Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Back to Court

Twelve months later, October 1991, Betty again faced a court trial. Having virtually won the first go-around with a hung jury, she approached the second with confidence. Kerry Wells, incensed at the non-verdict of a year earlier, had seethed to reporters, "It ain't over 'til it's over," and vowed to come back dukes up. Betty's biographer Bella Stumbo reports that Larry Broderick even sent her a list of Dos and Don'ts compiled by his late brother's professional associates. After relating these, Larry smugly wrote that the suggestions were based on "what I believe would have the most positive impact on a jury of lower-middle-class, less-than-average-intelligent jurors."

Jack Early, who would again oppose Wells, knew that the angry prosecutor would hit him with some new twists and turns abounding; he prepared for the high drama to come. The first trial had mainly centered on the squabbles of the battling Brodericks and had resembled more of an installment of Peyton Place than a murder trial. Early guessed and he was on target that the county prosecution team would focus this time on the details of the murder, not the emotions that led to it.

Betty, in the meantime, survived another year in prison. She remained in high spirits, found several close friends and took part in prison activities. She was delighted to see her two boys when they visited. But, as the trial neared, an incident occurred in prison that marred the easy transition. Betty fought with two female jail guards who came to her cell to move her to an isolation unit as punishment for an earlier infraction; refusing to cooperate, she apparently kicked, howled and struggled and had to be forcibly evicted from her cell wearing green panties and a sweatshirt. Details are sketchy but at that time lurid enough to catch the eye of the press. The following morning's headlines roared to an American public that Betty was once again exhibiting her old defiant ways. Jack Early cried foul, blasting the incident as a stage-up.

However, contrary to the melee, Betty followed it with a completely controlled and relaxed interview with the TV show, 20/20, not appearing at all as the type of creature who tries to gouge out the eyes of prison wardens. Void of a sneer, Betty told her listening national audience that, "The law has to take into account the differences between men and women in terms of their respective power. Men have all the power... That's why (Dan) could do to me what he did...This whole case is a story of extremes extremes of rich to poor, and all the rest. I said I represent the extremes of what can happen to women in divorce courts."

"The second Broderick trial was, in most ways, a repeat of the first," relates Bella Stumbo in Until the Twelfth of Never. "Most of the same witnesses returned, and the essential trial themes were unchanged was this an evil, gate-filled narcissist, or an emotionally abused housewife driven to kill? Opening arguments were pretty much the same as before, although both Wells and Early had sharpened their rhetoric. Wells referred now to Betty as 'the executioner,' Early spoke of Dan as 'the gladiator'."

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