By Jason Meisner
4:05 PM EDT, June 8, 2012
Singer Jennifer Hudson should not have been allowed to testify against her former brother-in-law because she had no direct knowledge of the murders of three family members and her celebrity unfairly influenced the jury, defense attorneys argued today in seeking a new trial.
Hudson was the first witness called by prosecutors in the trial of William Balfour, convicted last month of killing the Oscar-winning actress’ mother, brother and young nephew because he was jealous that his estranged wife, Hudson’s sister, wanted out of the relationship and was seeing another man.
The Chicago-born superstar testified tearfully that she knew Balfour from growing up in the Englewood neighborhood and that no one in the family liked him. Hudson testified she begged her sister, Julia, not to marry him, but she did anyway.
In seeking a new trial, Balfour’s attorneys revealed that they had objected to Jennifer Hudson’s testimony before trial in a closed-door hearing before Judge Charles Burns.
The defense maintained that Burns erred in allowing Hudson to take the stand, calling her testimony irrelevant. Because of Hudson’s fame, “the prejudicial effect of the testimony on the jury far outweighed any probative value it would have,” Balfour’s lawyers wrote in the court filing.
The 19-page filing also revealed that prosecutors informed the defense about “a potential alternate suspect” in the triple murder after the jury had been selected and only three days before opening statements took place. Balfour’s lawyers did not provide in its filing any further details of that alleged suspect.
The defense also alleged that prosecutors made “improper and inflammatory” statements during closing arguments in the trial.
Burns scheduled a hearing on the new trial request for July 24. If it is denied, Balfour, 31, could be sentenced that day. He faces mandatory life imprisonment.
A Cook County jury convicted him of killing Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, 57; brother Jason Hudson, 29; and 7-year-old nephew, Julian King.
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