Closing The Book On The Trial Of William Balfour
By Samantha Abernethy in News on May 15, 2012 8:40PM
The trial of William Balfour ended on Friday, three-and-a-half years after the triple homicide on Oct. 24, 2008. We remember vividly the day the murders happened. Before the celebrity link was revealed, we knew about a heinous crime resulting in two dead bodies and an Amber Alert for a missing 7-year-old boy. Then Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson came forward to beg the public to help find her nephew. That's when the celebrity factor made a local crime a national story. It took three days to find Julian King's body, and it took five weeks for police to file formal murder charges against Balfour.
Reporter Natalie Y. Moore wrote a piece for Ebony that touches on another local entity under judgment in the trial: the Englewood neighborhood. Citywide, 2008 was a particularly bloody year for Chicago with 509 murders, pushing the city past New York City and Los Angeles in murder totals. Mayor Richard Daley was quick to defend Englewood in the aftermath of the Hudson murders saying, "There are good families in Englewood. Proud of it. We have to remind ourselves [of] that." Just six months prior to the Hudson murders in April 2008, there was a triple homicide in a home in West Englewood — Vennis McCall was charged with killing his foster parents, suburban police lieutenant Allen McCullough and his wife Danna, along with their son Allen, Jr. Each was shot in the back of the head and covered with blankets.
Moore says defense attorneys used the neighborhood's violent reputation to argue Balfour's innocence, while also suggesting Jason Hudson's involvement in drug activity as a culprit. Moore writes:
Balfour’s attorneys never shied from reminding the jury that Englewood is one of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods. His public defender went so far to suggest Englewood is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America.
The defense used a scary stereotype as a crutch.
The jury didn’t buy the big, Black, scary neighborhood meme. Jurors believed Julia Hudson when she testified that Balfour told her at least 25 times, “If you leave me, you’ll be the last to die. I’ll kill your family first.”
So how much did Jennifer Hudson's celebrity status affect this case? Before the case started, attorneys were asking potential jurors if they'd watched American Idol, and she was the first witness to take the stand. Authorities said she received treatment no different from other victims, though. Jurors also say they weren't distracted by the celebrity factor. "It's unfortunate this happened to her family, but this was not, for us, the Jennifer Hudson Case," one juror told the Tribune. "It was the People of Illinois v. William Balfour." While Balfour's attorney says they will appeal the case, they also downplayed any celebrity factor.
Jennifer Hudson may not have been treated differently in the courtroom, but she was definitely treated differently by us in the press. "And let's be honest," Moore told NPR. "This case would have been another South Side crime in Chicago had these not been relatives of Jennifer Hudson."
Indeed, finding information on the McCullough murders was difficult four years after that Englewood triple homicide, much more than it was for this Englewood triple homicide.
We have many people to thank but our first thank you is to God, always. We are so grateful to prosecutors James McKay, Jennifer Bagby and Veryl Gambino and State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and her team for their dedication and tireless work from the beginning. We have the best police department and they have been with us every step of the way. We thank all of the State's witnesses who came forward on our behalf. We have felt the love and support from people all over the world and we’re very grateful. We want to extend a prayer from the Hudson family to the Balfour family. We have all suffered terrible loss in this tragedy. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them (2 Corinthian 4:3-4). It is our prayer that the Lord will forgive Mr. Balfour of these heinous acts and bring his heart into repentance someday.