Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Betty Broderick: Divorce... Desperation...Death

Black Humor

San Diego County law keepers found themselves dangling on a high wire with the Betty Broderick case; she had been suddenly thrust into the media highlight as a role model of scorned wifedom and, unless her upcoming trial was handled with utmost care, the legal prosecutors could wind up being viewed as just another pack of male Neanderthals picking on a woman.

District Attorney Edwin L. Miller, Jr., had two solutions. First, he appointed 37-year-old Deputy DA Kerry Wells, a female, to head his team. Then, he announced that the court was not out for a woman's blood; he would not seek the death penalty.

Betty's hired a brilliant 41-year-old attorney named Jack Early. Early, a former public defender, was a very successful lawyer specializing in off-beat murder cases and therefore seemed the perfect choice to lead defense for such a case history that Betty's warranted.

Jury selection began on September 27, 1990, at the San Diego County courthouse. In the meantime, Betty had been confined to the county jail, growing anxious for the trial to begin. She seemed to be out from under hysteria, despite being penned up; it was as if the weight of the whole divorce trauma had lifted with the retort of the gun. She stayed in constant touch with her children, who were temporarily residing with Dan's family, and communicated ongoing with friends from the women's group to which she belonged. Lawyer Early visited her often to interview her in preparation of defense.

Betty also granted interviews to whomever asked. Hoping to plead her case to a sympathetic public, she often lent herself unwittingly to a cynical press who, according to Bella Stumbo's Until the Twelfth of Never, "soon began to display a tired, cynical bias against her, (one paper depicting her) as no more than a frivolous scatterbrain.

"Black humor became the local media order of the day," Stumbo continues. "The whole city, in fact, at times seemed caught up in sick irreverence over the Broderick case. During Halloween of 1990,.for example, (a) columnist reported that a couple had shown up at a party dressed as Dan and Linda in pajamas with bullet holes."

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