Betty Broderick, the former wife of a prominent San Diego malpractice attorney, was ordered Tuesday to appear April 3 in Superior Court to be arraigned on charges that she murdered her ex-husband and his new wife.
Municipal Judge E. Mac Amos Jr. said that less than 1 1/2 days of testimony had established sufficient cause to believe that the 42-year-old divorcee is guilty of shooting Daniel T. Broderick III and his wife, Linda, as they slept in the early morning of Nov. 5. Amos also ordered that Betty Broderick continue to be held without bail.
"It's clear that the homicide was committed from the evidence that I heard and that the defendant committed the killings," he said, adding that he was denying a bail request from Broderick's lawyer because "I am very concerned about the defendant's mental stability."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Kerry Wells said she will disclose at the arraignment whether she will seek the death penalty.
Amos' rulings were the final step in what was a brief but emotional preliminary hearing. On Monday, seven witnesses had taken the stand, each of them elaborating on Betty Broderick's state of mind before, during and after she allegedly emptied her .38-caliber, five-shot revolver into her ex-husband's darkened bedroom, ripped a telephone out of the wall and fled.
On Tuesday, the prosecution called its final witness, Ronnie Brown, a friend whom Broderick called on the day of the shootings. Brown merely repeated what previous witnesses had said about Broderick's "distraught" state of mind that day, when she went to her daughter's Pacific Beach apartment, calling friends and family, before contacting an attorney and turning herself in.
According to Broderick's boyfriend, Bradley T. Wright, and to her two college-age daughters, Kim and Lee, Betty had made no secret of her hatred for the slain couple, who she maintained had begun an affair while she and Daniel were still married. Broderick frequently had said she wanted to kill Daniel and Linda, they said, and in recent months has admitted committing the murders.
After testimony was completed Tuesday, Jack Earley, Broderick's lawyer, asked Amos to set bail, claiming that his client was not a threat and would not flee.
"Ms. Broderick did turn herself in. She had an opportunity to leave, and she did not avail herself of the opportunity," he said, adding that, if freed on bail, she could aid in her own defense by sifting through the voluminous paper work associated with the Brodericks' lengthy, complicated divorce.
"It's very difficult for her to be able to defend herself while she is in custody," Earley said.
But Wells countered that Broderick was indeed a threat--even to Wells herself.
"The evidence has shown, at least to a limited extent, the defendant had a significant long-term hatred for the victims in this case and she ultimately killed them," Wells said. "She is still filled with hate, and she has directed that hate toward other members of the community."
Wells submitted a letter, written in Broderick's hand, that she said threatened Wells herself. To give the court "a flavor" of the defendant's attitude, Wells then read from a handful of letters Broderick has written from jail.
One letter accuses Larry Broderick, Daniel's brother and the court-appointed guardian of the Brodericks' two minor sons, of kidnaping the boys.
"Right after this happened, my husband's brother went to court with no notice to me and seized physical custody of my youngest two children and whisked them off to Colorado and is telling them they will never see or speak to me again," Wells read, quoting Broderick. "I think I've heard this tune before! Even though my husband is gone, his friends are still here and if anything, my husband's influence in legal circles has grown."
In some letters, Betty called Larry Broderick "scum . . . the exact words she used to describe her ex-husband," Wells said. "If she is released from custody . . . there are other people out there that she might do bodily harm to."
Amos denied the bail request. He also denied Earley's request that he continue the hearing to give Earley time to refile several subpoenas. Earley had sought to subpoena Daniel Broderick's bank records, but had executed the documents improperly, making them invalid. Amos said that Earley should feel free to refile the subpoenas, but that he did not see how the victim's finances would be relevant to the defense's case.
Earley later questioned the fairness of the ruling, noting that the prosecution had successfully subpoenaed Broderick's bank statements. Earley said the ruling indicated "there's going to be a number of things that are uphill battles. If she does something, it's going to have to be 100% by the book."
He also said he will probably file disqualification motions against the bench at the arraignment.