William Balfour Gets Life Sentences for Hudson Family Murders

On Tuesday, William Balfour, the man convicted of killing Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother, and nephew, was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences for the murders, the Chicago Tribune reports.

At the sentencing hearing, Judge Charles Burns told Balfour that his “soul is as barren as dark space” and that his crimes “send a chill through all of us.” On top of the life sentences, Burns gave Balfour 120 years for his home invasion and aggravated kidnapping convictions.

In May, a Cook County jury found Balfour guilty of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Hudson’s mother Darnell Donerson, her brother Jason Hudson, and her 7-year-old nephew Julian King. At his sentencing, Balfour apologized to the Hudson family and said that he loved King.

In response, Burns said, “The fact that you can stand in court and tell us you love that child is an insult to all of us.” Burns went on to sentence Balfour to three life sentences.

In the past, first-degree murder was punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment in Illinois. In May 2011, however, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law abolishing capital punishment in the state.

Now, under Illinois law, a court must sentence to life in prison without parole any person convicted of first-degree murder who killed more than one person, or a person under the age of 12, if the murderer was at least 17-years-old at the time. As Balfour was convicted of killing three people, one of whom was younger than 12, he received a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

Last month, Balfour’s attorneys filed a motion for a new trial, claiming that Jennifer Hudson should not have been allowed to testify at trial because she had no direct knowledge of the murders and her celebrity unfairly influenced the jury. On Tuesday, Burns denied that motion.

Hudson’s testimony primarily dealt with her emotional response to the murders and her dislike of William Balfour. Generally, testimony must be relevant to the issue at trial. Hudson’s emotional experience and her personal opinion of Balfour arguably had little bearing on whether Balfour was guilty or innocent of the murder charges. Balfour’s attorneys are likely to raise the issue again during the appeals process.

For now, however, Jennifer Hudson and her family can rest assured that William Balfour received the harshest penalty allowed under Illinois law. “We hope that today’s sentence provides them with some measure of justice and closure,” Sate’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said.

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