The man convicted of gunning down the mother, brother and nephew of Jennifer Hudson will spend the rest of his life in prison.
A Cook County judge on Tuesday gave William Balfour three life sentences. Balfour was convicted earlier this year of first-degree murder in the 2008 killings. The actress and singer was in the Chicago courtroom for the sentencing.
The sentencing came after Circuit Judge Charles Burns denied a request from Balfour for a new trial.
Balfour faced a mandatory life sentence. Illinois does not have the death penalty.
Balfour was married to Hudson’s sister. Prosecutors contend he shot the family members in a jealous rage because she was dating another man.
Balfour’s defense filed the appeal shortly after he was convicted of first-degree murder in May. Cook County Circuit Judge Charles Burns was expected to immediately begin the sentencing hearing after he denied the request for a new trial.
The hearing comes a little more than two months after a jury convicted Balfour in the Oct. 24, 2008, shooting deaths of Hudson’s 57-year-old mother Darnell Donerson, her 29-year-old brother Jason Hudson and her 7-year-old nephew Julian King.
Prosecutors portrayed Balfour as a jealous estranged husband who often stalked Julia Hudson’s house after he moved out in early 2008. They said all his anger and jealousy erupted into violence shortly after he came into the house and spotted a gift of balloons there that were from Julia Hudson’s new boyfriend.
They told jurors that after Julia Hudson left the house for her job as a bus driver the morning of Oct. 24, Balfour returned with a .45-caliber handgun and shot Hudson’s mother in the back, and then shot Hudson’s brother twice in the head as he lay in bed.
Prosecutors said that Balfour drove off in Jason Hudson’s SUV and shot him several times in the head as he lay behind the front seat. The boy’s body was found in the abandoned vehicle miles away after a three-day search.
The case against Balfour was built largely on circumstantial evidence, with witnesses testifying that the shootings were the final chapter of a story that was laid out to them by Balfour himself in alleged threats that he would kill Julia Hudson’s family if she spurned him.
Julia Hudson was among those who testified about the alleged threats Balfour made against her family, telling jurors that he was so prone to jealousy that he even angrily complained when her young son, Julian King, kissed her.
“He said, ‘If you leave me, you will be the last to die. I’ll kill your family first,'” she testified.
Other witnesses told similar stories, with one saying that Balfour “went on a rant” in August 2008 about his estranged wife in which he repeatedly threatened to kill the family. Another said he saw Balfour spying on his estranged wife from outside her house.
A former girlfriend of Balfour testified that Balfour told her he had shot and killed Hudson’s family members and that she’d agreed to serve as his alibi if police inquired out of fear he would harm her.
Some of the most dramatic testimony came from Jennifer Hudson. The singer, who won an Academy Award for her acting role in the 2007 film “Dreamgirls,” was the first witness to testify.
“I tried to keep my distance from William Balfour,” she told jurors when asked if she was ever friends with Balfour, whom she’d known since junior high school.
But Balfour’s attorneys suggested that someone else committed a crime in the family’s three-story house in Englewood on Chicago’s South Side. The way they told it, someone other than Balfour targeted the family because of alleged crack-cocaine dealing by Hudson’s brother. But when it came time to present evidence, Balfour’s attorneys only called two witnesses in 30 minutes of testimony and never presented any evidence to support that theory.
Even if the suggestion did not sway jurors, it did underscore the violence that plagues the family’s small neighborhood on the city’s South Side, a community where children grow up knowing the sound of gunfire, a sound so common that residents often don’t even bother to call police to report it.
A high school dropout and member of a street gang, Balfour had a long rap sheet for drug offenses and automobile theft when he was arrested and convicted for attempted murder and vehicular hijacking. After seven years in prison he was released in 2006.
A few months later he married Julia Hudson, at about the same time Jennifer Hudson was starring in “Dreamgirls.” Balfour had a falling out with his wife and moved out of the house. Just months later he was back in jail, charged in the Hudson family slayings.
By New York Post