Sharply Divided Jury Resolved Not to Leave Without a Verdict

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

As they began their discussion, members of the jury that sealed Elisabeth Anne (Betty) Broderick's fate Tuesday were badly divided by the turbulent emotions of the infamous murder case.

Four days later--four days of arguments and Snickers bars, of compromises and pretzels--the jurors cemented their second-degree murder verdict during a final lunch break.

They gave vent to their sympathies for the victims, Daniel T. Broderick III and his young wife, Linda, and they spoke of their pain for Broderick.

"It was an American tragedy," said jury foreman George McAlister. "We had to get this out, and then go beyond being human beings and focus on the issue."

In the end, they concentrated on the definitions of murder and manslaughter and resolved not to leave their windowless refuge without a verdict.

"At any point in time, it was possible to have a hung jury again," said McAlister, recalling the outcome of Broderick's first murder trial. "But we decided as one group to pull together and leave the jury room with a verdict. That was our responsibility and we owed it to the victims."

Early on, several jurors, including the foreman, had pushed for a first-degree murder conviction. But, realizing that the other jurors would not be swayed, they quickly compromised on second-degree.

Even then, a small camp of jurors held out for a verdict of voluntary manslaughter.

The break came late Tuesday morning, when McAlister sensed that the jury was nearing agreement after 18 hours of deliberations.

"I said, 'I personally feel that we can reach a consensus agreement if we decide on murder two,' " McAlister recalled of Tuesday's final hours. "How does everybody feel about that? Can they live with that? Can they accept that based on the evidence?

"And we went around the table and everybody said they could live with that, with the exception of a couple of people who said, 'Let's go to lunch and let's make sure this is absolutely what we want to do.'

"So we took an hour-and-a-half lunch as opposed to our hour lunch and we walked around a lot and we thought about it, and then we came back and I think we made a decision and we signed the verdict forms within a half an hour," McAlister said.

"We all held hands. It was spontaneous. We realized we had all survived this," McAlister said.

The eight-week Broderick retrial took its toll on the seven men and five women.

"It's been quite a load for a person like me, a simple person like me," said juror Maurizio DiMartino. "I've lost a lot of sleep over it. My emotions were touched many times. Like many of the jurors, during deliberations we laughed and we cried, but we did come to a conclusion and I'm satisfied with it."

"Everyone had to live with the decision they made and reality started setting in at the end," said Angus Brunson Jr., a 49-year-old aircraft technician at the North Island Naval Air Station. "We were thinking, 'This is this lady's life. She is defending her life to a degree.' "

The stress built over several weeks. Early in the trial, jurors spent their lunch hours Christmas shopping at Horton Plaza or lunching together. During breaks, they would converge on the fourth-floor snack room for Snickers and bags of pretzels. The three smokers in the group went outside the courtroom and stood in front of the courthouse.

But as deliberations began, tensions heightened. During breaks, more and more jurors spent time alone. McAlister said he walked up and down the courtroom stairs to relieve tension. Group lunches came to a halt. Most said their stomachs were too knotted to eat.

In the deliberation room, they sipped soda, hot tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Soon, plastic foam cups littered the conference table in the room equipped only with 13 chairs, a hot- and cold-water dispenser, an exhibits table, a blackboard and two small bathrooms.

McAlister tried to keep the deliberations focused on legal issues, writing definitions and arguments on the blackboard. But time and again, discussions turned emotional.

From the outset, jurors said, sympathy for everyone touched by the killings surfaced in the jury room. It had to be dispatched before a decision could be made.

"I sympathize for her. I sympathize for the family, for the kids," said juror JoAnn Phelps. "It's just that human response. I just don't think we can let our emotions and our sympathy get in the way (of) justice."

Times staff writers Mark Platte and Nora Zamichow contributed to this report.

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