Broderick Tells of Mental and Physical Abuse : Murder trial: Former La Jolla socialite says her husband, whom she killed, was a volatile drunk who often hit her.


Elisabeth Anne (Betty) Broderick testified Monday that her ex-husband engaged in a pattern of psychological and physical abuse that left her powerless over her life, her children and all money matters.

Broderick said the cunning, clever ways with which Daniel T. Broderick III manipulated her, the legal system and even the San Diego judiciary to rig their divorce and win custody of her four children felt to her like “gang rape.”

In her second day of testimony in her second murder trial, Broderick, 43, described her ex-husband as a volatile drunk who once grabbed her by the throat and many times slugged her so hard he left her injured.


A punch from Daniel Broderick once broke her sternum, she said. Another time, she said, he blackened her eye, and once, when her skis brushed against his, “He hit me so hard, I went flying through the snow. I hurt my ankle so bad, I couldn’t walk.”

Broderick has admitted shooting her ex-husband and his second wife, Linda Kolkena Broderick, in the bedroom of their Marston Hills home on the morning of Nov. 5, 1989. She maintains that she went to the house intending only to kill herself.

The prosecution views the slayings as first-degree, premeditated murders and is seeking a sentence of life in prison without parole. Last year’s first trial ended in a hung jury, with 10 jurors opting for a murder conviction and two for manslaughter.

Broderick said that, for years leading up to the killings, she felt “completely at the mercy” of a husband known in legal circles as the best medical malpractice attorney in San Diego.

She said he often bragged about serving legal papers on unsuspecting doctors during church or synagogue services in an effort to “humiliate” them in front of their peers. She said the same tactics were then used on her.

She said that, during 1986, she felt “terrified” and “hysterical” over what she perceived as her husband’s attempts to railroad their divorce and take away all rights to her children.

“This was the man that was supposed to take care of us, that I trusted and all that baloney, and I went to him for answers, and the way he treated me was just so awful and so cold,” she said tearfully.

She said her ex-husband’s response was: “ ‘Just screw you, die, get out of my life and go away,’ with no respect for me at all.”

Broderick said that most of the actions she took in the years leading up to the slayings were in response to legal maneuvers that left her feeling “isolated” and “totally powerless.”

On many occasions, Daniel Broderick used restraining orders to keep her away from his house--and, especially, she said, from her children--and he installed a telephone answering machine to block and screen her incoming calls.

She said he was voluntarily paying her $9,000 a month, but out of that she was paying $4,500 on a house in La Jolla badly in need of repair, as well as all taxes and insurance fees.

She said he instituted a system of fines, wherein if she did something he didn’t like, he deducted money from her support check. She said the fines during one month became so large that she owed him $1,300.

She offered numerous examples of such fines. One she said, came in 1986 after she arrived at his Marston Hills home in violation of a court restraining order.

She only went there, she said, because he and legal assistant Linda Kolkena had flown to Europe for three weeks, and the housekeeper called her, saying the children were “desperately” in need of food and medicine because her $100 allowance had run out.

She said that, while the children lived with her ex-husband, they often went to school without breakfast and with tattered shoes full of holes. She said her husband’s response to one daughter’s drug problem was to write her out of his will.

Broderick said her husband sent the children to summer camp in 1986 and then “bifurcated” their divorce, meaning he obtained a “dissolution,” pending the terms of a settlement--all without her knowledge.

She said she tried repeatedly to obtain counsel, only to be told that no lawyer wanted to oppose Daniel Broderick, who was later elected president of the San Diego County Bar Assn.

When Broderick finally did hire an attorney, she said, the judge hearing the case--Superior Court Judge Anthony C. Joseph--saw Daniel Broderick enter the courtroom and said with a smile, “Well, Mr. Broderick, to what do we owe the honor?”

“He explained he was a longtime friend of Dan’s, and that he held him in very high regard,” she testified. “He asked me if I would have a problem with that. I said, ‘Do I have a choice?’ And he said, ‘No.’

“I said to myself, “Where is my public trial by jury?’ ” Broderick testified. “This is a private trial by a self-professed, longtime good friend of my husband. I thought it was gang rape.”

Broderick said she was often kept from seeing her children on important holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, or that prearranged plans suddenly went awry, without warning or notice.

She said that, without a formal custody agreement, Daniel Broderick controlled almost every aspect of when, where and how she saw her children. She said he once “dumped” the children at her house, on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend in 1986, “because he decided to take Linda to the Ritz Carlton (Hotel) in Laguna Beach.”

Broderick admitted that she once drove her Chevrolet Suburban truck through her husband’s front door but said she did so only after the couple’s La Jolla home was sold without her permission.

After that incident, in February, 1986, she said her husband called police. She was then taken to a psychiatric hospital for 72 hours.

She said her husband often told her and those around her that she was crazy, and that he had her jailed and hospitalized more than once. She said the obscene messages left on his answering machine--played by the prosecution earlier in the trial--were in response to “enormous frustration.”

She said the attorneys who were willing to help were eventually overwhelmed by contempt of court citations leveled against her--which she described as Daniel Broderick’s way of putting off a divorce settlement.

“I was just terminated as a mother,” she said. “He got sole custody, and I got no rights to ever see them again.”

Broderick’s testimony resumes today.