Defendant emotional as images of Jennifer Hudson's nephew are shown in court

William BalfourCrime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemJennifer HudsonMoviesJason HudsonEntertainment

William Balfour hung his head low and appeared to wipe tears from his eyes Wednesday as photos of Jennifer Hudson's slain nephew flashed in a courtroom, but not everyone was there to see it.

The empty bench in the fourth row of spectators spoke volumes: for a second straight day, the Academy Award-winning actress and her sister were absent from the courtroom as graphic images were shown on a large screen and autopsy reports on her nephew, mother and brother were detailed by forensic pathologists.

Cook County Deputy Medical Examiner Mitra Kalelkar told jurors that 7-year-old Julian King, who had been off from school that day in October 2008, had been shot twice in the head as he lay face-down in the back of an SUV. The fatal blow entered through the back of his head and exited through the left side of his face, she said.

As some jurors winced at the graphic images, Balfour sat at the defense table wearing a pale green dress shirt and striped tie, a morose expression on his face. As he began to tear up, one of his attorneys brought him a tissue.

Julian had been taken from the Hudson family home in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood shortly after his grandmother, Darnell Donerson, and his uncle, Jason Hudson, had been killed, prosecutors say. He was driven to the West Side and shot there. He was found three days later in the back of Jason Hudson's stolen SUV.

Based on the boy's slightly decomposed body, Kalelkar estimated that he had been dead between 36 and 72 hours when the body was found. The broad timeline is crucial to the case because Balfour was taken into custody the day of the shootings.

If Julian died 72 hours before being found, Balfour could have done it. If he was killed closer to 36 hours before, Balfour could not have been the gunman because he was already being questioned by police.

A Chicago police officer describe how investigators used Balfour's cellphone records to trace his whereabouts and activities on the day of the murders.

Sgt. James Washburn testified that shortly after detectives learned of Balfour's possible involvement in the murders, they were able to trace his cellphone to the West Side, near an apartment where Hudson's sister, Julia, then estranged from Balfour, told police one of Balfour's girlfriends, Shonta Cathey, lived.

At the time, police were still searching for Julian and hoped to find him alive. Lt. James Sanchez testified he gave an order to go into the home even though they had not secured a search warrant.

At 6 p.m., about four hours after the bodies of Hudson's mother and brother were found in their home on South Yale Avenue, a team of officers burst into Cathey's apartment and arrested Balfour as he tried to break for the back door, according to Sanchez. At the time of the arrest, Balfour had his cellphone on him, as well as a key to Jason Hudson's SUV.

An analyst with Sprint/Nextel offered detailed testimony about Balfour's cellphone usage on the day of the murders, including numerous calls and text messages to Julia Hudson that "pinged" off a cell tower near the Hudson home. The phone records show that Balfour, who prosecutors said was an "incessant" cellphone user, had his phone turned off for nearly four hours during the time he is accused of committing the murders.

On cross-examination, Balfour's attorney, Scott Kozicki, pointed out that the records showed Balfour had his phone turned off for hours at a time on other days as well and often made calls that pinged off the same cell tower.

jmeisner@tribune.com

sstclair@tribune.com

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