OSCAR-winning actress Jennifer Hudson broke down in court on the witness stand at the start of the trial of the man accused of killing her family.
Hudson dabbed her tears as she gave evidence just yards from the man prosecutors say killed her mother, brother and seven-year-old nephew in a fit of jealous rage four years ago.
Hudson, an Oscar winner for Dreamgirls, was the first witness at the trial of her brother-in-law William Balfour.
She offered moving testimony about her family, including her reaction to her sister, Julia Hudson, telling her she was going to marry Balfour. "None of us wanted her to marry him," she said, her voice cracking and struggling to hold back tears. "We did not like how he treated her."
Putting the star on the stand first was a shrewd move by prosecutors, according to one former prosecutor.
"It rivets the jury," said Phil Turner, a Chicago lawyer. "For better or worse it increases the importance of the case in jurors' minds."
When Julia Hudson testified later in the day about her ex-husband's alleged threats against her family, Jennifer was watching from a fourth-row bench. She bowed her head and wiped away tears as prosecutors played a recording of the call to police her sister made in October 2008 after discovering their mother's bloodied body.
"Oh my God, oh my God," Julia Hudson is heard yelling at a dispatcher, who tells her to stop screaming because he cannot understand her. "My momma, my momma!"
Balfour (30) denies three counts of first-degree murder.
A silver and black pistol said to be the murder weapon lay on the prosecutor's table not far from where Jennifer Hudson was sitting for much of the day.
With her hair up in a bun, Hudson seemed composed as a prosecutor began asking her questions. But the evidence became increasingly difficult and she began crying when talking about seeing her family the Sunday before the killings and later when a prosecutor showed her a picture of her mother.
Balfour showed little emotion during her testimony and during opening statements.
Prosecutors say he repeatedly threatened Julia Hudson and her family after the couple separated. Their divorce was finalised last year.
Julia Hudson said her ex-husband was prone to jealousy, and became angry when her son, Julian King, kissed her.
"He'd say, 'Get off my wife'," she said. The trial continues.