Broderick Says Killings Were ‘the Will of God’ : Trial: In an interview from jail, she vows to take her prison sentence one day at a time.
A day after she was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder, Elisabeth Anne (Betty) Broderick said Wednesday night that killing her ex-husband and his second wife was “the will of God,” as was the verdict and the prison sentence yet to come.
“This will sound crazy, but I do believe that what happened in that room (where the killings occurred) was the will of God,” Broderick said in a telephone interview with The Times. “What happened in that jury room and with the verdict was the will of God. And the sentencing will be the same.
“Whatever happens, I have to live with it for the rest of my life,” she said.
Broderick, 44, said that visualizing prison, where she could spend from 17 years to life, is an almost impossible task. She said the full impact of the verdict had not yet sunk in and that, most of the time, she felt numb.
At times she sounded chipper and upbeat, at other times angry, at other moments sad.
“It’s a total unknown,” she said of prison. “During my entire ordeal, I’ve had to take everything one day at a time. It’s the only way I’ve managed to survive. I tried to take things a minute at a time. Even looking at the next 24 hours was too scary.
“I don’t want to look ahead. And I’ve trained myself not to look back. My philosophy is, all I have is right now. Don’t look ahead or behind, because if I do, all the guilt and upset I summon up isn’t going to change a damn thing.”
Broderick said she was bemused by public reaction to the smile she gave upon hearing Tuesday’s verdict. She said the smile was meant sincerely, a reflection of her concern for the court clerk.
When the clerk, Rosie Cerda, read Tuesday’s verdict, her voice trembled slightly, and at that moment, Broderick said Wednesday, laughing wryly, “that was my overriding concern.”
“As soon as I tell everyone everything is going to be fine, I go to pieces. What my smile was saying was, ‘Rosie, it’s going to be OK, don’t cry, Rosie . . . ' She almost couldn’t keep going. Those people in the court (bailiffs and clerks) really liked me, and I felt bad for them--they seemed to feel so bad for me.”
Broderick said she didn’t blame jurors in her second trial for compromising on a verdict of second-degree murder. In interviews, jurors said several on the panel were leaning toward a voluntary-manslaughter conviction--which Broderick’s attorney sought--while others wanted a verdict of first-degree murder.
“If I could have hugged each of the jurors, I would have,” Broderick said. “I would have told them it was OK. I wouldn’t want them to live under any kind of burden because of me. But I do wish the people who believed it was manslaughter had been stronger.”
Broderick, whose case attracted national attention and became a cause celebre for many divorcees, said Wednesday that her life collapsed even before Nov. 5, 1989, when she entered the Marston Hills home of Daniel T. Broderick III, 44, and Linda Kolkena Broderick, 28, his wife of six months.
She killed the couple in their bed with five shots from a .38-caliber revolver, but said she went to the home hoping only to confront them over problems in an ongoing divorce and custody dispute. Last year’s trial ended in a hung jury, with two jurors holding out for manslaughter.
Broderick contends that her ex-husband, a prominent medical malpractice attorney and past president of the San Diego County Bar Assn., left her emotionally abused and victimized by a legal system vulnerable to his influence and status.
Broderick said the second trial was emotionally upsetting, not only because she believed Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan--who will sentence her Feb. 7--had refused to allow the appearance of key witnesses, but also because of concerns about her four children.
She said she received a letter during the trial from her youngest child, 11-year-old Rhett, who told her he wanted to kill himself.
“I got the suicide note from Rhett mid-trial,” Broderick said. “It came during one of my days of testimony. He told me, ‘I really hate it here (in Colorado, where he and brother Danny, 15, are living with the estranged wife of Daniel Broderick’s brother), and I want to kill myself.’
“He seems to be very self-destructive. He’s been playing with matches. . . . I’m very worried about him. All he wants in the world is for a 10-minute phone call from his mother once a week, and they won’t even give us that. For two years, I’ve asked for that and haven’t gotten it.”
Ken Coveney, a San Diego lawyer who is in frequent contact with the boys’ guardian, their aunt Kathy Broderick, confirmed late Wednesday that Rhett did write the letter and that it threatened suicide. But, Coveney said, a counselor who met with the boy decided he is not suicidal.
“When asked about it (by the counselor), Rhett said he was mad, and he wrote it, and he thought it was funny,” Coveney said.
“That was a tempest in a teapot and it’s done,” Coveney said. “And this is just Betty trying to get back on her goddamn soapbox. Why can’t she leave well enough alone? All she’s done is hurt them (her children). You see what’s she’s doing--she’s using them to get attention for herself.”
Broderick said her parents and siblings have been barred from contacting the boys by phone or in person, “so what does Kathy Broderick do? She uses the Dan Broderick answering machine routine” to screen their calls. “It reminds me of everything that happened with me. She even stops the mail from going through. It’s horrible!”
Coveney said it was an “outright lie” to suggest that Kathy Broderick was not permitting Betty Broderick’s relatives to see Rhett and Danny.
He said he had spoken earlier Wednesday night with Kathy Broderick, who told him that Mike Bisceglia, Betty Broderick’s brother, was due to be in Denver today on business, and plans were for him to drop by and pick up the boys after school.
During both trials, Broderick testified that she was often barred from seeing her children, had no formal visitation or custody agreement, and resorted to leaving messages for them on the answering machine in Daniel Broderick’s home.
Many of the messages were filled with obscene references to Daniel and Linda and became a key component of the prosecution’s case in both trials.
Jurors said Tuesday that those who favored manslaughter were swayed by a final playing of a 34-minute taped conversation between Betty Broderick and Danny in which a cursing Broderick says she can’t get on with her life because “I hate Daddy.”
Broderick said in the interview that she is also angry at her oldest daughter, Kim, 21, over an appearance she made Wednesday on a nationally syndicated talk show moderated by Maury Povich.
“I cannot call the boys to even tell them about the verdict,” Broderick said, “and Kim is so entrenched in the enemy camp that I couldn’t get to her even if I wanted to. When Kim was on the stand, I felt sorry for her.
“I think she’s making a very wrong decision by allowing herself to be manipulated and used. She’s my daughter, and she’s not a strong person. Men in authority tell her to go places and she does it. That’s what I did all those years, and look where I am.
“Kim ought to have a huge guilty conscience, because she, more than anyone, played both ends against the middle.”
Kim Broderick declined to comment Wednesday night.
Times staff writer Alan Abrahamson contributed to this report.