Officers Testify at Jennifer Hudson Family Murder Trial
From Ted Rowlands and Katherine Wojtecki, CNN
CHICAGO (CNN) — More than two dozen people filled a Chicago courtroom Tuesday, listening to testimony in the case of the murdered relatives of Grammy-winning singer Jennifer Hudson.
Hudson was seated beside her fiance as witnesses recalled the harrowing events of a rainy day in October 2008, when the singer’s mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and her brother, Jason Hudson, 29, were shot dead. The body of Hudson’s 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, was found three days later in an abandoned vehicle.
Her former brother-in-law, William Balfour, is charged with their murders.
Sgt. Richard Dowling — the first police officer to arrive at the murder scene — said he found Hudson’s mother lying face-down with a gunshot wound to her back. Dowling next found her brother on a bed, he testified, though he recalled that he had difficulty identifying the man because he had been wrapped in blankets.
Police searched the home for Julian, issuing an Amber alert when their initial sweep failed.
Police officer Jennifer Bryk testified that she was next to Hudson’s sister, Julia, who at the time was separated from Balfour, when he called her after the attack.
Bryk instructed the woman “to act normal” in her conversation in order to help authorities locate him.
Later Tuesday, an acquaintance of Balfour’s, Abdullah Smith, 37, testified that the defendant had confided in him, telling him that he was having marital problems.
Balfour showed him a text message from Julia Hudson, he said, that told him she didn’t love him anymore.
Smith also recalled how Balfour once told him that he wished he could beat up Hudson’s brother but never heard of him threatening his wife, her mother or Julian.
On Monday, Jennifer Hudson — the prosecution’s first witness — broke down in tears several times on the stand as she recalled her relatives’ murders.
“None of us wanted her to marry him,” she said of her sister’s decision to marry Balfour. “We did not like how he treated her.”
Hudson, dressed in black, also testified about her relationship with her mother, saying she spoke with her every day and slept in the same bed with her until she was 16.
Read a full transcript of Jennifer Hudson’s testimony (PDF)
Through tears, she talked about the last time she saw her family together and the day she found out about the deaths.
“I did everything in my power to get home,” Hudson said. She testified that she identified her relatives’ bodies for authorities.
During cross-examination, the singer-actress returned to the subject of Balfour.
“Where he was, I tried not to be,” Hudson said.
In the afternoon, her sister, Julia Hudson, took the stand.
She said Balfour threatened to kill her family after she told him she didn’t want to be with him.
“‘If you leave me, you’ll be the last to die. I’ll kill your family first,’ ” she quoted him as saying. She also said Balfour was jealous of her son.
Julia Hudson recounted arriving home the day of the killings, finding a bullet hole in the door and running inside.
“I’m saying, ‘Mama, mama, mama,'” she said. “She didn’t answer.”
She testified that she ran screaming from the home after finding her mother lying in blood on the floor.
When police asked her who could have done it, Julia Hudson said, she told them “William.”
Julia Hudson testified that her main goal after the killings was finding her son. When she learned that he had been found dead, “I hollered, and I screamed,” she recounted Monday.
Eighteen people have been selected to serve on the jury in the murder trial: 10 women and eight men. The group includes six alternates.
The judge has said he expects the trial to last three to four weeks.
Balfour was detained for questioning the day after the victims were found at the Chicago home. The authorities said at the time that they were holding Balfour for an unspecified parole violation, but he was indicted for murder two months later.
Balfour, Julian’s stepfather, has also been charged with one count of home invasion.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his lawyer has said in court that there is no forensic evidence linking him to the killings.
Prosecutors have portrayed Balfour as a jealous man who murdered three people in a rage at the thought that his wife had a boyfriend.
The deaths took place a year after Hudson, who rose to fame as a contestant on “American Idol,” won an Oscar for her role in the movie “Dreamgirls.”
In a recent interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Hudson reflected on the life of her mother.
“My mother was a very wise and strong person. I feel like she raised us well, and she prepared me well, and so that’s what I live by,” she said.
Her career has continued to blossom and remain varied since her relatives’ deaths.
Her recent milestones include penning a memoir detailing her struggles with her weight; being cast to play Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie, in an upcoming movie; releasing a new album; and singing a well-received tribute to Whitney Houston at the most recent Grammy Awards show in February.
CNN’s Ted Rowlands and Katherine Wojtecki in Chicago and Alan Duke in Los Angeles contributed to this report.