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Jennifer Hudson's Ex-Brother-in-Law Convicted of Murder

Wire Report | 5/11/2012, 11:08 p.m.

A Chicago jury found William Balfour, Jennifer Hudson's former brother-in-law, guilty Friday on three counts of first-degree murder and four other counts related to the 2008 slayings of the entertainer's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.

He will be sentenced to life without parole; Illinois has no death penalty.

Hudson, who was in the courtroom with her sister Julia and fiance, David Otunga, broke down in tears as she heard the verdict. Otunga said, "Yes," and put his arm around her.

In addition to murder, Balfour was found guilty of aggravated kidnapping, home invasion, residential burglary and possession of a stolen vehicle.

A public defender for Balfour said his legal team would file a motion for a new trial on June 8 and then file a notice of appeal. "I do feel there were very strong issues of law in this case that need to be looked at by an appellate court," Amy Thompson told reporters outside the courthouse. "So we do have some hope."

CNN Legal Analyst Sunny Hostin expressed surprise at the verdict. "This wasn't a slam-dunk case," she said, citing the lack of forensic evidence.

The case went to the jury Thursday, after heated closing arguments Wednesday set a tense tone.

In the middle of the afternoon on Friday, the jurors sent Judge Charles Burns notes saying they were split and asking to see testimony about cell phone records showing that Balfour's phone was near the site of the killings at the time they took place.

How Balfour verdict was reached

Hudson first witness in murder trial The split was then nine to three in favor of conviction, said juror Jacinta Gholston, who works for a Chicago-based chocolate company. "There were three of us who just needed to see the picture a little clearer," she told reporters after the verdict.

The records proved key. An hour later, jurors told the judge they had reached a verdict. "Once we got those holes filled, we were able to come to a unanimous decision," Gholston said.

Juror Paula Halcomb, a math teacher in the suburbs southwest of Chicago, also cited the cell phone records as persuasive. "We realized that he could not be in two places at one time," she said.

Hudson's testimony played no role in the jury's decision. "She didn't really say anything," Halcomb said.

Hudson, who was called as the prosecution's first of more than 80 witnesses, broke down in tears several times on the stand as she recalled her family.

"None of us wanted her to marry him," Hudson said of her sister's decision to marry Balfour. "We did not like how he treated her.

"Where he was, I tried not to be," she said.

"This wasn't a case about Jennifer Hudson," Gholston said of the entertainer, who attended the trial each day. "For us, her celebrity had nothing to do with it."

Jury Foreman Robert Smith, 42, who works for Chicago Public Schools, said the decision was an easy one for him. "I was pretty much certain from the beginning," he said of Balfour's guilt. "To me, everything connected."