Jurors will continue deliberating the fate of actress Jennifer Hudson's former brother-in-law Thursday, choosing between contradicting portraits of him painted during closing arguments.
The racially diverse panel must decide whether William Balfour is an innocent victim of a rushed investigation or if he's a jealous, jilted husband determined to destroy the woman who refused his attempts at reconciliation.
In doing so, they will weigh the evidence in a largely circumstantial case that has no DNA or fingerprints tying him to the crime. Prosecutors spent more than two hours Wednesday urging the jury to consider powerful evidence of Balfour's motive and trying to dispel the notion that it requires overwhelming forensic evidence to convict.
The jury of six women and six men deliberated for several hours into Wednesday night before being sequestered at a local hotel.
Balfour is accused of fatally shooting Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, 57; her brother Jason Hudson, 29, and her 7-year-old nephew Julian King in October 2008. Prosecutors alleged he was upset that his estranged wife, Hudson's sister, Julia, had begun seeing another man and wanted a divorce.
Jennifer Hudson wept and buried her face in her fiance's shoulder as prosecutors implored jurors to use their common sense and reject defense theories that the killings were related to Jason Hudson's cocaine business, which he ran out of the family's Englewood home.
"Jason Hudson had enemies," said Balfour's attorney, Amy Thompson. "People without enemies don't need a gun for protection."
Acknowledging the largely circumstantial case, Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Bagby said witness testimony, firearms evidence and cellphone technology presented during 11 days of testimony all pointed toward Balfour.
In a passionate closing argument, Bagby addressed the lack of DNA or fingerprint evidence, saying, "Just because something isn't there, doesn't mean that he (Balfour) wasn't there."
The defense argued that Chicago police did not properly investigate the crime and rushed to apprehend a suspect amid all the media attention stemming from Jennifer Hudson's celebrity.
"They were trying to convict a pre-chosen defendant," said Thompson.
The arguments wrapped up with a fiery, often sarcastic, rebuttal from Assistant State's Attorney James McKay. Calling Balfour a coward, McKay said the defendant would have to be the "unluckiest man in the world" to be charged with killing his then-wife's family amid a "tsunami" of circumstantial evidence.
McKay told jurors that the circumstantial evidence is so plentiful it's even more powerful than DNA or fingerprints.
"It doesn't have an interest or bias," McKay argued as he paced furiously around the courtroom. "It's neutral."
According to police records, Balfour became angry after visiting Julia Hudson at her mother's home on the morning of Oct. 24, 2008, and seeing Sweetest Day balloons she had received from her new boyfriend. The couple had been separated for about eight months despite Balfour's reconciliation attempts.
After she went to work, they squabbled over the phone about her wages being garnished because he failed to make car payments as promised.
"After all of that, guess what happens? Her mother, her brother and her son are murdered. What a coinkydink!" said McKay, his eyes bulging and voice dripping with sarcasm.
McKay explained the lack of physical evidence by telling jurors that Balfour was smart enough to wipe the gun after using it or possibly wear gloves. He also noted that witness testimony suggested he changed his clothes at least three times on the day of the murders.
"Do you think criminals don't watch television?" he asked.
McKay also pointed to testimony by numerous witnesses that a panicked Balfour asked them to serve as his alibi. He even called Julia Hudson as she stood outside the crime scene and gave vague answers about his whereabouts but did not offer to come comfort her.
"If you are innocent, you get your butt back to Yale (Avenue). You be with your grieving wife," McKay said. "A child is missing. Stop thinking about yourself."
As prosecutors addressed the jury, crime scene photos and happier snapshots of the Hudson family flashed on a large screen. Jennifer Hudson, who had stayed out of the courtroom when the grisly images were first shown earlier in the trial, buried her head in the shoulder of fiance David Otunga and wept. The Harvard-educated lawyer and professional wrestler who has attended each day of the trial whispered softly to her.
Julia Hudson sat next to her younger sister and exchanged several glances during the defense arguments. She had testified that her marriage to Balfour disintegrated after he began dating other women.
Despite separating in February 2008, the couple continued to have sexual relations in the months leading up to the killings. Julia Hudson testified that Balfour threatened to kill her and her family more than two dozen times, but she never went to the police or filed an order of protection.
"She wasn't threatened by William Balfour," Thompson said. "She didn't behave as if she were."
Thompson acknowledged that Balfour behaved like a dog toward his wife and various mistresses, but she said that's not a legitimate reason to convict him of murder.
McKay, who is known in the courthouse for his zealous arguments, seized on the statement early in his rebuttal.
"Calling the defendant a dog is an insult to dogs," he said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun