Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Hung Jury

When, on October 30, Jack Early introduced Betty Broderick herself to speak in her own behalf, the press, says Bella Stumbo, came out "in double force...One local TV station would even interrupt its own regularly scheduled soap operas and talk shows during the next four days to present Betty's testimony live."

In front of TV viewers who had forsaken their favorite shows for this real life soap opera, Early led Betty through her marriage years the good and the bad and her ruination through travails with money, with Linda Kolkena and with Dan's ego. Subdued, with no appearance of meanness nor malevolence, the witness, sometimes through sobs, told of her husband's growing infatuation with his office assistant, his deceits toward her and her children, and his eventual departure from the marriage home for his own space. She addressed Dan's refusal to compromise on all legal matters, including custody, and her own falling dignity, a collapse that culminated with those final two letters from Dan's lawyer, Kathleen Cuffaro: "(They were) just more of the same, more of the same, more of the same! Threats! Manipulation!...I felt like I was dying...the legal stuff was killing me...I had not slept for the last two years. I had headaches from biting my jaw so tight (from stress)..."

Early eased her to the morning of the murders. She couldn't remember much, but she did recall driving to Dan's, thinking for a moment she might even kill herself in front of him, splattering her brains across his bedroom. "I pushed the (bedroom) door open...They moved, I moved, and it was over...When I was first in jail...I was able to sleep for the first time in what seemed like interminable years to me. I was happy to be locked in a dark, safe little world where nobody could get me."

Betty's testimony had been the highlight of the trial, and, guided by the expert hand of Jack Early, it had created an impact of sympathy. Certain jury members could not forget Betty's words and the haunting face that spoke them. After that, everything seemed anticlimactic and Kerry Wells couldn't catch up. Early ushered forth witnesses from across La Jolla who spoke up for Betty's moral character and attested to her slow degeneration under the topple-weight of divorce; he even interviewed an expert on infidelity, Dr. David Lusterman, whose diagnosis was basically that Dan had handled Betty all wrong, thus driving her to maladjustment.

After four days of deliberation, the jury returned, split. Two members refused to believe she was guilty of premeditated murder and would not budge, ever. There was no unanimous verdict.

One of the hold-outs, Walter Polk, told reporters afterward that as he listened to the court's description of Dan Broderick's infidelity, snobbishness and psychological brutality, his only thought throughout much of the proceedings was: "What took her so long?"

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