Updated 9:20 p.m. EDT: Julia Hudson capped off an emotional day of testimony in Courtroom 500. Her sister, Jennifer, who sat next to her fiancé, David Otunga, in the courtroom, wept quietly as prosecutors played a recording of the 911 call her sister made after discovering their mother's body on the living room floor. At first Julia thought her mom had fallen after taking ill.
The dispatcher told a sobbing Julia to stop yelling because he could not understand her. She was crying for help and saying, "My mama, mama."
She portrayed Balfour as a jealous-hearted man who repeatedly made threats against her family. She alleged that he even became enraged when her son kissed her. She said he'd say, "Get off my wife."
Earlier in the day Jennifer Hudson, the prosecution's first witness, testified that the family did not want Julia to marry Balfour in the first place. "None of us wanted her to marry him," Hudson said. "I would tell her over and over again not to marry William. We didn't like the way he treated her."
Balfour grew up in the same Englewood neighborhood as the Hudsons and attended the same grade school as Jennifer, she testified.
When asked if she liked Balfour, Jennifer Hudson said, "Never. Not even in grammar school."
That was one of the few moments when Balfour looked at Hudson. Otherwise Balfour, who chewed gum, sat slumped in his chair and stared blankly toward the jury.
Prosecutors painted Balfour as a narcissist who worked as a drug dealer. They allege that he stalked Julia after she rebuffed him. While defense attorneys did not try to defend his character, they did say he is no murderer. In fact, public defender Amy Thompson raised the specter that the murders may have occurred as a result of Jason Hudson, who worked as a drug dealer.
Thompson alleged that Jason was a known drug dealer and the family was killed with his .45-caliber Sig Sauer, which sat on a table in full display for much of the day. She said that prosecutors have not be able to link Balfour's DNA to Jason's stolen SUV, where Julian King was discovered, or to any other evidence because he's not the killer.
"They have told story after story," Thompson said of prosecutors during her opening statement.
Jennifer Hudson said she was unaware of her brother's occupation. Julia Hudson said that she frequently hid the Sig Sauer for her brother.
Testimony is scheduled to resume on Tuesday.
Updated 5:35 p.m. EDT: Julia Hudson, the prosecution's star witness, took the witness stand after lunch and described her troubled relationship with the defendant, William Balfour, who is her ex-husband and was estranged from her at the time of the slayings. Although she knew that he was seeing other women, the estranged couple continued to have a physical relationship.
She painted a picture of wanting to move on, while he repeatedly professed his love for her. At one point he told her that life had become unbearable without her and he couldn't eat or sleep, Hudson said. He wanted her back while he continued to see other women, she added.
" 'If you leave me, you will be the last to die,' " she quoted him in the hushed courtroom. " 'I'm going to kill your family first.' "
Updated 3:30 p.m. EDT: During questioning as a witness in the murder trial of her ex-brother-in-law, Jennifer Hudson expressed disdain for William Balfour and said that no one in the family wanted her sister, Julia, to marry him. The two barely exchanged glances as an emotionless Balfour, dressed in a white shirt and blue-and-gray tie, sat slumped in his seat surrounded by a team of lawyers.
His relationship with Julia Hudson was a focal point in opening statements before a packed courtroom. Prosecutor Veryl Gambino told jurors that a gift of balloons he saw at the home sent Balfour into such a jealous rage that he shot and killed her family. He allegedly believed that the balloons came from Julia's new boyfriend.
But Balfour's attorney Amy Thompson mapped out a defense that questioned whether the family was actually killed because Jason Hudson, Jennifer's brother, was a drug dealer.
Updated 3:10 p.m. EDT: Jennifer Hudson was the first witness to testify in the trial of William Balfour. The often glamorously attired performer was dressed in an understated black dress, with her hair pulled back into a bun. She broke down in tears on several occasions during her testimony. Among those times was when she recalled the last time she saw her mother, brother and nephew alive.
"I saw them at my house," Hudson said in answer to a prosecutor's question as she choked back tears. "This time it was the whole family the weekend before it all happened: my brother, my mom, sister and nephew, and they even brought Dreamgirl [the dog]." Hudson also said that she knew something was wrong the day of the murders because she and her mother would normally text and call several times a day, and she wasn't hearing back from her mother.
All eyes are expected to be on award-winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson when she sits in a courtroom across from the man accused of slaying three members of her family in a jealous rage in 2008. Hudson, a witness, is widely expected to attend the trial of William Balfour, 30, which begins today in Chicago.
Shortly after the slayings, Balfour was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and home invasion in the deaths of Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, 57; brother, Jason Hudson, 29; and 7-year-old nephew, Julian King.
Balfour, now the ex-husband of Hudson's sister, Julia, has pleaded not guilty to the crimes, which occurred at the family's home in Englewood on Chicago's South Side. Julia Hudson is also expected to testify. She and Balfour were estranged at the time of the murders, but he reportedly became upset that she had plans to date someone else.
The Root has a seat in the courtroom on the first day of the trial. We will bring you exclusive updates this afternoon and evening.
Lynette Holloway is the midwest bureau chief for The Root. The Chicago-based writer is a former New York Times reporter and associate editor for Ebony magazine.