Two weeks of expert witnesses, grisly crime-scene photos and tearful testimony by Jennifer Hudson culminates Wednesday in closing arguments at the trial of the man accused of killing three of the Oscar-winner’s relatives.
The prosecution is likely to argue that overwhelming circumstantial evidence presented by 83 witnesses during their 11-day case proves Hudson’s former brother-in-law, William Balfour, killed the star’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.
The defense – which began and then closed their case Tuesday after a mere 30 minutes – is expected to note that no witnesses tied Balfour directly to the killings and that prosecutors haven’t met their burden of proving Balfour was the killer. The defense theorized in their opening that Hudson’s brother’s alleged crack-cocaine dealing might have led to the killings. They offered no testimony to support that theory but could still try to argue that it is a credible alternative explanation for the slayings.
After the closings, jurors will withdraw to a back room at the 80-year-old courthouse to begin deliberating on a verdict.
Public defender Amy Thompson is expected to deliver the closing for the defense and lead prosecutor James McKay for the state. The fiery attorneys often clashed at pretrial hearings and showed flashes of anger toward each other during the trial.
As she was every day during testimony, Hudson was expected in court for the closings. Wearing a beige blouse, pants and high heels, she looked more relaxed Tuesday than usual – even smiling once as a prosecutor cross-examined one witness.
Hudson was the first witness called last month, sometimes tearing up as she told jurors about the last time she saw her three family members alive. The actress and singer also spoke endearingly of her nephew, Jason King, who she said she called Tugga Bear.
The defense called just two witnesses in their brief presentation to jurors – both of them detectives who had testified earlier for prosecutors – in a bid to suggest investigators botched the triple-homicide investigation. One detective conceded he wrote in a 2008 report that a witness saw the SUV in which Jason’s body was found after 6 p.m. a day after the killings. He told prosecutors the witness saw it after 6 a.m. He said he made a mistake in the original report.
The other detective admitted he hadn’t listed keys found on Balfour in a 2008 report. Another item not initially mentioned was Balfour’s unused transit card, evidence prosecutors say discredited Balfour’s alibi that he took the subway the day of the slayings. The defense may use the admission about the keys and apparent confusion over the time the SUV was spotted in closing arguments to bolster its claim that police rushed to pin the slayings on Balfour because of intense media coverage spurred by Hudson’s stardom.
Prosecutors wrapped up their nearly two-week presentation earlier Tuesday after showing pictures of Hudson’s nephew. He was found in an SUV, shot in the head, covered by a shower curtain and surrounded by shell casings, officers testified.
Balfour pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder. If convicted on all counts, he faces a mandatory life prison term.
Balfour and Julia Hudson were estranged but not yet divorced when the shootings occurred, and prosecution witnesses testified he threatened to kill the Hudson family dozens of times if Julia Hudson refused to reconcile with him.
Prosecutors say Balfour used a .45-caliber handgun to shoot Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, in the living room of the Hudson family home Oct. 24, 2008, then shot Hudson’s 29-year-old brother, Jason Hudson, in the head as he lay in bed.
Balfour allegedly then abducted Jason and shot him as he lay behind a front seat. His body was found in the abandoned vehicle miles away after a three-day search.