Daniel Broderick Calm Despite Wife’s Tirades, House Help Says
Aiming to restore prominent attorney Daniel T. Broderick III’s reputation, prosecutors called family housekeepers to testify Friday that his ex-wife, Elisabeth Anne (Betty) Broderick, provoked and threatened him, but he always remained unruffled.
Responding to repeated claims that Daniel Broderick had a mean temper and scared his four children, allegations advanced during the last two weeks of defense testimony at Betty Broderick’s double-murder trial, housekeepers said Friday he was a kind and loving father.
As testimony in the trial neared a close, the housekeepers--among the final prosecution witnesses--said it was Betty Broderick who vandalized the family home and threatened to commit serious violence, once prompting a call to police after claiming she had a gun in her car.
Betty Broderick, 43, who faces two counts of first-degree murder in the Nov. 5, 1989, shooting deaths of her ex-husband and his new wife, Linda Kolkena Broderick, listened impassively to the testimony.
She showed emotion only when her father, Frank Bisceglia of Eastchester, N.Y., made his first appearance at the trial, smiling delightedly at him when he walked into the courtroom Friday afternoon.
After the day’s testimony concluded, he told reporters he had no comment.
If convicted, Betty Broderick could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. San Diego Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan said Friday that the case is likely to go to the jury next week.
Daniel Broderick, who was 44, was a medical malpractice lawyer and former president of the San Diego County Bar Assn. Linda Kolkena Broderick, who was 28, was his office assistant.
After 16 years of marriage, Daniel and Betty Broderick separated in 1985. During their bitter divorce, which was not final until 1989, she accused her husband of using his legal influence to cheat her out of her fair share of his seven-figure annual income.
Testifying last week in her own defense, Betty Broderick admitted firing 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 she intended only to talk to him and to kill herself when she stole into his house at dawn.
During the defense case, which concluded Friday morning, witnesses claimed that, when he was mad, Daniel Broderick broke things, kicked the family dogs, screamed at his four children and intimidated them. Betty Broderick said he hit her and subjected her to emotional abuse.
But the two housekeepers who, in turn, ran Daniel Broderick’s home from 1985 through 1987--where the four children were living because his ex-wife had given them to him--said he tried to eat dinner with the children every night, took an active interest in their homework and often played basketball with his two boys, the younger two of the four children.
Both said they never saw him react violently toward the four children. Or even, said Marta C. Shaver, Daniel Broderick’s housekeeper in 1985 and 1986, toward his ex-wife.
In the fall of 1985, Betty Broderick threw a homemade cake around her ex-husband’s bedroom, leaving the room “totally destroyed,” Shaver said. But, she said, Daniel Broderick “remained calm” and announced that he reluctantly would have to enforce a court order requiring his ex-wife to stay off his property.
Robin Tuua, the housekeeper during 1986 and 1987, said that Betty Broderick drove to her ex-husband’s house to drop off one of the boys and one of the two whispered to her, “Mommy has a butcher knife under the seat. Be careful.”
Then, Tuua said, Betty Broderick “told me she had a gun in her glove box. At this point, there was not a shadow of a doubt that this woman would use it on me. I called the police,” who took a report.
Tuua did not indicate whether Betty Broderick actually had a gun in her car. According to earlier testimony, Betty Broderick did not own a gun until two years later, when she bought one in March, 1989.
A marriage and family counseling expert--who testified Thursday that Betty Broderick had been the victim of physical, sexual and psychological abuse during the marriage--said Friday that she was given to exaggeration.
The final defense witness, Daniel J. Sonkin, wrapped up his testimony Friday before the housekeepers took the stand by saying Betty Broderick was suffering from “a lot of anger, a lot of hostility, a lot of hurt” attributable to her ex-husband.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Kerry Wells, the prosecutor in the case, asked Sonkin why a woman who purportedly had been battered by her husband would seek to confront him--especially after separation. She also wondered why, if he really had engaged in a pattern of abusing her, he didn’t simply punch her out when she did try to confront him.
“He used the courts” instead, to manipulate their divorce and to manipulate her, Sonkin said. But he told Wells, “I’m not disagreeing with you that it was inappropriate for her to go over there” on various occasions.
Wells, who sparred repeatedly with Sonkin on Thursday, showed signs of irritation on Friday with his testimony, her voice rising and her speech rapid. She also cut off his answers, and he cut off hers, prompting the court reporter to tell them that only one person at a time could speak.
After 14 days of testimony, the opposing lawyers also showed signs of stress with each other--and even the judge appeared cross.
During Shaver’s testimony about the smeared cake, Earley objected, saying she was being far too dramatic.
“If the witness wants to be in the movies . . . ,” Earley said before Wells cut him off with her own objection. Then Whelan leaned forward, pointed a finger at Earley and said loudly: “Knock that off.”
Testimony in the case is due to resume Tuesday. No court session is scheduled for Monday, a state holiday.