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'Your heart is still bitter,' infamous killer Betty Broderick is told in parole denial [Corrected]

'Your heart is still bitter,' infamous killer Betty Broderick is told in parole denial [Corrected]
Betty Broderick in 1991. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

For the record: This story was originally published by the San Diego Union-Tribune in January 2010 when Betty Broderick was last denied parole. The Times inadvertently republished it Saturday with an August 2016 date, making it appear that she had just been denied parole. Broderick is in prison today. She is now 68. The Times regrets the error. This article ran in the California section on Aug. 7 and online the same day. It was incorrectly published in print with a "Crime Watch" label. 

In a case that captivated and polarized the nation more than two decades ago, socialite Elisabeth "Betty" Broderick was unable to convince a jury or state appellate courts that she was not guilty of murdering her ex-husband and his new wife in their bedroom.

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This week, Broderick, now 62, could not convince the state parole board that she should be released from state prison and allowed to return to society.

It was Broderick's first chance at parole after being convicted of second-degree murder in 1991 for shooting to death her former husband, successful medical-malpractice lawyer Daniel Broderick, 44, and Linda Kolkena Broderick, 28.

The five-hour hearing featured emotional testimony from Broderick, her children and Kolkena family members. Broderick's children were divided: Two wanted her released; two did not.

You show no significant progress in evolving. You are still back 20 years ago in that same mode.


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Though Broderick at one point expressed remorse, the two-person parole panel all but shut the door on her ever getting out of prison. It denied her parole for 15 years — the longest possible term under parole rules — though she can apply again in three years if she meets certain conditions.

The parole commissioners said Broderick showed no repentance for the murders.

"Your heart is still bitter, and you are still angry," said Board of Prison Terms Commissioner Robert Doyle. "You show no significant progress in evolving. You are still back 20 years ago in that same mode."

The couple were shot as they slept in their home near Balboa Park the morning of Nov. 5, 1989. Betty Broderick never denied pulling the trigger. But at two sensational televised trials, she said she was driven to do it after going through a bitter divorce in which she claimed she was abused emotionally and psychologically.

Prosecutors painted Broderick as a vicious stalker bent on revenge against her ex-husband and the younger woman he had left her to marry. She left numerous obscene messages on his answering machine, and once was so enraged that she drove her vehicle through the front door of Dan and Linda Broderick's home.

Others saw Betty Broderick sympathetically — as a victim of both a manipulative husband and legal system tilted against her. The story was the subject of articles, books and television movies.

All of that was of little concern to the parole board meeting at the California Institute for Women in Chino on Friday. It heard from 10 members of the Kolkena and Broderick families as well as from Broderick, who gave a lengthy statement.

She denied, as she had at her two trials, intending to kill the couple but said she had violent thoughts as she went to the home.

"I had one choice: to shoot them or myself," Broderick said she recalled thinking. "I couldn't let them win."

Broderick told the board that "my whole world fell off its axis" after the divorce and custody battle and that she wanted to kill herself. KGTV-TV, the news partner of the San Diego Union-Tribune, reported from the hearing that Broderick told the board she had "great remorse."

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One of her children, Kathy Lee Broderick, said she missed her father but told the board that her mother could come and live with her. "She should be able to live her later life outside prison walls," she said.

But Kathy Lee's brother, Daniel Broderick, said his mother was "hung up on justifying what she did" and should not be let out.

Broderick was tried twice. The first jury deadlocked in 1990, unable to decide whether she was guilty of murder or the lesser charge of manslaughter. After a second jury convicted her of second-degree murder, she was sentenced to 32 years to life in prison.

The case still resonates within the San Diego legal community, where the elder Dan Broderick was popular. Linda Broderick had worked as his paralegal.

The decision to deny Betty Broderick's request does not come as a surprise; few life-term inmates are granted parole by the board.

"She has never shown remorse. She has never acknowledged the consequences of her actions," said Mike Neil, a close friend of Dan Broderick and a prominent San Diego lawyer.

"If she were released, she would be a menace to society, and I think she is capable of killing again," he said.

The Betty Broderick trial occurred at a time when gavel-to-gavel TV coverage of such high-profile proceedings was still somewhat novel. It was the first case from San Diego televised live by CourtTV.

While Broderick remains in prison, some of the principals in the trial have moved on.

Then-Superior Court Judge Thomas Whelan, who allowed cameras in, is now a federal judge.

Prosecutor Kerry Wells, who tried both cases, is now a Superior Court judge in downtown San Diego. Wells was never comfortable with the publicity, and as a judge she rarely allows cameras into her courtroom.

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UPDATES:

Aug 12, 12:30 p.m.: The "for the record" was updated to reflect the correction that ran in print on Aug. 9

Aug. 8, 8:04 a.m.: This article has been corrected and updated with additional information about its time of publication.

Aug. 6 12:03 p.m.: This article has been updated with revisions and added links.

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