Singer and actress Jennifer Hudson was the first witness as William Balfour went on trial today for the murders of singer Hudson's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in the home where the Hollywood star grew up. Balfour is accused of killing Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, in the living room, then shooting her 29-year-old brother, Jason Hudson, twice in the head as he lay in bed. He drove off with Julia Hudson's son, Julian King, and later shot the boy nicknamed Juice Box in the head as he lay behind a front seat, authorities say.
Following are scenes from the trial.
911 tape played in Hudson trial: 'Someone killed my mother!'
7:27 p.m. CDT April 23, 2012
Prosecutors played the 911 tape today of Julia Hudson after she discovered her mother’s body. Julia’s muffled voice echoed through the courtroom as the two-minute call was played. At one point, she screamied, “Someone killed my mother!...There’s a bullet hole in the front door!”
Toward the end of the tape, Julia Hudson yelled, “My momma! My Momma!” Dispatchers told her that ambulances were on their way, and she screamed, “Please!”
While the tape was played, Jennifer Hudson bowed her head, sniffling and holding a tissue to her face.
Julia Hudson completed two hours on the witness stand this evening. The trial resumes tomorrow.
Julia Hudson testified that at first her relationship with Balfour was “fine.” But things soured soon after she went to Japan with her celebrity sister to promote her movie, “Dreamgirls,” for which she would ultimately win an Oscar.
Hudson said that when she came back from the trip that Balfour was “jealous.”
“He didn’t like anybody to do anything with me…it was a problem,” Julia said. “It was like it was OK for him (to have relationships with other women), but it was not OK for me.”
“If I was a little too excited about gifts, he was jealous. Because I guess he didn’t buy it. I was showing gratitude toward somebody else,” she said.
By February 2008, she had had enough and the couple separated.
Julia Hudson testified she knew her brother had a .45-caliber pistol and sometimes “put it up for him,” stashing it in his bedroom closet or under the bed, “anywhere he could get to it.” He kept bullets in the TV stand, she said.
On cross –examination, public defender Amy Thompson asked repeatedly why Julia Hudson never called police or filed for an order of protection despite months of what she claimed were repeated threats by Balfour to kill her family and her.
“This is a threat against your entire family, right Miss Hudson?” Thompson asked. Julia Hudson answered softly, “Yes.”
Thompson also pointed out through her questioning that Julia Hudson continued to have a sexual relationship with Balfour even after the alleged threats, meeting him at least twice at motels in the days before the murders.
Prosecutors later asked Julia Hudson why she hadn’t called police on Balfour after the numerous alleged threats.
“I didn’t believe him,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Prosecutors this afternoon also called Bernice Simmons, a neighbor of the Hudson family who testified she heard two gunshots coming from the direction of the Hudson home at about 9 a.m. on the day of the slayings. Simmons, who at the time was 14, said she did not call the police because it was fairly common to hear shots in the neighborhood.
Julia Hudson sobs as she recounts finding her mother's body
Actress Jennifer Hudson's sister, Julia, now on the stand at her former husband's trial, sobbed as she recalled coming home and finding her mother's lifeless, bloody body on the floor in the family's Englewood home in October 2008.
When she found her mom on the floor in a pool of blood, she knew it was more than a fall. "I just didn't see any life there."
Julia Hudson spoke rapidly, almost out of breath, as her celebrity sister, sitting in the courtroom gallery, held a hand over her mouth and stared at the floor.
Earlier that day, Julia Hudson said William Balfour, then her estranged husband, had shown up at the house asking, "Why are you ignoring me?"
She testified that Balfour saw her Sweetest Day balloons –a gift from another man – in her bedroom and punched at them.
Jennifer Hudson chokes back tears as she talks about accused killer
4:08 p.m. CDT April 23, 2012
Singer Jennifer Hudson choked back tears this morning as she testified that no one in her family wanted her sister to marry William Balfour, the man now accused of killing her mother, brother and nephew.
"We didn't like the way he treated her, and I didn't like the way he treated my nephew," she said.
Balfour is accused of fatally shooting Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson; brother Jason Hudson; and her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, as an act of spite after Julia Hudson told him that she wanted a divorce.
Jennifer Hudson's emotional testimony offered little insight into the murders but painted a heartbreaking picture of a close-knit family torn apart by a violent crime. Hudson, who occasionally stopped to compose herself on the stand, spoke fondly of her nephew and mother. She texted or called her mom every day.
She recalled learning about the murders in a phone call from her frantic sister and told how she flew back immediately to Chicago to identify the bodies of her mother and brother at the morgue. She offered a $100,000 reward for her nephew.
"We were trying everything, anything we could do to get him back," she said.
Two days after posting the reward, Hudson was asked to return to the morgue to identify Julian's body. His body was discovered a few days later in a vehicle stolen from the Hudson home.
Hudson struggled to maintain her composure as she remembered happier times spent with her nephew, whom she affectionately called "Tugga Bear."
"It was always me and my Tugga Bear," she said.
Hudson's testimony also offered a little insight into the financial support that Hudson provided for her family, particularly after she won the Academy Award for best supporting actress in 2007.
In the months before the murders, Hudson bought her sister a computer, her brother a car and left her mother several signed checks to pay utility bills. Prosecutors most likely will point to that assistance as they try to dispel a defense claim that Jason Hudson sold drugs to support the family.
Jennifer Hudson is expected to attend the entire trial. She was accompanied to court today by her fiancé, professional wrestler David Otunga. Following her 30-minute testimony, she joined him in the fourth row of the courtroom.
Jennifer Hudson: 'We did not like how he treated her'
1:38 p.m. CDT April 23, 2012
Singer and actress Jennifer Hudson, the first witness called to the stand, was asked to identify the defendant. She poked her head around the judge's bench and pointed at William Balfour.
"He's sitting right there," she said.
Her voice broke, though, as she started to describe her reaction when her sister, Julia Hudson, told her she was going to marry Balfour.
"None of us wanted her to marry him," she said, her voice cracking and struggling to hold back tears. "We did not like how he treated her."
Jennifer Hudson takes stand
1:05 p.m. CDT April 23, 2012
Actress Jennifer Hudson has taken the witness stand in the killings of her mother, brother and nephew.
Dressed all in black with her hair pulled back, Hudson spoke in a soft voice and had to be told by the judge to speak up at one point.
She began to cry softly as she spoke about her family, especially nephew Julian, who was 7 when he was fatally shot.
"It was always me and my Tugga Bear. That's what I called him," she said of her nephew.
Hudson said she was extremely close with her mother, keeping in touch with her daily, and became worried when she awoke on Oct. 24, 2008, and hadn't heard from her mother yet.
Her voice cracked and she cried as she recounted how she had warned her sister, Julia, about William Balfour, who is on trial in the triple homicide.
Prosecutors: Suspect's words were 'deadly warnings'
12:05 p.m. CDT April 23, 2012
Singer Jennifer Hudson's brother-in-law killed her mother, brother and nephew because he could not stand to see her sister, Julia, dating other men, prosecutors told jurors in opening statements this morning.
Balfour is accused of fatally shooting Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson; brother Jason Hudson; and her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, as an act of spite after Julia Hudson told him that she wanted a divorce. Though he had cheated on her throughout their marriage, Balfour was upset that his estranged wife had begun dating someone else, Cook County Assistant State's Atty. Veryl Gambino said.
"What could have lead to these horrible events that took place? Resentment, anger, jealousy," Gambino said. "… He doesn't want Julia to have anyone but him."
Neither Jennifer nor Julia Hudson were in the courtroom for opening statements, a sign that they likely will be called as witnesses in the case. Hudson's fiancé, professional wrestler David Otunga, listened in the courtroom gallery with several other member of the Hudson family.
The Tribune reported in February that Jennifer Hudson told police in several interviews that the family had objected to her sister's relationship with Balfour and knew of his criminal past. Hudson also told police that she knew of alleged threats Balfour had made against her sister and family and that there had been rumors that Balfour had stolen her brother's .45-caliber pistol, later determined to be the murder weapon.
Prosecutors will use a series of witnesses to try to connect the dots of their case, piecing together a motive for the slayings as well as a timeline of events that ended with Balfour's arrest hours after the bodies of Donerson and Jason Hudson were found in the family's home in the 7000 block of South Yale Avenue. Julian's body was found a few days later on the West Side in a vehicle stolen from the Hudson home.
The most crucial testimony will come from Julia Hudson, who was separated from Balfour at the time of the killings. She is expected to tell the jury about Balfour's jealousy over her new boyfriend and describe threats he allegedly made to kill her and her family, according to prosecution filings.
Gambino told jurors that the couple's marriage began to fall apart after Julia went to Japan with Jennifer Hudson in 2008 and Balfour began seeking the company of other women. Despite Balfour's threats against her family, the two continued to have sexual relations.
"The sex was good but that doesn't make a marriage," Gambino said.
The defense has begun their opening statements, with testimony expected to begin later this afternoon.
The Cook County sheriff's office has issued more than 30 media credentials for the case, including to reporters from People Magazine, E! Entertainment Television and the gossip website TMZ. With hordes of reporters and camera operators descending upon the Criminal Courts Building today, county officials have planned for everything from courtroom seating to the private entrance Hudson will use during the monthlong trial.