CHICAGO, Illinois -- William Balfour, who was convicted by a Cook County jury in May in the 2008 murders of singer Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and nephew, was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Judge Charles Burns imposed three consecutive life sentences for the murders and 120 years for the underlying felonies of home invasion and aggravated kidnapping.
An emotional Burns told Balfour his crimes "send a chill through all of us" and said Balfour's "soul is as barren as dark space."
The judge said he was appalled that Balfour would claim to love Julian King, Jennifer Hudsons 7-year-old nephew who was among the three murder victims.
"The fact that you can stand in court and tell us you love that child is an insult to all of us," Burns said.
"There's no doubt in my mind he looked up to you as you were putting bullets into his head," Burns said in a shaking voice. "I just hope his terror was short-lived."
Balfour looked at the judge without expression as he spoke.
Before his sentencing, Balfour made a statement to the victims' family members: "My condolences go out to the family," said Balfour, who was estranged from Hudson's sister, Julia, at the time of the murders. "My deepest sympathies go to Julian King. I loved him. I still love him."
A female member of Balfour's family burst into tears and ran out of the courtroom after Balfour spoke.
Balfour spoke as he stood at the defense table in a tan jail jumpsuit and looked toward his own family, not at Jennifer Hudson or her family who were seated across the aisle.
Earlier today in court, Julian's father, Gregory King, sat hunched over on the witness stand and sniffled as he recalled his fun-loving son who enjoyed cartoons and playing with his friends and family.
Jennifer and Julia Hudson both dabbed at their eyes with tissues during the testimony.
Burns today also denied Balfour's motion for a new trial. During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors called victims from Balfour's past crimes.
Charles Gardner, 48, testified he caught Balfour in the act of stealing his SUV in November 1998 and jumped onto the luggage rack, touching off a wild police chase through several South Side neighborhoods and down the Dan Ryan Expressway as Balfour tried to shake him off the roof.
When Assistant State's Attorney Jim McKay asked how fast Balfour was driving on the expressway, Gardner replied, "I would say close to 100 miles per hour."
Jennifer Hudson glanced at her sister Julia as Gardner testified, at one point putting her hand to her temple and shaking her head with a smile of disbelief.
After the theft of Gardner's car, Balfour was captured and charged with attempted murder. He pleaded guilty and spent nearly a decade in prison.
He was still on parole when Hudson's three relatives were murdered in October 2008.
Burns denied the motion for a new trial that was filed last month by Balfour's attorneys. Defense lawyers argued that Jennifer Hudson should not have been allowed to testify at trial because she had no direct knowledge of the murders and her celebrity unfairly influenced the jury.
Such motions are routinely filed to raise issues for appeal and are almost never granted by the trial judge.
Hudson was the first witness called by prosecutors in Balfour's two-week trial. The Chicago-born superstar testified tearfully that she knew Balfour from growing up in the Englewood neighborhood. Hudson testified that she begged her sister not to marry him, but she did anyway.
A Cook County jury convicted him of fatally shooting Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and brother Jason Hudson, 29, in the family's South Side house and then kidnapping and killing Julian King.
In a statement issued after the sentencing, States Atty. Anita Alvarez thanked Jennifer Hudson and her family for their exceptional cooperation during the course of this case and for helping to maintain a sense of order and dignity throughout the duration of this trial.
We hope that todays sentence provides them with some measure of justice and closure.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun