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Jury being chosen for Hudson trial

A judge is due to question would-be jurors at the trial in Chicago of the man accused of murdering the mother, brother and nephew of singer and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson.

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 could not contact her by late morning on October 24 2008.

Hours later, her mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and brother, Jason Hudson, 29, were found shot dead in the family home. The body of her seven-year-old nephew, Julian King, was found days later in a sport utility vehicle several miles away.

Selecting 12 jurors and six alternates able to set aside sympathy for the Hollywood star and assess guilt only according to evidence presented in court against William Balfour could pose a major challenge.

It is expected to take two or three days to make final selections from among 150 prospective jurors. In a last step, each side can use pre-emptive strikes, usually around 10, to dismiss people from the jury pool without having to offer any reason.

Judge Charles Burns will aim to weed out anyone who might be swayed by 30-year-old Hudson's celebrity, although he is unlikely to automatically exclude Hudson fans if they can convince him it will not affect their deliberations.

Lawyers will not necessarily share the judge's goal, seeking instead to keep jurors likely to favour their arguments. Even at trials where celebrity is not a factor, jury selection is critical. A lone holdout during deliberations on a verdict can lead to a hung jury, forcing a retrial.

If convicted, Balfour, who is also 30, faces a maximum life sentence.

Judge Burns told would-be jurors last week that anyone opposed to capital punishment need not worry because the state of Illinois abolished the death penalty this year.

Once evidence 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 is not certain she will give evidence.

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