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Jury selection begins for man accused of killing Jennifer Hudson's relatives

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon April 9, 2012
The estranged husband of Jennifer Hudson's sister is accused of fatally shooting Hudson's mother, brother and nephew in 2008.
The estranged husband of Jennifer Hudson's sister is accused of fatally shooting Hudson's mother, brother and nephew in 2008.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Nine jurors were selected by mid-afternoon; 12 total are needed, plus six alternates
  • William Balfour is accused of fatally shooting Hudson's mother, brother and nephew
  • Balfour, the estranged husband of Hudson's sister, has denied the charges
  • Opening arguments are set for April 23, and the trial may last 4 weeks, the judge says

Chicago (CNN) -- More than three years after actress and singer Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and nephew were killed, jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of the man charged in their deaths.

William Balfour, the estranged husband of Hudson's sister Julia, is accused of fatally shooting Hudson's mother and brother inside their Chicago home in October 2008. The body of Hudson's 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, was found three days later inside an abandoned vehicle.

Balfour, who was also Julian's stepfather, has also been charged with one count of home invasion.

About 150 people are candidates to be among the 12 jurors or six alternates in the case. The process of whittling down this pool began Monday morning in a Chicago courtroom, and by mid-afternoon, nine jurors had been selected while several others had been excused for hardship reasons.

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Judge Charles Burns has said he hopes to have the jury finalized by Wednesday. Then there will be a break, with the opening statements in the case set for April 23.

The judge has told the would-be jurors that he expects the trial to last three to four weeks.

Balfour was detained for questioning the day after the victims were found at the Chicago home. Authorities at the time said that they were holding Balfour for an unspecified parole violation, but he ended up being indicted for murder two months later.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his lawyer has said in court there is no forensic evidence linking him to the killings.

Prosecutors have portrayed Balfour as a jealous man who murdered three people in rage at the thought that his wife had a boyfriend.

The deaths took place a year after Hudson, who rose to fame as a contestant on "American Idol," won an Oscar for her role in the movie "Dreamgirls."

In a recent interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, Hudson reflected on the life of her mother, Darnell Donerson.

"My mother was a very wise and strong person. I feel like she raised us well, and she prepared me well, and so that's what I live by," she said.

Hudson, who is on the witness list, is expected to attend the upcoming trial.

Her career has continued to blossom and remain varied since her relatives' deaths. Her recent milestones include penning a memoir detailing her struggles with her weight, being cast to play Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie in an upcoming movie, releasing a new album and singing a well-received tribute to Whitney Houston at the most recent Grammy awards in February.

CNN's Ted Rowlands in Chicago and Alan Duke in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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