When it was finally over Tuesday, when Betty Broderick stood convicted of murder, when family and friends on both sides saw the end of two wrenching years of recriminations and emotions, there was relief.
While Betty Broderick’s two trials garnered widespread publicity--almost everyone in San Diego, it seemed, had an opinion about the case--it was those closest to Broderick, her ex-husband Daniel and his new wife, Linda, who took sides, whose wounds were most raw.
“We are all relieved that there is an apparent end to this,” said San Diego lawyer Brian Forbes, who at one time was such close friends with Daniel and Betty Broderick that they were made the godparents of one of the Forbes children. However, at Betty Broderick’s two trials, one last year that ended in a hung jury and this second one, Forbes testified for the prosecution.
Given court rulings that allowed repeated attacks on the character of Daniel and Linda Broderick, the jury came to a reasonable decision, Forbes said, adding, “I think that as a practical matter this verdict is all that could be realistically hoped for.”
That’s what Brad Wright, 38, Betty Broderick’s post-divorce boyfriend, said, too.
“I think the outcome of this trial is not necessarily surprising, given the evidence that was presented to the jury,” Wright said, though he was critical of the judge for not allowing what he claimed was evidence favorable to Betty Broderick.
But particularly for the families of Daniel and Linda Broderick, some of the wounds may never heal, and some were angry that Betty Broderick escaped a conviction of first-degree murder.
In court Tuesday afternoon, as the verdicts were read, Larry G. Broderick, a Denver businessman and Daniel Broderick’s brother, muttered in a loud whisper, “Jesus Christ.”
Leaving the courthouse by a back stairway, Larry Broderick said the jury should have come back with two verdicts of first-degree murder.
“What’s the matter with a system that allows this woman to threaten these people dozens of times, buy a gun, take shooting lessons, blows them away in their sleep--and that’s not Murder One in this goddamn country?” Larry Broderick said. “It’s an outrage.”
Later, at Reidy O’Neil’s, a downtown San Diego restaurant Daniel Broderick had helped start, Larry Broderick said he felt that, “from a standpoint of pure principle,” he, his family and the legal system had failed Dan and Linda Broderick.
“I have to feel we let them down,” he said. “The system let them down.”
“Monsters come in all kinds of packages,” he said. “They don’t all look like Charles Manson. People see a middle-aged, matronly housewife with an income and material goods that are far beyond the reach of most Americans, and they think it’s impossible for this person to be a monster.
“But monsters come in all kinds of gentle-looking packages. And the press and American people should face up to that.”
He said it would take time to comprehend the verdicts.
“But at least this is final,” Larry Broderick said, adding that Betty Broderick is “out of our lives forever. We’ll never have to turn on the TV or pick up the newspaper and see that disgusting visage again.”
Maggie Kolkena-Seats, Linda Kolkena Broderick’s sister, reached by phone in Portland, Ore., stressed that “those two people were unjustly murdered, especially my sister.”
Kolkena-Seats said she was not, however, immediately disappointed because the murder verdicts were second-degree. A first-degree verdict means the killing was premeditated, meaning considered beforehand, while second-degree lacks that deliberation.
“To tell you the truth, I haven’t been that focused on it because it doesn’t bring Linda back,” Kolkena-Seats said. “When a family loses someone they have to grieve. Our grieving has been complicated by all the media attention. If there had been another hung jury,” which marked the end to a first trial last year, “we’d have to go through this again.”
That theme, that Betty Broderick had been given far too much publicity, was expressed over and over again Tuesday by Daniel and Linda Broderick’s friends.
The case has drawn extended coverage in television, magazine and newspaper accounts. A made-for-TV movie is in the works.
“One of the things I would like to see is Betty lose her platform,” said Ken Coveney, a San Diego lawyer. “She’s gotten far more exposure than anything can justify.”
Reached for comment at his home in Nashville Tuesday night, Betty Broderick’s brother, Frank Bisceglia Jr. said: “I was disappointed. I thought they would come back with a different answer. I’m not living out in never-never land, I never expected more than manslaughter. But I thought they would come back with a different answer.”
Bisceglia said he had talked earlier in the night to his parents, Frank Sr. and Marita, who are in their late 70s and live in New York. He said the probability that Betty Broderick will spend many years in prison had not yet sunk in.
“I did not tell my mother what the prospects were in that regard,” Bisceglia said. “They are holding out hope that (the judge) has the final say in February. Until that day comes, they don’t want to think about it.”
Her other brothers and sisters, who are spread out across the nation, could not be reached for comment.
Ronnie Brown, a friend of Betty Broderick’s who lives in La Jolla, said she was pinning her hopes on an appeal. “I don’t think it’s over,” she said. “All we can do is hope.”
That is what Wright, Betty Broderick’s boyfriend, said he also is hoping for.
Wright was critical of San Diego Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan’s rulings. He said the judge did not let in enough evidence--material, Wright said, that might have helped Betty Broderick’s case.
That evidence, Wright said, included testimony from a Marin County counselor who testified at the first trial that Betty Broderick was emotionally and physically abused by Daniel Broderick. At this year’s trial, Whelan put so many restrictions on the counselor’s testimony that he opted not to take the stand.
“Betty’s major concern that she voiced to me was that the jury did not get to see nearly the amount of stuff they got to see last time,” said Wright, a La Jolla contractor. “This is good grounds for an appeal.”
“The prosecution said one person shot two others and that’s the whole case,” Wright said. “Almost like its someone who robbed a liquor store. It’s not a whodunnit, but why.”
Whelan can sentence Betty Broderick to a prison term of 32 years to life, prosecutors said. Sentencing is set for Feb. 7.
Ed Chapin, a San Diego attorney and close friend of the slain couple, said: “I’m glad it’s over.”
Times staff writer Sebastian Rotella contributed to this story.