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Jennifer Hudson Family Murder Trial: Judge Bans Cellphones From Court

Hudson Trial Cellphones Banned

MICHAEL TARM   05/ 2/12 07:19 PM ET  AP

CHICAGO — Cellphones ringing during testimony at the trial of the man accused of killing relatives of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson so piqued a judge that he withdrew permission Wednesday for journalists to bring them into court.

Judges Charles Burns complained the phones – which only reporters had been allowed to use – went off in the middle of testimony at least three times in less than two weeks; he also cited a journalist who held a pen in the corner of her mouth, deeming it a distraction. Journalists had been using the phones to send emails with details from the trial.

A media liaison for the often quick-tempered Burns said the judge had given reporters ample warning that their phones could be yanked if they didn't remember to switch them to `silent' during the trial for William Balfour, Hudson's former brother-in-law. He is accused of killing the actress and singer's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in a fit of jealous rage over his then-wife.

"If he did this after the first violation, it would have been overreaction," Irv Miller said. "But after the fourth time? It was distracting to the judge and jurors."

Rules for reporters were discussed for months before the trial. Burns offered the rare concession of letting reporters use their cellphones in court – but only for email. He barred postings to Twitter and other social media from the courtroom, believing reporters pounding out their tweets would be particularly disruptive.

Even in Los Angeles, where celebrity trials are routinely televised, cellphone use is usually forbidden, said Manny Medrano, a Los Angeles attorney and former television reporter who regularly comments on high-profile cases.

"Cellphones going off are a hundred times more disruptive than cameras, which these days are so quiet you barely know they are there," he said. "Journalists in Chicago were given the opportunity – and they blew it. I don't blame the judge."

The failure of Burns' experiment with cellphones comes in a state that has only recently begun seriously looking at allowing cameras in court. The Illinois Supreme Court this year announced it hoped to test their use in a limited number of cases.

The journalist who held her pen in her mouth was initially told that was Burns' primary complaint. But Miller said the judge also believed she was sending emails too frequently, though the court rules don't define what is too frequent emailing.

None of the violations cited by the judge involved social media, said Miller. Reporters will still be allowed to use cellphones and tweet from an overflow room. There is no audio or video from trial in that room, however – just a live transcript scrolling up a screen.

___

Follow Michael Tarm at http://www.twitter.com/mtarm

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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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