‘He Looked Me in the Eye and Lied,’ Broderick Testifies


Elisabeth Anne (Betty) Broderick testified Friday that her ex-husband “looked me in the eye” and lied repeatedly for years about an extramarital affair and called her “old, fat, ugly, boring and stupid” before finally walking out.

Taking the stand in her own defense, Broderick, 43, cried frequently, especially in describing the early, lean years of a 16-year marriage to Daniel T. Broderick III, a prominent medical malpractice attorney who was killed Nov. 5, 1989.

Broderick has admitted shooting Daniel Broderick, 44, and his new wife, Linda Kolkena Broderick, 28, in the bedroom of their Marston Hills home. Her testimony Friday ended without a reference to the slayings.


Attorneys for both sides said Broderick’s testimony, which resumes Monday, may take most of next week.

In late 1985, when Broderick finally found out about her husband’s affair with legal assistant Kolkena, “I was absolutely furious,” she said.

“He had looked me in the eye and lied and lied and lied and lied a billion times” about a relationship that began in 1983, Broderick said.

Friday featured frequent sparring among lawyers, especially when defense attorney Jack Earley was denied permission to show the jury two Marriage Encounter journals, one written by Daniel Broderick, the other by Elisabeth Broderick, at a Catholic retreat in 1976.

Last year, during Elisabeth Broderick’s first trial, which ended in a hung jury, Earley was allowed to introduce Daniel Broderick’s Marriage Encounter journal.

In it, he told his then-wife that he would be a “more loving” person when he had more money and pleaded with her to just wait until he could reach his lifetime goal: massive material wealth.

“I honestly believe,” he wrote, that having the ability to buy material things without regard to cost will “make me a more loving and lovable person.” He is also highly critical of the Catholic Church in the journal.

Earley said later that he feels the journal is damaging to Daniel Broderick’s character, and that Elisabeth Broderick’s Marriage Encounter diary, which wasn’t introduced in the first trial, shows a much more humane and far less materialistic woman than prosecutors have portrayed.

The defense maintains that Broderick drove to her ex-husband’s home intending only to kill herself. She merely hoped to confront him, she has said, and discuss the powerless position she felt she was in because of the terms of a bitter divorce.

Prosecutors describe the slayings as first-degree, premeditated murders and contend that the couple “lay helpless in their sleep” while Broderick fired five shots from a .38-caliber revolver.

Friday’s testimony offered another surprise: Earley called to the stand Frank J. Bisceglia, 77, Elisabeth Broderick’s father, who attended but did not testify at last year’s trial.

Bisceglia said he received a phone call from his daughter at 8 a.m. on the morning of the slayings. Testimony has indicated that the killings occurred about dawn on a Sunday.

Bisceglia has a small build with a round, red face and a friendly, outgoing manner. As he took the stand, he offered a warm greeting to Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan.

“She was sobbing. She was very hysterical,” Bisceglia said of the conversation. “She said, ‘Dan is driving me crazy. He’s driving me up the wall. I feel like committing suicide.’ ”

Under cross-examination, Bisceglia testified that at no point did his daughter mention having shot Daniel and Linda Broderick. He said the conversation lasted about a minute and a half.

Bisceglia said he found out about the couple’s death during a phone call several hours later from Gail Forbes, a longtime friend of the Broderick family, who said, “ ‘Dan and Linda have been murdered, and Betty is the prime suspect.’ ”

Broderick cried throughout her father’s testimony, and both his appearance and her reaction seemed to have an impact on the jury.

She cried throughout parts of her testimony, which attempted to chronicle a wife’s unwavering support of a husband through medical school, law school and the raw beginnings of an ambitious career.

“He took care of the bank books and the paychecks, and I pretty much had to do everything he said,” Broderick said in a soft voice, appearing far more subdued than during her testimony a year ago.

Broderick described her ex-husband as controlling and manipulative, and spoke of feeling betrayed by the “very nice” young man she met at a Notre Dame football game and with whom she eventually fell in love.

She testified that, while they were dating, he once pulled over to the side of the road and, in response to a comment of hers, snapped, “ ‘You don’t tell me what we’re going to do--ever. I’m the boss.’ ”

She said the early years of marriage were lived entirely on his terms, as she worked while he attended medical school and Harvard Law School. She said that, during and after he attained his degrees, she and their four children rarely saw him.

She disputed prosecution testimony that she married him because she viewed him as a “moneymaking machine.”

“I married Dan for a million other reasons,” she said tearfully. “He was not a moneymaking machine.”

By 1976, she said, problems in the marriage led her to recommend a Catholic Marriage Encounter weekend, to which her husband reluctantly agreed.

“He said that what he needed in life was to meet financial goals that he set for himself way, way back,” she said. “When we got there, it was all going to be rosy and it was going to pay off and be wonderful.”

Defense attorney Earley said later that Deputy Dist. Atty. Kerry Wells had argued against introducing Daniel Broderick’s Marriage Encounter comments because of their “prejudicial” nature.

Judge Whelan, who presided at the last trial, agreed, although Earley said he hoped the door “hasn’t been closed for good,” since the journal was allowed in the last trial.

Earley said the prosecution views the journal as prejudicial largely because of Daniel Broderick’s hostile comments about Catholicism, even though he was an Irish-American Catholic who attended Notre Dame University.

Earley argued that Daniel Broderick’s rejection of Catholicism and Marriage Encounter were examples of ways in which he tried to psychologically “isolate” his wife and render her “powerless” in the marriage and, ultimately, the divorce.

“The only way I can see it is, they (the prosecution) didn’t like the results last time,” Earley said in an interview. “How can you say it was relevant last time, but it’s not relevant this time?

“The only thing she says in her Marriage Encounter (journal) is how she wants a sofa so they can sit at the end of the day and talk about their lives. She doesn’t want the boats, the trips to Europe. . . . “

Earley said Elisabeth Broderick’s journal comments are in contrast to much of the testimony of prosecution witnesses, who say that, from the beginning of her marriage, she was vain, greedy, materialistic and self-centered.

Other moments Friday featured prosecutor Wells opening the door to the fifth-floor stairwell to interrupt a heated argument between Lee Broderick, 20, the Brodericks’ daughter, and her former boyfriend, Jason Prantil, who appeared as a defense witness.

Lee Broderick, who has steadfastly supported her mother, appeared to be berating Prantil about shortcomings in his testimony Friday morning.

Times staff writer Alan Abrahamson contributed to this story.