Marriage Counselor Calls Broderick Victim of Abuse : Court: Final witness for the defense says relationship with her husband was a ‘devastating experience.’


Elisabeth Anne (Betty) Broderick was the victim of physical, sexual and psychological abuse throughout her stormy 16-year marriage to Daniel T. Broderick III, a defense witness who specializes in the study of domestic violence testified Thursday.

In the 13th day of testimony at the Broderick murder trial, Daniel J. Sonkin, a licensed marriage and family counselor from Sausalito, painted a picture of a woman so beaten down by her husband’s abuse that she was driven to commit murder.

The defense rested its case with Sonkin, who looked at the jury and told them earnestly that Betty Broderick’s marriage to the prominent San Diego attorney was “a devastating experience psychologically.”


Sonkin, who said he has spent 10 years honing his skills as an expert in domestic violence, testified that Daniel Broderick was guilty of emotional abuse (“The most destructive . . . signifying a betrayal of trust”), as well as physical and sexual battering.

“He choked her, he grabbed her, he pushed her down,” said Sonkin, who later in the day, under intense grilling from Deputy Dist. Atty. Kerry Wells, provided only a vague accounting of specific dates, times and places.

Sonkin said Daniel Broderick, a noted medical malpractice attorney and past president of the San Diego County Bar Assn., had, “on numerous occasions,” come home drunk and “forced his wife to have sex with him.”

“He called her names,” Sonkin said. “He called her a ‘yuck,’ ‘crazy’ and ‘stupid.’ He degraded her as a woman. It happened even while they were dating. He forced her to have sex. He was physically and verbally abusive.”

Sonkin, the day’s only witness--his cross-examination continues today--said he based his conclusions on three interviews with Betty Broderick as well as sessions with members of her family, one of her children and some of her friends. He said he had read “voluminous” reports.

But, under questioning by Wells, who showed more emotion than at any other time of the trial, he admitted he had not interviewed Kim Broderick, who testified against her mother, nor any of Daniel Broderick’s family members nor the couple’s two sons.


“And they (Daniel Broderick’s family) spent more time with the family than Mrs. Broderick’s family did, didn’t they?” Wells asked, her voice rising.

“Yes,” the witness said.

Sonkin said it is simply not customary for an expert witness representing one side in a murder trial to interview all available parties. But he said he had been told by more than one associate or friend of Betty Broderick that she sometimes had black eyes and bruises.

In her testimony last week, Broderick claimed that her ex-husband hit her and gave her a black eye. She did not, however, provide dates, times or places for any of the alleged physical abuse.

She said she did not consider alleged abuse at her husband’s hands serious, since she never suffered a broken bone or bled profusely.

Earlier this week, two of her friends, Evangeline Burt and Phyllis Jardel, testified that they each saw her with a black eye. Their memory of when and where was hazy as well.

During questioning by defense attorney Jack Earley, Sonkin sat upright and appeared relaxed. He frequently looked at individual jury members, addressing them politely, not unlike a sensitive pediatrician explaining a child’s illness to a parent.


But, during Wells’ cross-examination, he often slumped in his chair and answered argumentatively. At one point, appearing to tire, he referred to the murder of Linda Kolkena Broderick--Daniel’s second wife, whom Broderick admits killing--by saying:

“Yeah, OK, she (Broderick) didn’t like her.”

The courtroom filled with nervous laughter; Broderick chuckled loudly. Several jury members looked startled to hear what appeared to be a flippant reference to the murder victim.

During her questioning, Wells asked Sonkin if Broderick’s vandalism and use of obscenities against her ex-husband did not qualify Daniel as a victim of domestic violence.

Sonkin replied wryly, “No, I don’t believe Dan Broderick was a victim.” He added that, although Betty may have publicly degraded Dan, he typically retaliated in private.

During Sonkin’s first session of testimony, he told defense counsel Earley that Broderick was the definitive battered woman. She attempted to hide or deny effects of the battering, so as not to lose public favor, he said.

She was pushed “deeper and deeper” into a corner of isolation and “craziness” by her husband’s behavior, he said.


She became the victim of a “cycle of violence,” which her husband imposed and aggravated, he said.

She was “devastated” by his extramarital affair with his then-legal assistant Linda Kolkena, Sonkin said--an affair Dan Broderick “lied about,” he said, thus making his wife even crazier.

And, finally, the loss of her marriage to a wealthy attorney, who valued careerism and material possession above all else was like “being fired from a job and having her identity ripped away,” Sonkin said, adding, “She was overwhelmed.”

Wells began her cross-examination by saying with a sigh, “Well, I feel a little overwhelmed myself.”

But she quickly established that Sonkin is not a psychiatrist (requiring a medical degree), nor is he a licensed clinical psychologist.

He said he has a doctorate, but only in marriage and family counseling. He said he had interviewed Broderick three times, all in September and October of this year. He conceded that her story contains “numerous inconsistencies.”


Wells quoted from studies completed before the murders by psychiatrists and psychologists, who found that Broderick was, among other things, “histrionic,” “narcissistic,” “manipulative,” “hedonistic,” “violent,” “suicidal” and a “borderline personality.”

Asked if he had considered or dismissed such information, Sonkin said he had “considered” it as part of his evaluation. But such characteristics, or even inconsistencies, he said, are not out of character for battered women.

If Sonkin’s analysis was true, Wells asked, why did Broderick fail to tell mental health experts or lawyers that she was a battered woman, especially when she was locked in a heated divorce battle with her husband that involved millions of dollars.

He said she was embarrassed.

Wells countered by saying that, if that were true, why did Broderick write a diary-like book in 1987 that detailed the couple’s sex life but failed to mention physical, psychological or even sexual abuse?

He said she was trying to “minimize” the battering.