By Michael Tarm
CHICAGO — The trial of the man charged with murdering three of Jennifer Hudson’s family members resumed Tuesday with the Oscar-winner shutting her eyes as a police officer described finding her dead family members and later leaving the courtroom before photos of their bodies were shown.
Hudson watched much of the testimony before getting up and leaving shortly before prosecutors displayed pictures of her mother and brother’s bloodied bodies. Prosecutors often let family members know when they will be showing unsettling evidence.
A day after Hudson offered emotional testimony, prosecutors began shifting their focus to presenting crime scene evidence in the case against her former brother-in-law, William Balfour.
Balfour was estranged from his wife, Hudson’s sister, at the time of the killings. He has pleaded not guilty to murdering Hudson’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.
Several of the photographs showed Hudson’s mother, 57-year-old Darnell Donerson, sprawled face down on the floor, with blood staining her white nightgown.
Donald Fanelli, the forensics expert who was on the scene the day of the killings, testified that Hudson’s mother may have used a broom by her hand in one picture to fend off the attacker.
Other photos showed Hudson’s 29-year-old brother, Jason Hudson, with a gunshot wound near his ear, his head still on his pillow as he lay in bed.
Earlier in the day, Hudson hung her head and shut her eyes as Chicago police Sgt. David Dowling described finding her mother’s body in the living room with gunshot wounds through her back.
Dowling described finding Jason Hudson dead in his bed, with the sheets pulled up as if he had been sleeping.
Jennifer Hudson sat in a fourth row bench well within view of jurors for much of the day Tuesday.
Another officer testified about the frantic search for Hudson’s nephew, Julian King, who was found in an SUV three days later.
Prosecutors also played a surveillance video showing Balfour getting out of a car at a gas station near the Hudson house on Chicago’s South Side before the killings.
Prosecutors are trying to show he was in the area at the time — something Balfour has denied.
As the video played on a courtroom screen, Hudson rested her head on her knees for several minutes.
Prosecutors created a buzz Monday by calling the Oscar winner and “American Idol” finalist as their first witness, but on Tuesday they began getting down to the nitty-gritty of their case.
With no surviving witnesses to the murders, prosecutors must offer overwhelming circumstantial evidence that Balfour committed the grisly crime on Oct. 24, 2008.
One challenge will be tying Balfour to the alleged murder weapon, a silver and black .45-calibre handgun.
Prosecutors claim Balfour targeted the family in a horrific act of vindictiveness against his ex-wife.
They believe he became enraged by balloons he saw at the home that he thought were from her new boyfriend.
Defense attorneys have said the killing could be connected to alleged drug dealing by Hudson’s brother.
Prosecutors contend Balfour went inside the three-story house around 9 a.m. and shot Hudson’s mother and brother.
Investigators allege he then drove off in Jason Hudson’s sport utility vehicle with 7-year-old Julian inside, and later shot the boy in the head as he lay behind a front seat.
Jennifer Hudson took the witness stand for about 30 minutes Monday in sometimes tearful, gut-wrenching testimony.
Hudson, who was in Florida at the time of the shootings, spoke of her family and her reaction to her sister, Julia Hudson, telling her in 2006 that she was marrying Balfour.
“None of us wanted her to marry him,” the 30-year-old said, her voice cracking as she struggled to hold back tears.
Later, Julia Hudson described how Balfour repeatedly threatened her and her family after she rejected his pleas in May 2008.
If convicted of at least two of the murder counts, Balfour would face a mandatory life sentence.