FOURTEEN potential jurors have been selected for the trial of the man accused of killing singer Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and nephew.
The process will continue today to select the final four panelists for the trial of William Balfour (30) in Chicago.
Circuit Judge Charles Burns and lawyers looked to weed out anyone who might be swayed by the 30-year-old Hudson's celebrity. Burns told would-be jurors that anyone opposed to capital punishment need not worry because Illinois abolished the death penalty.
Hudson's name came up frequently during questioning, though most of the would-be jurors insisted that what they knew about her or heard in the media about the case they could set aside and consider only the evidence presented at the trial.
But one woman in her 30s, a sales person at Xerox, was dismissed after she told those assembled in court that she is a big fan of Hudson's and would be unable to discount the tragedy and give the defendant a fair trial.
"I'm a fan of Jennifer Hudson's and I feel bad for what she went through," she said.
Only a few people said they knew little to nothing about Hudson. Once testimony begins on April 23, court officials say Hudson is expected to attend every day of the trial, which could last up to a month.
She is on a 300-name list of potential witnesses, though it's not certain she will testify.
While the judge will warn jurors to avoid watching news coverage about the case, they may see Hudson in a scheduled appearance this Thursday on American Idol, where she first rose to fame as a contestant in 2004.
Nine of 66 questions on a questionnaire the would-be jurors were asked to fill out last week dealt with Hudson's career. One asked if they'd ever seen her Academy Award-winning film Dreamgirls.
Hudson, who was not in Chicago at the time of the killings, told investigators she was in touch with her mother almost every day and became concerned when she couldn't reach her by late morning on October 24, 2008.
Hours later, the bodies of her mother, Darnell Donerson (57) and brother Jason Hudson (29) were found shot to death in the family home. The body of her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, was found days later in an SUV several miles away.
Balfour's lawyers have said the evidence is circumstantial. But prosecutors say the proof includes gun residue found on his car's steering wheel, and that testimony will show he lied about his whereabouts the day of the killings.