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Ordeal for star Hudson as murder trial begins

OSCAR winner Jennifer Hudson will this week come face to face with the man charged with murdering her mother, brother and seven-year-old nephew when he goes on trial in Chicago.

The Dreamgirls star's presence is bound to affect the proceedings, which begin today when presiding Judge Charles Burns plans to start questioning would-be jurors one by one, trying to weed out anyone who could be swayed by Hudson's celebrity status.

Hudson is expected to be at the trial every day once testimony begins, court officials said, and she's on the 300-name list of witnesses who could testify.

While the judge will warn prospective jurors to avoid watching TV coverage of the trial, they may see Hudson on American Idol on Thursday.

Legal experts widely agree on the No 1 challenge at trials involving megastars: It's identifying 12 jurors able and willing to assess guilt solely on what they hear in court. Hudson will need to refrain from overt displays of emotion in front of potentially starstruck jurors', said Gerald Uelmen, a defence attorney at former football star OJ Simpson's murder trial.

"The risk is that jurors may be watching her rather than testifying witnesses, and they could be influenced by how she reacts," he said. "She would be well advised not to engage in any facial expressions or outbursts. That could be grounds for a mistrial."

Prosecutors say William Balfour, the 30-year-old estranged husband of Hudson's sister, shot the family in a jealous rage because Julia Hudson was dating another man. Jennifer Hudson, also 30, and Balfour grew up in the same neighbourhood on Chicago's South Side.

The bodies of Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson (57) and brother, Jason Hudson (29) were found shot dead in the family's home on October 24, 2008. The body of her nephew, Julian King, was found days later in a vehicle several miles away.

Balfour's attorneys have said the evidence is circumstantial, though prosecutors say proof he committed the crime will include gun residue found on his car's steering wheel.

Balfour was a one-time Gangster Disciples gang member and known by his street name, "Flex" according to court documents.

A media hubbub is expected to surround the case and the judge has banned cameras and tweeting from the courtroom.

hnews@herald.ie


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