In bringing some of their most damning testimony against Jennifer Hudson's former brother-in-law, Cook County prosecutors on Thursday relied on some colorful witnesses, including a former crack addict, a jail inmate and a man who waited more than two years to come forward with his story.
All three helped tie William Balfour to the gun used in the fatal shooting of the singer's mother, brother and nephew. But the witnesses also underscored the difficulty of prosecuting a case in which many of the key players have issues that could undermine their credibility with the jury.
Dressed in a tan Cook County Jail uniform, Christopher Mitchell, 27, testified that Balfour showed him a .45-caliber pistol in September 2008 that he immediately recognized as belonging to his longtime friend, Hudson's brother, Jason. Mitchell, who is currently awaiting trial on charges of aggravated battery to a child, denied prosecutors had made any kind of deal in exchange for his testimony.
Before Mitchell took the stand, jurors heard from Englewood resident Debra Hampton, a former Hudson neighbor who said she regularly bought crack cocaine from Balfour before his arrest.
Hampton, who has a hearing disability, testified that she overheard a loud argument between Balfour and Julia Hudson a few days before the murders.
The couple, who had been separated for more than eight months, were arguing on the street over Julia Hudson's new boyfriend, Hampton said. At one point, Balfour began calling Julia Hudson an offensive epithet, she said.
"I am going to (expletive) you and your family up," she recalled Balfour yelling. She said she was able to hear the argument clearly from a short distance away despite her hearing problems.
Hampton also recounted a conversation she had with Balfour in September 2008 when he complained that Jason Hudson had unfairly accused him of stealing his gun.
"He said if he had stole his gun, he would have used it on his fat ass," Hampton quoted Balfour as saying.
On cross-examination, assistant public defender Edward Koziboski questioned Hampton in a softer tone than the prosecutor, prompting her to ask him to repeat himself numerous times in front of the jury, possibly raising doubts about how she could have heard Balfour. Hampton said police never questioned her in 2008 and that she did not tell prosecutors about either incident until last July as investigators re-canvassed the neighborhood in preparation for trial.
Balfour, 30, is accused of fatally shooting Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson; Jason Hudson; and her 7-year-old nephew Julian King in October 2008 allegedly because he was upset his wife wanted a divorce.
Earlier Thursday, Robbin Myers, whose wife was good friends with Julia Hudson, testified Balfour came to his son's birthday party in August 2008 and "went on a rant" about how he suspected his wife was romantically involved with a co-worker.
"'If I find out she's cheating on me, I'm gonna (expletive) her and him up,'" Myers quoted Balfour as saying.
Myers also said Balfour was upset that the Hudson family hated him, including Jennifer Hudson, who he said "thinks she's better than everybody else."
As she listened to the testimony about her from the courtroom gallery, Jennifer Hudson whispered something to her fiance, David Otunga, and shook her head.
During their conversation at the party, Myers testified, Balfour threatened to kill the Hudson family "at least 10 times" and became agitated and raised his arms, exposing a handgun stuck in his waistband.
Myers also testified he saw Balfour just weeks before the slayings slouched down in his car outside the bus company where Julia Hudson and Myers' wife worked. He said he saw Balfour get out of the car with a gun in his waistband and start walking toward the building, but Myers interrupted "what he was about to do" by honking his horn.
In a tense cross-examination, Myers, who told his story when investigators contacted him in June 2011, was asked repeatedly why he allowed Balfour to stay at a children's birthday party if he had a gun and seemed unbalanced. The defense also questioned why he didn't go to the police after hearing Balfour's alleged threats or even after hearing Balfour was arrested for the murders.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun