Broderick Has No Regrets in Slayings

Times Staff Writer

La Jolla socialite Elisabeth Anne (Betty) Broderick, convicted of two counts of murder and sentenced to the maximum prison term possible, said Monday she feels no remorse for killing her ex-husband and his second wife.

“It wasn’t like I planned to go kill anybody and now I’m sorry,” Broderick, 44, said in a telephone interview from jail. “Because I never planned to kill anybody.”

Sentenced Friday to 32 years to life in prison by a judge who said she deserved the maximum term, Broderick also said Monday she was not surprised by the harsh sentence. She added that she feels she got a raw deal at the second of her two trials, claiming the judge disallowed key evidence and that her lawyer’s performance was at times lackluster.


In a wide-ranging interview, Broderick said she remains convinced that she could not have gotten a fair trial in San Diego. That’s why, she said, she is thankful the press listened to her side of the rancorous dispute. But she said she is certain that an upcoming made-for-TV movie about the case will not do her justice.

“I’ve been in this mess now for 10 years, and now I’m supposed to start a sentence?” she said. “This whole case is about lies, greed and callousness and none of it had to happen and none of it should have happened. My kids have already suffered for so many years. It’s a shame, isn’t it?”

Broderick, 44, was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder for the Nov. 5, 1989, killings of her ex-husband, Daniel T. Broderick III, and his wife, Linda Kolkena Broderick.

Betty Broderick admitted firing the fatal shots but claimed she was the victim of a husband who she said had been emotionally abusive and manipulative. She testified that she intended to talk to her husband and to kill herself but fired when Linda Broderick yelled, “call the police!” and Daniel Broderick lunged for the phone.

A first trial, in 1990, ended in a hung jury, with the jury deadlocked, 10 favoring murder and two holding out for manslaughter. The second trial ended two months ago with the two verdicts of second-degree murder.

With its theme of infidelity among the wealthy, the case sparked intense national interest as a symbol of the rage--and hunger for revenge--that consumes many divorcing couples. Aside from countless newspaper stories, the case has been featured in magazines and on national television shows. A book, and the TV movie, are now in the works.

Daniel Broderick, 44, was a prominent medical malpractice attorney and a former president of the San Diego County Bar Assn. Linda Kolkena Broderick, 28, was his office assistant.

Daniel and Betty Broderick divorced in 1985 after 16 years of marriage. During their divorce, which was not final until 1989, Betty Broderick accused her husband of using his legal influence to cheat her out of her fair share of his seven-figure annual income.

The couple had four children, two daughters who are grown and two sons who now live with one of Daniel Broderick’s relatives. The custody dispute over the two boys--now ages 12 and 15--is still being fought in the San Diego courts. Betty Broderick has had almost no contact with her sons since the shootings and claims that is unfair.

“I would say I haven’t gotten anywhere in two and half years,” she said. “There’s no legal basis for this. There’s not a law saying a mother can’t talk to her kids, crime or not.”

Betty Broderick said there was no justice in her second trial. It “was a terrible shame because I couldn’t get the story out,” she said.

The second time around, San Diego Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan did not allow evidence presented the first time, particularly testimony from a Marin County marriage counselor, Daniel J. Sonkin, that Betty Broderick had been emotionally and physically battered by Daniel Broderick.

After reflecting on testimony at the first trial, the judge said before sentencing Betty Broderick last Friday that he believed Sonkin’s testimony did not prove she had been emotionally or physically abused.

But Betty Broderick said Monday that without Sonkin, “there was no one to explain in court how I’d feel, how defenseless I was” when dealing with Daniel Broderick.

Meanwhile, Betty Broderick said, the prosecutor in the case was exceptionally aggressive at the second trial.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Kerry Wells’ vigorous prosecution, which included a stream of objections to evidence offered by the defense, threw off Betty Broderick’s lawyer Jack Earley, she said. This was critical, Betty Broderick said, during the week she testified in her own defense.

“Every time I opened my mouth, (Wells) objected,” Broderick said. “She had a long, long list that I couldn’t mention in this trial as irrelevant to the situation. And she was so disruptive with her objecting, Jack lost his train of thought. He skipped over a whole bunch of questions when he lost his train of thought. And if he didn’t ask, I couldn’t answer.”

Earley, a Newport Beach lawyer, said Monday there were ample examples of “relevant” material that Whelan disallowed.

“In (Betty’s) mind, she has a hard time understanding why I couldn’t go into those areas,” he said. “I’m sure she believes there’s got to be some reason we didn’t go into those. But pretty much every area we were allowed to go into, I don’t think we missed many of those.”

After the verdicts came in, Betty Broderick said, her attention turned to sentencing. The sensible thing, she said, would have been for Whelan to have ordered her sentences to run concurrently. Though two people were killed, it all happened “so close in time” as to be “one incident of aberrant behavior” justifying concurrent terms, Betty Broderick said.

“It was so fast the gun never moved,” Betty Broderick said. “The fact that the bullet went other places, well, a gun kicks around. But it never moved. It’s not like I shot here and I shot over there. It was never like that.”

If the sentences had run concurrently, producing a term of 17 years to life, Betty Broderick would have been eligible for parole in about 10 years. But Whelan imposed consecutive terms--saying two people died--meaning Betty Broderick will not be eligible for parole for at least 18 years.

“If I was Jack the Ripper and did nothing but slit people’s throats, it couldn’t have been worse, right?” she said.

But, she said, it was not unexpected. “Because I’m Betty Broderick, and every time I am in court, I have been punished so badly. Money, possessions, children--I don’t just lose, I get slammed.”

If not for press coverage of the murder trials, Betty Broderick said, she believes she would have been railroaded by the legal system. For years, court files in the divorce and custody disputes have been sealed, and hearings held in secret.

“I really feel it’s the press’ duty to explore the truth,” she said. “But we’ve never really been able to get it in this case.”

A made-for-TV movie, due out sometime this year, will really shade the truth if various scenes are shown the way they’re rumored, she said.

“In one scene, I’m in a negligee, or something feathery, doing my nails. But I’ve bitten my nails my whole life,” she said. “Anyway, Dan’s on the phone. And I say, ‘we can’t go to New York because of my manicure appointment.’ That was never me.

“According to the movie, I am exactly what Dan Broderick told everybody I was--an unstable, crazy bitch that went around doing crazy things. And Dan and Linda are these simple, innocent people that just want peace. Ha!”