Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Lawyers clash in Hudson murder case

Amy Thompson, defence lawyer for William Balfour arrives at Cook County Criminal Court in Chicago (AP/M Spencer Green)

Prosecution and defence lawyers have clashed during angry closing arguments in the trial of the man accused of killing relatives of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson.

During the heated exchanges, William Balfour's lawyer told jurors that prosecutors had failed to prove their case.

The state's lawyers hit back, saying that the defence was clearly desperate in the face over overwhelming evidence.

Actress and singer Hudson sobbed and dabbed her eyes when prosecutors displayed photos of the bullet-riddled bodies of her mother, brother and seven-year-old nephew at the Chicago trial.

Prosecutors say Balfour, Hudson's former brother-in-law, killed the family members in October 2008 in an act of vengeance against Hudson's sister Julia, to whom he was married but estranged at the time. With no surviving witnesses, prosecutors have spent two weeks laying out a largely circumstantial case against Balfour, a 30-year-old one-time gang member.

Public defender Amy Thompson seized on that during her closing argument, saying prosecutors had failed to meet their burden of proving Balfour was the killer. "They know as they sit there that they have failed to prove the case," Ms Thompson said, almost shouting. "I am offended that they would ask you to throw your logic away."

In a scathing final word to jurors on Wednesday night before they began deliberations, lead prosecutor James McKay said that for jurors to believe Balfour was innocent they would have to believe he was just unlucky enough to have someone else kill the Hudsons after he himself had threatened to murder them at least 25 times, as witnesses had said.

"I want to introduce you to, William Balfour, the MegaMillions winner of bad luck," he said. "But Mr Innocent here did everything a guilty man would do", including lying about his whereabouts and getting rid of the clothes he wore on the day of the triple murders.

Mr McKay at times gritted his teeth, snarled and pointed at Balfour, who denies three counts of first-degree murder. At one point, he walked up to look directly at Balfour from a few feet away. His voice soaring, Mr McKay boomed: "Calling the defendant a dog is an insult to dogs!" The comment prompted a buzz among spectators and objections from the defence.

If convicted on all counts, Balfour faces a mandatory life prison term.

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