Details of Bitter Divorce Hazy to Her, Broderick Says
Inconsistent but not shaken from her story, La Jolla socialite Elisabeth Anne (Betty) Broderick said Thursday she had reason to be aggrieved during a nasty breakup with her former husband, but she often conceded that her recall of details from their four-year divorce was hazy.
Under cross-examination, and in a third day of testimony at her double-murder trial, Betty Broderick said her ex-husband, attorney Daniel T. Broderick III, used his influence to harass her through contempt actions and to delay and manipulate their divorce proceedings.
She said he and his new wife, Linda Kolkena Broderick, both of whom she is accused of murdering, told “horrid lies” about her, said she was crazy and contended that she pestered them and vandalized their things.
She said she had called them vulgar names--out of frustration. She admitted to some vandalism--but said she was not responsible for all the things that had been damaged. And she said she “was crazy"--because Daniel Broderick had made her feel that way, like an “electrified crazy person.”
Because she was “operating under the most outrageous stress” imaginable during the divorce, she said, she had forgotten details and asked frequently Thursday for times, places and dates. When she remembered incidents, however, she remembered in elaborate detail, once even telling prosecutor Kerry Wells, “No, you’re all mixed up. You want me to help you?”
While sparring all day with Wells, the 42-year-old Broderick, who had cried during each of her prior two days on the witness stand, retained her composure. She was animated, though, even making faces to show what an “electrified crazy person” looked like, rolling her eyes, grimacing and sticking out her tongue.
Broderick faces two counts of murder in the shooting deaths last Nov. 5 of her ex-husband and his second wife. If convicted, she could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Daniel Broderick, 44, was a prominent medical malpractice attorney and a former president of the San Diego County Bar Assn. Linda Kolkena Broderick, 28, was his office assistant.
For the second day in a row, portions of the trial were broadcast live on San Diego television station KNSD (Channel 39). It preempted regular programming four times Thursday to go live to the trial, once for a 28-minute period, a station spokesman said.
Betty Broderick testified Wednesday that she fired the shots that killed her ex-husband and his second wife. Her defense attorney, Jack Earley, contends that she did not have the premeditation the law requires for first-degree murder because, as she said Wednesday, she intended only to kill herself when she sneaked into their home before dawn.
Despite Betty Broderick’s testimony Thursday, Earley has not contended as a defense that she is legally insane.
“I don’t remember things, I don’t remember being in court, I got legal papers, I honestly don’t remember things,” she said Thursday. Daniel Broderick, she said, “was telling me I was crazy, I went crazy.”
“You keep trying,” she told prosecutor Wells, and “when you hit on something, then I can remember more.”
Betty Broderick said she clearly remembered the court order that ended their divorce in 1989, four years after she and Daniel Broderick separated. The order, which awarded her $16,100 a month but gave custody of their four children to him, “shocked” her, she said.
She said she had been “bludgeoned” and “gang-raped” by proceedings that occurred “in taped-up courtrooms.”
A lengthy trial, like the divorce file itself, had been sealed to the public, at Daniel Broderick’s request, she said. The file had disappeared, she said.
All along, she sought public scrutiny of the case, she said. If people “thought I was crazy or not, they had no way of finding out because there was no file,” she said.
During the divorce proceedings, Daniel Broderick instituted “20-ish” contempt actions against her, she said. Those tactics delayed resolution of the divorce, she said.
Prosecutor Wells suggested that Daniel Broderick showed restraint because Betty Broderick was actually held in contempt only four times. But Betty Broderick said he brought the actions to “harass me,” calling them “a colossal waste of taxpayer money to accomplish nothing.”
She acknowledged that she had given her ex-husband custody of their four children shortly after they separated. But she said she fully intended to regain custody.
“I was overwhelmed and needed help,” she said.
Wells suggested that she could not have been that destitute. In 1986, Wells said, showing her canceled checks, Betty Broderick spent $37,000 just on clothes.
Betty Broderick maintained, however, that she did not have extra money, and that her ex-husband was unhelpful. He had offered that Christmas to give her $2,000 to take the children skiing, but the condominium she had reserved cost $3,000 alone, so there was no trip, she said.
“ ‘That’s all I’m giving,’ ” Daniel Broderick told her, she said.
Betty Broderick said there was no question that she left obscene messages on Daniel Broderick’s home phone-answering machine in which she referred to him and to Linda Kolkena with sexually explicit epithets.
Earlier in the week, she said she had left those messages in frustration at not being able to reach her four children at his house. She amended that Thursday, saying she was prompted, too, by frustration with her ex-husband and by hearing Kolkena’s voice on the machine.
However, she said, “He was attacking me, overpowering me. The only way I had to fight back was to call him names. Big deal.”
She could not, however, provide details to support her allegation, made Wednesday, that Daniel Broderick hit her during their marriage. “I don’t remember,” she said.
Kolkena, she contended, “hated me from the beginning. I never did anything to her.”
Under Wells’ questioning, Betty Broderick did admit that she had called Kolkena a “bimbo,” “stupid” and “classless.”
She said, however, that she also knew about stories alleging that she had told her two boys, the younger of her four children, to stab Kolkena with a knife, to gag on Kolkena’s food and to call Kolkena a vulgar name. But she said she never made any of those statements.
Betty Broderick said there were other stories about her, accounts of her purported vandalism, that were untrue.
She did not scratch a family photo with a key, she said. She never threw an umbrella through a window at his house, she said. At her daughter Kim’s high school graduation, she did not harass her ex-husband and Kolkena by continually taking pictures of them, she said.
Betty Broderick also denied making various threats. She said she did not threaten to kill her ex-husband and Kolkena about the time of their April, 1989, wedding, an allegation she called the “biggest of the black, horrid lies going around this town.”
She also said that her youngest child, Rhett, now 11, would “always ask me, ‘Would you kill Daddy?’ I’d say, ‘No.’
“He kept asking me, kept asking me, ‘Are you going to kill Daddy?’ I said, ‘What are you talking about? Will you cut it out?’ ”
Shortly after suspecting that her husband was having an affair with Kolkena, Betty Broderick tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists, she said Tuesday. Prosecutor Wells examined the wrists Thursday and said she saw no scars, so Broderick showed her wrists to the jury.
“I did it with a man’s razor with my right hand,” she said as she moved along the jury box. “That’s one of the scars. That’s one of the scars. That’s one of the scars. I didn’t die. Obviously it wasn’t a good job. But I do have the scars.”
Betty Broderick is scheduled to resume testimony today. San Diego Superior Court Judge Thomas Whelan, who is presiding over the case, said he expects today to be her final day on the stand.