Balfour.
“We didn’t like the way he treated her, and I didn’t like the way he treated my nephew,” the 30-year-old singer and actress told the Chicago court.
Public defender Amy Thompson — who insisted at the trial that police rushed to judgment and failed to look into Jason Hudson’s drug connections – said she planned to appeal the verdict.
“William Balfour is innocent of these murders and we’re hopeful that the appeals court will look at this with a very careful eye,” Thompson told reporters.
“My client is a very stoic young man,” she added. “He doesn’t emote much. He’s hopeful in the appeal. This was a very hard blow for him.”
Balfour faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison. Hudson, who released her second studio album “I Remember Me” in March 2011, and sang “I Will Always Love You” in memory of the late Whitney Houston at this year’s Grammy awards, attended the entire trial.
She was accompanied by her longtime partner, professional wrestler David Otunga, her sister, other relatives and security guards.
Mindful of her wish for privacy and the massive media presence, the court allowed Hudson and her family to use a private entrance to the building so they could escape the ever-present cameras.
Jurors said her star power had no influence on their verdict.
“This wasn’t a case about Jennifer Hudson for us,” said juror Jacinta Gholston.
“This was a case about William Balfour. For us her celebrity really did not have anything to do about it.”