Jennifer Hudson arrives at courthouse for murder trial

In this Oct. 6, 2008 file photo, cast member Jennifer Hudson poses at the premiere of the film "The Secret Life of Bees" at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, file)
April 23, 2012 10:44:46 AM PDT
Jennifer Hudson arrived Monday at a Chicago courthouse for the start of the trial of William Balfour, the man charged with killing three members of Hudson's family, as opening statements were set to begin.

A courtroom spokesperson said Hudson was in the building, but she would not be in court for the opening statements.

Hudson said previously she would attend the court proceedings at 26th Street and California for every day of the trial. She is on a list of potential witnesses who could be called.

William Balfour is charged with the 2008 murders of Jennifer Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, her brother, Jason, and 7-year-old nephew, Julian King. Prosecutors say Balfour, who was married to Jennifer Hudson's sister, Julia, had made threats and carried out the murders during a jealous rage.

With all of the publicity surrounding the case, the biggest challenge for the judge is making sure Balfour gets a fair trial. A gag order is in place, and the judge is implementing strict rules inside the courtroom. Any spectators interested in watching the trial must register the day before the court session.

The judge also has ordered the identities of the 12 jurors and six alternates to remain secret until after the trial. Besides not talking about the case until after deliberations, the jurors have to avoid watching news reports or reading news stories about the trial or doing anything that would compromise their impartiality.

For reporters covering the trial, the judge has banned tweeting in the courtroom because he believes that activity could become a distraction for jurors and witnesses on the stand. The judge also has placed restrictions on the e-mails reporters can send, saying they can only send an occasional e-mail to their news organizations.

Opening statements were scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. but got under way late. ABC7 spotted William Balfour seated at the defense table wearing a white shirt and grey tie.

Jurors were expected to hear statements from both sides. A legal expert explained what to expect.

"Opening statements will encompass both what the prosecutor and the defense think is going to be the evidence in the case. The prosecutor is going to show that this is a circumstantial case, and that actually, works in your favor as a prosecutor because you don't have the credibility issue of one witness. You get to piece together that puzzle and show that the jury can follow points 1, 2, 3, 4, put to the puzzle together, and show that he's guilty. The defense, likewise, is going to show this is a circumstantial case, that there is no direct evidence that links the Mr. Balfour to the crime," said Atty. Thomas Glasgow.

Barricades were put in place early Monday in anticipation that large crowds of fans would gather outside the courthouse hoping to see Jennifer Hudson. However, there was very little activity late Monday morning.

Opening statements were expected to go into the afternoon. There is a chance a witness could be called by the end of the day Monday. A list of potential witnesses was distributed, but the court is not saying anything about the order in which they could be called.

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