Jennifer Hudson's Family Murder Trial: Star Power May Complicate Proceedings

The trial of the man accused of brutally murdering star's family set to begin.

April 09, 2012, 4:00 AM

April 9 ,2012—, 2012 -- Grammy and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson will be in the spotlight for a very different reason this week as proceedings for the trial of the man accused of brutally murdering three members of her family in 2008 begin – and some worry that the singer and actress's star power will complicate the legal process.

On Monday a Chicago court will begin whittling down a pool of 150 potential jurors in the trial of William Balfour, accused of brutally murdering the star's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew. Judge Charles Burns plans to begin questioning prospective jurors one by one.

Prosecutors allege that Balfour, the estranged husband of the actress' sister Julia Hudson, shot the three in cold blood after he learned that his wife was dating another man. Balfour was charged with three counts of first degree murder and one count of home invasion in December 2010; at the time he was on parole after he'd spent nearly seven years in prison for attempted murder, vehicular hijacking and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Jennifer Hudson, 30, is expected to attend the trial every day, and her name appears on a list of 300 potential witnesses that could be called to testify. Attorneys selecting members of the 12 person jury are tasked with identifying jurors that are able to set aside their associations with the star and focus on the facts of the trial.

"All attention usually is on the celebrity sitting in the courtroom, and that's the biggest challenge … to try to shift the focus from the celebrity observer to the action on the witness stand," Criminal Defense Attorney Dana Cole told ABC News.

A court questionnaire includes nine questions quizzing potential jurors on what they know about Hudson, who was not at home when Balfour allegedly killed her family. Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and brother, Jason Hudson, 29, were found shot to death in the family's home on Oct. 24, 2008. The body of Julian King, the singer's nephew, was found days later and miles away in a car after an AMBER Alert was issued.

Questions asked of potential jurors include whether or not they had seen the actress in the Academy Award-winning film "Dreamgirls," and if they belonged to any organizations that Hudson represents; the singer-actress has been the spokesman for Weight Watchers since April 2010.

Prosecutors say that proof of Balfour's involvement in the crime includes gun residue found on his car's steering wheel; Balfour's attorneys have said the evidence is circumstantial, The Associated Press reported. According to court documents Balfour was previously a Gangster Disciples gang member who went by the street name "Flex," and has a lengthy criminal record.

Complicating the trial further is that Hudson, who initially entered the national spotlight as a finalist on "American Idol's" highly rated third season, will make an appearance on the popular show this Thursday.

Since the devastating murders took place in October 2008, Hudson has rarely spoken about the tragedy. She first opened up about the loss of her family on VH-1.

"I have to get adjusted to who I am now, so I can't be another character if I don't know who I am," she said.

Although cameras will not be allowed inside the courtroom, it is expected that paparazzi will descend on the scene, another factor that could draw attention to the trial. Cole says that Hudson will ideally remain poised throughout the process.

"I think it would be too much to ask her to sit there like a stone, but at the same token, she has to keep she has to keep her emotions in check," Cole told ABC News.

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