Jennifer Hudson family murder trial: William Balfour guilty on all counts

May 11, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The jury deliberated for a total of about 18 hours.

The verdict finally came after the jury told the judge early Friday afternoon that it was split 9-3 in favor of conviction. Judge Charles Burns sent the jurors back to keep deliberating until they reached a unanimous decision. The verdict was read two hours later.

William Balfour sat expressionless, stone-faced as the guilty verdicts were read. He was convicted on all three counts of first degree murder, one count of home invasion, one count aggravated kidnapping, one count residential burglary, and one count possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

A conviction on at least two counts of murder means mandatory life in prison without parole per Illinois law.

Public defender Amy Thompson said Balfour would be appealing his convictions. She acknowledged that process would be an uphill battle.

"I would never say the word 'frame,' and I don't think that that's the position we would ever take. Is there some questionable use of evidence in this case by the Chicago Police Department? I think there was," said Thompson.

There were no emotional outbursts in court as the verdict was read. Jennifer Hudson was seen crying quietly. She sat between her sister Julia and fiance David Outunga, squeezing both of their hands as the verdicts were read.

ABC 7's Eric Horng was in the courtroom and described the scene as the guilty verdicts were read in the Jennifer Hudson family murders.

Prosecutors presented 11 days of testimony and called 83 witnesses, starting with Jennifer Hudson. Friday was the third day of deliberations.

Jennifer Hudson was the first witness called and attended every day of testimony in the trial. Jurors said after the verdict was read that Jennifer Hudson's testimony had no impact on their decision.

The prosecution said Balfour acted out in jealousy because his estranged wife, Jennifer Hudson's sister Julia, was seeing someone else.

Balfour's defense team said there was no physical or DNA evidence and suggested police should look at other suspects, like people associated with Jennifer Hudson's brother Jason, a known drug dealer.

Some of the jurors, who were sequestered in a hotel during deliberations, said they did not pay much mind to Jennifer Hudson's celebrity status during the trial. The jurors said they never thought about the case as the "Jennifer Hudson trial."

Jennifer Hudson left court without comment but she and her sister Julia Hudson released the following statement Friday night:

"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."

Hudson's fiancé posted the following message on Twitter, "Family. Faith. Strength. #JusticeIsServed."

Jurors discuss deliberations

Although Jennifer Hudson is a hometown superstar, some jurors shrugged off her star status.

"I never watched American Idol, and I said that from the beginning," said juror Tracie Austin.

Jurors say Hudson's celebrity status did not influence deliberations or the verdict.

"There was not a lot of discussion, if any really, about Jennifer Hudson ... there really wasn't," said Jacinta Gholston, juror.

Instead, the panel of jurors, made up of six men and six women, said they focused on Balfour and the circumstantial evidence, including cell phone records, and the fact that the suspect, when arrested, had a key to victim Jason Hudson's stolen SUV.

"Why did you have the keys in your pocket from a guy you didn't like, to a truck you're not supposed to be in that so happened to have the dead nephew in the back seat," said Robert Smith, jury foreman.

Other evidence difficult for the jury were pictures of the dead victims' bodies.

"The pictures, it was very hard 'cause they were very graphic," said Austin. "But we knew we had to stay focused ... on the crime."

In the end, however, they still felt compassion for Balfour and his family.

"He's still a person, and this is not only the lives of the Hudson family and this is also his life and his family is also being affected," said Gholston. "We absolutely did feel some empathy for him as well."

Although the jury foreman said he would not have anything to say to Jennifer Hudson, he offered one comment.

"I hope she can put this behind her and get on with the rest of her life," Smith said.

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