Former La Jolla socialite Elisabeth Anne (Betty) Broderick was convicted Tuesday on two counts of second-degree murder, 25 months and two trials after she shot her ex-husband and his new wife to death in their bed.
Broderick, who had said she was emotionally abused by her ex-husband, Daniel T. Broderick III, a prominent San Diego malpractice attorney, became a symbol of the rage--and desire for revenge--felt by many divorcing couples.
Though her attorney had sought a verdict of manslaughter, Broderick remained composed as the jurors found her guilty of murder, smiling pleasantly at them as they were individually polled. She also was convicted of two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan, who presided over the eight-week trial, scheduled Broderick's sentencing for Feb. 7. Broderick, who has been in custody since the Nov. 5, 1989, incident, faces a minimum term of 32 years in prison and a maximum term of life for the two killings. Dist. Atty. Edwin L. Miller said Broderick would not be free for at least 19 years.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Kerry Wells, who had also prosecuted Broderick in last year's trial, which ended in a hung jury, hugged her husband after the verdict was read and flashed reporters a beaming smile.
"I'm glad it's over," she said.
Broderick's attorney, Jack Earley, said he would appeal the verdict on the basis that Whelan had excluded evidence that would show Daniel Broderick had driven his ex-wife to violence.
"He (Daniel Broderick) was even thinking of killing her if he had to," Earley said in an interview. "He was going to try to make it so she was penniless. . . . He told a number of people it wouldn't be over until one of them was gone."
George Lawrence McAlister, the jury foreman, said Broderick's story touched many of the jurors. Throughout the deliberations, he said, "we thought we could have a hung jury."
"We all had some sympathy for her. We felt it was a tremendous tragedy," he told reporters after the verdict was read. "But we saw so much aberrant behavior. Her reactions weren't something a normal, reasonable person would do. . . . It became a question of 'How did Betty Broderick perceive the world?' "
The killings occurred early on a Sunday morning, just six months after Daniel Broderick, 44, and Linda Kolkena Broderick, 28, were married. According to testimony, Broderick entered their Marston Hills home with her daughter's key, crept into their bedroom and emptied her five-shot, .38-caliber revolver into the couple.
Broderick testified in both trials that she did not intend to kill her ex-husband and his wife. She said she went to their house planning to kill herself. She testified that she does not remember pulling the trigger, though she told a defense psychologist she did remember.
The prosecution had argued that Broderick murdered the couple "as they lay helpless in their sleep."
At first, news of the killings resonated through La Jolla, where Betty and Daniel Broderick had lived and where tales of their violent, messy divorce had become legend. Broderick, who was receiving $16,100 per month in alimony, had repeatedly vandalized her ex-husband's home--ramming her car into his front door, for example, and spray-painting the walls of his bedroom.
During the second trial, two of the Brodericks' four children testified that she also left numerous obscene telephone messages on his answering machine.
Through the course of the case, Broderick garnered a progressively wider audience for her tale of emotional torture and psychological abuse. She appeared on national television and granted interviews to several magazines and newspapers, telling and retelling a story--disputed by Daniel Broderick's friends and family--of emotional terrorism at the hands of an influential, cunning ex-husband.
The victims' relatives said they were outraged by the attention and air time that Broderick received. On Tuesday, several of them said that although they were disappointed that Broderick was not convicted of first-degree murder, they were glad that it was over.
"Is it a happy day? No, it's not. It's a sad, tragic story and I hope it's over now," Maggie Kolkena-Seats, Linda Broderick's sister, said from her home in Portland, Ore. "Those two people were unjustly murdered, especially my sister. . . . I'm tired of the media dragging Dan and Linda through the dirt. I'm tired of Betty's . . . sensational perspective."
Terry and Larry Broderick, two of Daniel Broderick's brothers, said they were outraged by the verdict. Terry Broderick said he believed the jury fell prey to "sympathies as opposed to what they were instructed, based on the evidence."
"What they (the jury) got was more a reflection of my brother Dan as opposed to what she was accused of," Terry Broderick said. "I feel my brother's life and the things he did have been discounted, as opposed to the actions she took. She was the one on trial, not him, but it was his character being tried."
During both trials, for example, the defense made much of the fact that Daniel and Linda Broderick had begun an extramarital affair in 1983. Daniel Broderick eventually left Broderick and they were divorced in 1986, although issues surrounding property and custody remained unsettled. Those continued until the time of the killings, and some still remain as unresolved matters involving the estate of Daniel and Linda Broderick.
When the second trial began Oct. 15, Wells, the prosecutor, depicted Broderick as a coldblooded killer who had executed Daniel and Linda Broderick and left her ex-husband "gurgling in his own blood."
In opening arguments, Wells portrayed Broderick as a woman possessed by hate and the need for revenge, and as a killer who most deeply resented, not her divorce from a prominent medical malpractice attorney, but the fact that her days as a La Jolla socialite were over.
Earley characterized Daniel Broderick as a man with a drinking problem, with two convictions for driving under the influence, who once, with his wife at home with a newborn baby, drove home drunk with his three other children in the car.
The arena in which the Brodericks' ugly divorce war took place was Daniel Broderick's arena, Earley said.
"He said, 'OK, if you want to fight, you're going to be in the ring with Muhammad Ali. You're going to be in here with a heavyweight litigator. We're going to litigate this case the hardest way we can.' "
Earley said Broderick was left with an avalanche from which she could never escape and which still haunts her.
"She was left in a severe state of depression, and the anger was as much at herself as anyone else," Earley said. "She couldn't dig out from under the avalanche."
Part of their dispute was over custody of the children. The two daughters, the elder children, live on their own in Colorado. The two younger sons live with Larry Broderick's estranged wife in Colorado.
Kim Broderick, 21, the oldest daughter of Daniel and Betty Broderick, testified that her mother had shown violent tendencies for years and had talked openly and often about killing her ex-husband and his new wife.
The prosecution also played an emotional tape in which Danny Broderick, then 11 years old, told his mother that all she cared about was money and begged her to never again use "bad words."
For 34 minutes, the couple's oldest son pleaded with his mother to stop tearing the family apart with jealous rage and vulgar invective.
At one point, the boy said: "All you care about is your stupid money. You want everything. You want all the kids, all the money, to get rid of Linda--and it's not going to work, Mom. You've been mad long enough."
She replied, "No, I haven't."
Times staff writer Nora Zamichow contributed to this report.