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Jennifer Hudson Family Murders: Jury Selection To Begin (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

By MICHAEL TARM 04/ 5/12 06:15 PM ET AP

Hudson Family Murders Jury
Friends and neighbors place flowers and gifts at the house of singer Jennifer Hudson's mother October 27, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois after Hudson's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew were found murdered.

CHICAGO — Potential jurors got their first look Thursday at the man accused in the 2008 slayings of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew ahead of trial testimony set to begin later this month.

When Judge Charles Burns introduced the defendant, a deferential William Balfour stood, tugged nervously on his tie as he turned to face the some 150 would-be jurors, and said firmly, "Good afternoon, everybody." Many of the would-be jurors responded in unison: "Good afternoon.'"

The offbeat moment came in a Chicago courtroom just before the judge read a 300-name list of potential witnesses that includes Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson. Prosecutors allege Balfour, the estranged husband of Hudson's sister, shot the family in a jealous rage because Julia Hudson was dating another man.

The 30-year-old defendant appeared in court wearing a white dress shirt, yellow tie and shiny black shoes. His hair – bushy and disheveled in previous court appearances – was newly cut short per the judge's order earlier this week.

The pool of potential jurors filled out questionnaires that will help determine if they will be among the 12 jurors and six alternates who will sit in judgment of Balfour.

Some of those crowded on the courtroom benches gasped and their eyes widened when the judge read the name of the case and the indictment, presumably realizing for the first time they might be part of the high-profile, celebrity trial. When the judge asked if anyone was closely acquainted with any of the witness names he read, about 10 of the possible jurors raised their hands.

Jennifer Hudson, 30, who won an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 2007 for her role in "Dreamgirls" and a Grammy for best R&B album the same year of the killings, did not attend proceedings on Thursday, though she is expected to attend once testimony gets under way.

Standing at his high judge's bench, occasionally pacing, Judge Burns spoke at length about the gravity of jurors' duties if selected. Striking a professorial tone, he emphasized repeatedly that they should not allow anything they have heard about the killings to affect their judgment.

"Cases in our country are not tried on street corners or over dinner or in the media," the lanky gray-haired judge told them. "They are tried in the courtroom."

Potential jurors should avoid reading, listening to or watching the news, and they should not surf the Internet, the judge instructed them sternly.

"No Twitter, no Facebook, no LinkedIn," he said.

Burns has also strictly barred reporters from tweeting or posting messages to Facebook from inside the courtroom, a court spokesman explaining that he didn't want constant typing on cell phones to distract jurors and other courtroom participants.

In another bid to ensure the intense media interest in the case doesn't undercut the process, jury names will be kept secret until after the verdict in an effort to prevent reporters or others trying to contact the panelists during the trial.

Jennifer Hudson reportedly told investigators she talked to her mother in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood every day and knew something was wrong when she hadn't heard from her by late in the morning of Oct. 24, 2008.

Several hours later, Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and brother, Jason Hudson, 29, were found shot to death in the family's home. The body of her nephew Julian King was found days later in a vehicle several miles away.

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  • An Oct. 28, 2008 file photo shows a photograph of Darnell Hudson Donerson and her 7-year-old grandson, Julian King, at a makeshift memorial outside Donerson's home in Chicago. Donerson along with her son, Jason Hudson, were found shot to death inside the home Oct. 24. King was found shot to death inside an SUV on the city's West Side three days later. Donerson is the mother of singer and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson. On Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008, William Balfour, the estranged brother-in-law of Hudson, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of the family members. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

  • This undated photo provided April 6, 2012 by the Cook County Sheriff's Department shows William Balfour who is charged in the murders of the mother, brother and nephew of Oscar winner and singer Jennifer Hudson. Hudson takes center stage in a questionnaire that potential jurors are being asked to fill out to determine if they will be allowed to decide whether or not Balfour is guilty in the slayings. Nine of the 66 questions released to The Associated Press and other media outlets Friday, April 6, 2012 dealt with Hudson's career in movies, television and as an author. (AP Photo/Cook County Sheriff's Department)

  • This undated file photo provided by the Illinois Department of Corrections shows William Balfour. Balfour, the estranged brother-in-law of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson, was charged Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008, three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of three family members. (AP Photo/Illinois Department of Corrections, File)

  • This photo shows the courtroom where William Balfour, the man accused of killing Jennifer Hudson's family will be tried, Monday, April 16, 2012, in Chicago. The Trial will begin next week in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building. The use of Twitter is creating tension between reporters and judges who fear tweeting could threaten a defendant's right to a fair trial and that issue has been highlighted by the Chicago court's decision to ban anyone from tweeting at Balfour's trial. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • In this Sept. 27, 2011 file photo, singer and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson speaks in Chicago. On Monday, April 23, 2012, the Chicago trial begins for William Balfour, the man accused of murdering Hudson's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in 2008. The use of Twitter is creating tension between reporters and judges who fear tweeting could threaten a defendant's right to a fair trial. The issue has been highlighted by the Chicago court's decision to ban anyone from tweeting at Balfour's trial. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

  • Michelle Davis-Balfour, mother of accused murderer William Balfour, refuses to talk to the media as she leaves Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008, after bail was denied for her son who was charged Tuesday with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of home invasion in connection with the murders of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson's family. Prosecutors allege Balfour, Jennifer Hudson's estranged brother-in-law, killed three family members because he was angry the singer's sister was dating another man. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Michelle Davis-Balfour, mother of accused murderer William Balfour, refuses to talk to the media as she leaves Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008, after bail was denied for her son who was charged Tuesday with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of home invasion in connection with the murders of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson's family. Prosecutors allege Balfour, Jennifer Hudson's estranged brother-in-law, killed three family members because he was angry the singer's sister was dating another man. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • This Dec. 3, 2008 file booking photo provided by the Cook County Sheriff's Department shows William Balfour who is accused of killing the mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew of singer and actress Jennifer Hudson on Chicago's South Side in 2008. Balfour is the estranged husband of Hudson's sister, Julia. On Tuesday, March 27, 2012, a Cook County judge denied a request to delay jury selection in Balfour's trial. Jury selection starts April 5 and the trial is set to begin April 23. (AP Photo/Cook County Sheriff's Department, File)

  • Jennifer Hudson's Family Found Murdered

    CHICAGO - OCTOBER 24: Residents watch behind police tape as police work and investigate in the Englewood neighborhood where 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, was reported to have been found shot to death on the living room floor October 24, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. According to reports, Hudson's brother was found dead in a bedroom of the home. Police are searching for a suspect and Donerson's missing grandchild. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 24: Police enter a home in the Englewood neighborhood where 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, was reported to have been found shot to death on the living room floor October 24, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. According to reports, Hudson's brother was found dead in a bedroom of the home. Police are searching for a suspect and Donerson's missing grandchild. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 24: A police officer stands outside the home in the Englewood neighborhood where 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, was reported to have been found shot to death on the living room floor October 24, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. According to reports, Hudson's brother was found dead in a bedroom of the home. Police are searching for a suspect and Donerson's missing grandchild. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 24: Police stand outside a home in the Englewood neighborhood where 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, was reported to have been found shot to death on the living room floor October 24, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. According to reports, Hudson's brother was found dead in a bedroom of the home. Police are searching for a suspect and Donerson's missing grandchild. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 24: Journalists watch behind police tape as police work and investigate in the Englewood neighborhood where 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, was reported to have been found shot to death on the living room floor October 24, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. According to reports, Hudson's brother was found dead in a bedroom of the home. Police are searching for a suspect and Donerson's missing grandchild. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 24: Police police remove a body from a home in the Englewood neighborhood where 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, was reported to have been found shot to death on the living room floor October 24, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. According to reports, Hudson's brother was found dead in a bedroom of the home. Police are searching for a suspect and Donerson's missing grandchild. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 25: A memorial sits outside the home of 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, October 25, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Donerson was found shot to death in her living room yesterday and her son Jason was found shot to death in a bedroom of the home. The body of 7-year-old Julian King, Hudson's nephew, was found on the West Side three days after the murders. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 25: Police Tape is stretched around the outside of the home of 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, October 25, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Donerson was found shot to death in her living room yesterday and her son Jason was found shot to death in a bedroom of the home. The body of 7-year-old Julian King, Hudson's nephew, was found on the West Side three days after the murders. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 25: Ziff Sistrunk looks over a memorial outside the home of 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, October 25, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Donerson was found shot to death in her living room yesterday and her son Jason was found shot to death in a bedroom of the home. The body of 7-year-old Julian King, Hudson's nephew, was found on the West Side three days after the murders. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 25: People stand near a memorial sitting outside the home of 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, October 25, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Donerson was found shot to death in her living room yesterday and her son Jason was found shot to death in a bedroom of the home. The body of 7-year-old Julian King, Hudson's nephew, was found on the West Side three days after the murders. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 25: Ziff Sistrunk looks over a memorial outside the home of 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, October 25, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Donerson was found shot to death in her living room yesterday and her son Jason was found shot to death in a bedroom of the home. The body of 7-year-old Julian King, Hudson's nephew, was found on the West Side three days after the murders. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 25: Spectators, police and journalists gather outside the home of 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, October 25, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Donerson was found shot to death in her living room yesterday and her son Jason was found shot to death in a bedroom of the home. The body of 7-year-old Julian King, Hudson's nephew, was found on the West Side three days after the murders. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 25: Julia Hudson (L), the sister of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, stands with Greg King, the father of her seven-year-old son Julian, as they plead for Julian's safe return during a press conference at Pleasant Gift Missionary Baptist Church October 25, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Yesterday Julia Hudson returned home to find her mother 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, and her brother Jason shot to death and her son missing. The body of 7-year-old Julian King, Hudson's nephew, was found on the West Side three days after the murders. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 25: Police Tape is stretched around the outside of the home of 57-year-old Darnell Hudson Donerson, the mother of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, October 25, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Donerson was found shot to death in her living room yesterday and her son Jason was found shot to death in a bedroom of the home. The body of 7-year-old Julian King, Hudson's nephew, was found on the West Side three days after the murders. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 27: Friends and neighbors place flowers and gifts at the house of singer Jennifer Hudson's mother October 27, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. The body of 7-year-old Julian King, Hudson's nephew, was found on the West Side three days after the murders. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 27: A Chicago Police forensic services vehicle unloads items at the parking garage where the SUV sought in the hunt for singer Jennifer Hudson's nephew was taken after it was found on Chicago's west side October 27, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. The car contained the body of 7-year-old Julian King, Hudson's nephew, who had been missing since October 24, when Hudson's mother and brother were killed at their home. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - OCTOBER 27: Chicago Police investigate the scene at 13th Street and Kolin Avenue where a young boy was found dead in the SUV sought in the hunt for singer Jennifer Hudson's nephew on Chicago's west side October 27, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. The car contained the body of 7-year-old Julian King, Hudson's nephew, who had been missing since October 24, when Hudson's mother and brother were killed at their home. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 2: Friends and relatives attend a memorial service for relatives of Oscar-winning actress, singer Jennifer Hudson at Pleasant Gift Memorial Baptist Church on November 2, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Hudson's mother Darnell Hudson Donerson, 57, brother Jason and nephew Julian King, 7, were murdered on October 24 when Hudson's mother and brother were killed at their home and her nephew later found on October 27 dead in a SUV. According to reports, Hudson and her nephew's mother, Julia Hudson would not to be attending the service. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 2: Friends and relatives attend a memorial service for relatives of Oscar-winning actress, singer Jennifer Hudson at Pleasant Gift Memorial Baptist Church on November 2, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Hudson's mother Darnell Hudson Donerson, 57, brother Jason and nephew Julian King, 7, were murdered on October 24 when Hudson's mother and brother were killed at their home and her nephew later found on October 27 dead in a SUV. According to reports, Hudson and her nephew's mother, Julia Hudson would not to be attending the service. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 2: Friends and relatives attend a memorial service for relatives of Oscar-winning actress, singer Jennifer Hudson at Pleasant Gift Memorial Baptist Church on November 2, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Hudson's mother Darnell Hudson Donerson, 57, brother Jason and nephew Julian King, 7, were murdered on October 24 when Hudson's mother and brother were killed at their home and her nephew later found on October 27 dead in a SUV. According to reports, Hudson and her nephew's mother, Julia Hudson would not to be attending the service. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 3: Flowers are loaded on to a hearse after the funeral of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson's family at the Apostolic Church of God November 3, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Hudson's mother Darnell Donerson, brother Jason Hudson, and nephew Julian King were murdered on the south side of Chicago late last month. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 3: Pallbearers carry a casket oput of the Apostolic Church of God after the funeral of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson's family November 3, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Hudson's mother Darnell Donerson, brother Jason Hudson, and nephew Julian King were murdered on the south side of Chicago late last month. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

  • CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 3: Pallbearers carry a casket to a hearse after the funeral of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson's family at the Apostolic Church of God November 3, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Hudson's mother Darnell Donerson, brother Jason Hudson, and nephew Julian King were murdered on the south side of Chicago late last month. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

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