One-time socialite Elisabeth (Betty) Broderick says that she was traumatized and desperate after her attorney husband used divorce proceedings to take her children and put her in jail.
“I was beyond the point of craziness and tolerance,” Broderick testified this week in her retrial on double murder charges.
Broderick said Tuesday that she stopped and bought a handgun and three boxes of bullets after a divorce hearing in which a $16,000 support payment was suspended and she lost some of her visitation rights with their children.
The .38-caliber handgun she bought was the one she later used to kill her ex-husband, Daniel Broderick III, and his wife of six months, Linda Kolkena Broderick.
Betty Broderick said she was angry that her ex-husband’s new wife had entered her home while she was at work, and because the hearing had been called without proper notice.
“I felt I was being attacked, and I didn’t have any defense system to make them stop,” she testified.
Broderick, 43, has admitted shooting the couple in their bedroom just before dawn on Nov. 5, 1989.
Defense attorney Jack Earley contends the shooting was the result of emotional and physical abuse inflicted by Daniel Broderick before and after the couple’s 1986 divorce.
Elisabeth Broderick went to the couple’s house early in the morning with thoughts of killing herself in front her ex-husband, but ended up opening fire on him instead, she testified during her first trial.
That trial ended last November with jurors divided between a murder and manslaughter conviction.
Prosecutors contend that the slayings were premeditated and motivated by greed and vengeance. Broderick faces life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder.
Broderick admitted that she repeatedly left obscene messages on her ex-husband’s telephone answering machine, vandalized his home and drove her utility vehicle through the front door of his home.
She told jurors and Superior Court Judge Thomas Whelan that she was driven to such desperate acts because she felt powerless against the influence and legal skill of her ex-husband.
Broderick said her husband abused alcohol and sometimes pushed and hit her or yelled at the children, yet he won sole custody of their four children.
He also tried to isolate her from the children through a court injunction ordering her to stay away from his home, she testified.
He used the injunction to have Broderick arrested when she showed up at his house Nov. 1, 1986, to demand a temporary support check he owed her, she said.
The experience of being arrested and held in jail several hours left her “traumatized,” she testified.
“Nov. 1, 1986, was like the end of the end for me,” she said. “Beyond that I was so stressed I wasn’t making any sense at all.”
She was so frustrated at being unable to see her children that she left obscene messages on her ex-husband’s answering machine, she said.
As a result, she was sentenced to six days in jail for contempt of court in a private hearing before Judge Anthony Joseph, who acknowledged that he knew her husband well, Broderick testified.
“I said to myself, ‘Where is my public trial by jury?’ ” Broderick said. “This is a private trial by a self-professed, longtime good friend of my husband. I thought it was gang rape.”