Broderick Says She Doesn’t Recall Firing
Elisabeth Anne (Betty) Broderick testified Thursday that she was in an “altered state of consciousness” on Nov. 5, 1989, and does not remember pulling the trigger of the .38-caliber revolver that killed her ex-husband and his new wife.
When confronted with photographs of the bodies of Daniel T. Broderick III, 44, and Linda Kolkena Broderick, 28, and the bloodstained sheets on which they lay, the former La Jolla socialite stared with a blank expression and said she never intended to kill them.
Under intense and often combative cross-examination from Deputy Dist. Atty. Kerry Wells, Broderick said she remembers little about sneaking into the bedroom of the couple’s Marston Hills home near dawn on a Sunday.
She said she does not remember seeing them, or her ex-husband shouting, “OK, you shot me, I’m dead!” about which Broderick’s daughter has testified. Nor does she remember firing five individual shots, she said, although she described firing five shots in last year’s trial.
Broderick, 44, said Thursday that she went to the home of her ex-husband, a prominent medical malpractice attorney, to confront him and his second wife over issues surrounding a divorce and custody battle that had lasted for most of the previous decade.
“I was in a totally altered state of consciousness,” she said. “I’ve already testified that I didn’t remember driving there. I was scared to death at confronting Dan Broderick, which I always was. Because he scared me.
“I walked into the room. I’ve testified that it was dark. It appeared that way to me. I moved, they moved, the gun went off . . . . I just tensed--like that! I don’t remember pulling the trigger once, twice, three, four. . . . I don’t remember . . . “
Prosecutor Wells, who ignored the details of the killings in last year’s trial--which ended in a hung jury--spent more than an hour on them Thursday afternoon.
“You mean you tensed like that once, you tensed like that twice, you tensed like that three times, you tensed like that four times ?” she asked.
“No,” Broderick said, speaking calmly and quietly. Last week, she sobbed as her own attorney asked about the killings.
“I went, ‘Aaaagh!’ And I don’t know if a noise came out. I just had this screaming kind of sensation--and a tensing--and I don’t remember (pulling the trigger) even once,” she said.
With question after question, Wells hammered away at Broderick’s story. The prosecution contends that Broderick murdered the couple “as they lay helpless in their sleep,” and that her crime is a first-degree, premeditated offense for which she ought to receive life in prison without parole.
The defense contends that Broderick was driven to near-insanity by the legal maneuverings of her ex-husband, a well-connected past president of the San Diego County Bar Assn. Ten jurors in last year’s trial opted for a murder conviction; two held out for manslaughter.
But Wells, who was criticized for not being aggressive enough during last year’s trial, pounded away relentlessly Thursday, as in the following exchange:
Wells: You brought the gun for a show of force. You brought the gun to make them listen to you.
Wells: But, when you entered the room, you didn’t use the gun for a show of force. You didn’t use the gun to say, “Hold it, I want to talk to you!” You shot!
Broderick: I didn’t have a chance.
Wells: You didn’t have a chance! What do you mean, you didn’t have a chance?
Broderick: I’m telling you it all happened so fast. It wasn’t a thought process. I moved, they moved, the gun went off. It was over--that fast.
Medical testimony has indicated that Linda Broderick was shot twice and died instantly when a bullet penetrated her brain stem, and that Daniel Broderick died more slowly, with blood filling his right lung and making it difficult, then impossible, for him to breathe.
Broderick testified that she could see neither Daniel nor Linda before or after the killings, and that shooting them was merely a “reflex” action.
“You had to go up and point (the gun) at (Linda) to shoot at her, didn’t you?” Wells asked. “The reflex action didn’t make the gun go off in the floor, did it? So, you pulled the gun up and you pointed it at Linda to shoot her, didn’t you? Was the gun pointed at Linda’s chest when you shot her?”
“I don’t know,” Broderick said. “I’m telling you it was dark. I didn’t see Linda. I couldn’t have pointed it at anybody’s chest.”
“You do remember pulling the trigger,” Wells said.
“No, I don’t,” Broderick said.
“You told (a defense psychologist) that you remembered pulling the trigger,” Wells said.
“I don’t remember telling her because I don’t remember pulling the trigger,” Broderick said.
At one point during last week’s direct examination, Broderick testified that, on the drive from La Jolla to Marston Hills, “all these thoughts kept churning in my head, like my eyeballs were turned backward. It felt like the whole world was inside my head. . . . It felt like hell, actually.”
Thursday, Wells asked why Broderick omitted such descriptions from last year’s trial.
“Maybe I’m explaining it better this year,” Broderick said.
“Maybe you’re embellishing it better this year!” Wells shouted.
Despite her assertions that she could see neither victim, Broderick said she remembered Linda Broderick screaming, “Call the police!"--about which she did not testify last year--and that Daniel Broderick frightened her by moving toward the telephone on the night stand by the bed.
“I just panicked,” she said, admitting that she pulled the telephone from the wall after the shooting, which was “one huge explosion.”
Wells spent much of Thursday’s cross-examination, which actually began last week, seeking to impeach Broderick’s testimony. She offered numerous examples of the testimony of others, almost all of whom Broderick tried to rebut or contradict.
They included her 20-year-old daughter, Lee, a defense witness who has always supported her mother. It was Lee Broderick who testified that her mother described the killings by saying Daniel Broderick sat up in bed and shouted, “OK, you shot me, I’m dead!”
Broderick said she did not remember saying that to her daughter.
Broderick admitted that she often carried the .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, even though her son, Danny, 15, was terrified that she would use it against his father.
“Danny was so concerned about the fact that you were going to use this gun to kill his father that he stole it from you, grabbed it and took it and ran outside to try and hide it from you,” Wells said. “He ran out of the house crying because he was afraid of what you were going to do with this gun, didn’t he?”
“That’s what he said, yes,” Broderick said quietly.
Broderick said she had once put the gun in her pocket during one of her ex-husband’s visits to pick up Danny and his younger brother, Rhett, and did so to prove that she meant no harm.
“As they were driving away, I said, ‘See, here’s the gun, I’m not going to kill your Daddy with that gun,’ ” she said.
But she admitted that she kept the gun in her purse, and that it remained loaded at all times, including the morning she made the drive from La Jolla to Marston Hills.
Broderick has contended that Daniel Broderick repeatedly used his legal prowess to have her jailed, placed in contempt of court or fined for leaving obscene messages on his answering machine when she attempted to reach her children by telephone.
Testimony has indicated that Daniel Broderick’s extramarital affair with Linda Kolkena began in 1983. He moved out of the couple’s La Jolla home in February, 1985. A year later, he sold the home, using a complicated legal maneuver, giving Betty Broderick only a four-hour notice of the sale.
He then “bifurcated” the marriage in July, 1986, which means he went to court and made the divorce final, although the terms of the settlement were pending. The terms were still being disputed when he was killed. At the time of the divorce, Betty Broderick was left with no formal custody or visitation rights.
In court Thursday, Wells presented a series of checks and check registers, showing that, for most of the months leading up to the killings, Broderick received from her ex-husband, on time and in full, a monthly, court-ordered support payment of $16,100.
Broderick said she was finally motivated to confront her ex-husband on Nov. 5, 1989, after receiving a letter days earlier in which his attorney threatened--in her mind--a new round of fines, contempt citations and even jail sentences.
But, she said, it was a reference saying that her “emotional disturbance has not improved” that made her rage uncontrollable.
The letter “suggests that you had a mental disturbance, but you said all the time that he was crazy,” Wells said.
“He never had a mental disturbance,” Broderick answered angrily. “He was just evil, vicious and mean.”