CHICAGO, May 11, 2012 — -- A jury has found William Balfour guilty of murdering actress Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in 2008.
Balfour, 31, was accused of killing the three in a jealous rage, believing that his estranged wife, Julia Hudson, Jennifer Hudson's sister, was dating another man.
Jennifer Hudson, who sat between her fiance and Julia Hudson, silently cried as the verdict was read. Her fiance held her hand and rubbed her back. As Jennifer Hudson started to cry, her sister reached over and grabbed her hand and they looked at each other for a few seconds.
Balfour appeared to sit expressionless.
After the verdict, Balfour's attorney, Cook County Public Defender Amy Thompson, again characterized the case against Balfour as circumstantial and maintained his innocence. She said there would be an appeal.
"We are disappointed in the verdict, but we do appreciate all of the hard work the jury did in this case," she told reporters. "We're hoping that the appellate court will take a look at this case with a very critical eye."
The Hudson family left the courthouse out of the public's view without addressing the media. Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez spoke with Jennifer Hudson moments after the verdict and said Hudson was "emotional, but relieved."
Later, Jennifer and Julia Hudson issued a statement of thanks to police, prosecutors and others involved in the trial, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
"We have felt the love and support from people all over the world and we're very grateful," the statement said. "We want to extend a prayer from the Hudson family to the Balfour family.
"We have all suffered terrible loss in this tragedy," the statement added. "It is our prayer that the Lord will forgive Mr. Balfour of these heinous acts and bring his heart into repentance someday."
The announcement that there was a verdict came shortly after the jury told Judge Charles Burns that it was split but wrote in a note, "We are trying." Burns ordered a resumption of deliberations in hopes of the jury's reaching an agreement. In a second note, the jury requested testimony about Balfour's cellphone records.
Soon afterward, after some 18 hours of deliberations over three days, the jury found Balfour guilty of all charges against him -- three counts of first-degree murder, home invasion, residential burglary, aggravated kidnapping and possession of a stolen vehicle.
Jurors said later that they overcame what was a 9-3 split in the jury room favoring a guilty verdict to come to a unanimous decision.
"There were three of us who just needed to see the picture a little clearer," said Jacinta Gholston, 35, who works for a Chicago-based chocolate company and initially was among the dissenters. "There were some holes or some gaps, per se, that just needed to be filled in."
Jurors said the mild disagreement was resolved by putting together a timeline of Balfour's movements, largely from the testimony about his cellphone records.
"He could not be in two places at one time," said Paula Halcomb, a teacher in Chicago's southwest suburbs. "The cellphone records were key, actually."
Despite the focus on Jennifer Hudson, jurors said the actress, her testimony and the attention she drew to the case and courtroom did not factor significantly into their deliberations.
"No, that didn't weigh in on our [deliberations], what Jennifer said, because, really, she didn't say anything," juror Tracie Austin said.
"This wasn't a case about Jennifer Hudson to us," Gholston added. "This was a case about William Balfour."
"We absolutely felt some empathy for him," she added later.
Asked if the jury had any message for Jennifer Hudson, jury foreman Robert Smith, a bus aide for the Chicago public schools, said, "To be perfectly honest, I really don't have anything to say with her. I just hope she can put this behind her and really get on with her life."