Judge Dismisses Broderick ‘Distress’ Suit

Times Staff Writer

A lawsuit filed by Elisabeth Anne (Betty) Broderick, stemming from an altercation with jail deputies that was videotaped and later shown on television, was dismissed Friday.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Haden dismissed Broderick’s lawsuit, which was filed against attorney James Cunningham and sheriff’s Deputy Michele St. Clair. Haden ruled that the lawsuit lacked merit. Haden dismissed a similar lawsuit against the county last week.

Haden said that Broderick, who acted as her own attorney, failed to show how release of the videotape caused her to suffer embarrassment and emotional distress. Broderick, 45, had sued both Cunningham and St. Clair for allegedly releasing the videotape.

The videotape showed Broderick dressed in a sweat shirt and underwear and struggling with deputies who were trying to remove her from a top bunk at the Las Colinas Women’s Jail. The Sept. 1, 1991, jail altercation occurred while Broderick was awaiting a second trial on charges that she murdered her former husband, attorney Daniel Broderick, and his second wife, Linda Kolkena Broderick.

Broderick’s first trial ended in a hung jury. The former La Jolla socialite was convicted of second-degree murder last December in the shooting deaths of the couple, who were killed in their bedroom early in the morning of Nov. 5, 1989.

The tape released by Cunningham was an edited version of a videotape shot by sheriff’s deputies and aired on various television news programs and tabloid shows. He passed out copies of the tape at a Sept. 18, 1991, press conference that he called at the downtown County Courthouse.

Cunningham is representing St. Clair, who sued Broderick for injuries allegedly suffered in the jail altercation. St. Clair, 25, is asking for $25,000 in damages for a strained shoulder that she allegedly suffered in the fight with Broderick.

Jail officials said the scuffle began when Broderick kicked one deputy and pulled St. Clair’s arm when deputies were trying to remove her from her cell. Deputies were trying to transfer her to an isolation cell as punishment for grabbing a jailer’s keys to free herself from handcuffs.

A sheriff’s spokesman said at the time that videotaping inmates was routine in violent incidents.

Jail officials at Las Colinas released the video to Cunningham when he subpoenaed it as evidence in a worker’s compensation claim he filed on behalf of St. Clair. Sheriff Jim Roache later criticized Cunningham’s decision to release the video as “inappropriate and unprofessional.”

Roache also denied charges by Broderick’s defense attorney at her second trial that sheriff’s officials and the prosecution were involved in a conspiracy to deprive Broderick of a fair trial.

In February, Broderick was sentenced to a prison term of 32 years to life.