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Man convicted in Hudson family killings

CHICAGO -- A Chicago jury on Friday convicted Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson's former brother-in-law of murdering her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in what prosecutors described as an act of vengeance by a jilted husband.

Hudson, who expressed her undisguised disdain for William Balfour when she took the witness stand and who endured weeks of excruciating testimony about the October 2008 killings, was visibly overcome with emotion as the verdict was read. Hudson's eyes filled with tears and she shook her head and bit her lip. Afterward, she looked over at her sister, Julia Hudson, and smiled.

The sisters left the courthouse without speaking to reporters but released a statement Friday night extending a prayer to the Balfour family, saying, "We have all suffered terrible loss in this tragedy."

"It is our prayer that the Lord will forgive Mr. Balfour of these heinous acts and bring his heart into repentance someday," they said in the statement, which also thanked prosecutors for their "dedication and tireless work" and praised police and trial witnesses.

Balfour, who faces a mandatory life prison sentence, showed no emotion.

Jurors deliberated for three days before reaching their verdict against Balfour, 31, a former gang member who was the estranged husband of Hudson's sister at the time of the triple murders.

With no witnesses to the Oct. 24, 2008, slayings, or fingerprints, prosecutors built a circumstantial case against Balfour by calling 83 witnesses over 11 days of testimony. Witnesses said he threatened to kill the entire family if Julia Hudson spurned him.

Balfour's attorneys proposed an alternate theory: that someone else in the crime-ridden neighborhood on Chicago's South Side targeted the family because of alleged crack-cocaine dealing by Jennifer Hudson's brother, Jason Hudson. During the 30 minutes in which they called just two witnesses, they presented no evidence to support that theory. Public defender Amy Thompson said she would appeal the verdict.

Jurors said deliberations were cordial and Jennifer Hudson's celebrity didn't influence them. They said cellphone records showing Balfour was in the area when the killings happened was key.

Jennifer Hudson, who was in Florida at the time of the killings, attended every day of the two weeks of testimony, sobbing when photos of her relatives' bloodied bodies were displayed to jurors during closing arguments.

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, said Hudson had been determined to attend every day of the trial out of a sense of obligation to her mother. "She told me, 'If it was me [who had been killed], my mother would be here every day. So, I'm going to be here every day,' " Alvarez said.

The jury foreman said he hoped the verdict would bring Hudson closure.

"I hope she can put this thing behind her and get on with the rest of her life," Robert Smith, 47, told reporters.

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