Murder is the one crime we are all capable of; all of us humans have our breaking point, no matter how caring and moral we are. What you believe to be a justified homicide I may consider a cold blooded murder, we all have different ideas on this. So I will give you the facts of this case, and I’d really appreciate your opinion – was this double homicide justified? Does the punishment fit this crime?
On the night of November 5th of 1989, Betty Broderick walked into the home of her ex husband, Dan Broderick, and straight into the bedroom where he slept with his new wife, Linda. Betty stood there quietly for a moment as she decided what she was going to do. Finally she aimed her Smith and Wesson at the pair, and she shot them both dead.
Obvious first degree homicide? About half who know this case would agree; the other half, not so much. Let’s put ourselves in Betty’s shoes for a moment.
You are a very young woman, just 17 years old when you meet the love of your life. You’re absolutely stunning, you are a model with the whole world at your fingertips; he’s a little older, a pre med student. By the time you’re 21, you’ve married; you were a virgin at the altar. 9 months after your honeymoon you become a mommy, and before you know it, you have 4 kids with this man. You continue to work outside the home while your husband is a full time student at Harvard Law, you financially support him through school. Finally your husband makes enough money that your income isn’t necessary. He asks you to quit your job to become a devoted full time wife and mom, and you oblige. You take the role of homemaker very seriously; you try and be the very best at it, everyone who knows you calls you a super mom. You are loved by everyone, and respected throughout your community. You have no lack of friends, the world is your oyster.
The marriage you’ve sacrificed everything for marriage becomes a little less perfect every day. He begins to stay out all night, which he calls “networking” and claims it’s just part of his business. There are fights, and sometimes it’s physical. At one point you are sexually assaulted by the man you love, and on another instance he hurls an aquarium from the second floor of your home.
The physical abuse is terrible, but you feel that it’s nothing in comparison to what this man is doing to your mind. Your husband works very hard at ruining your self esteem; he makes it a point to call you old, stupid, boring, fat, and ugly at every opportunity. Honestly, you have changed a lot since you married. Gone is the 17 year old model; you have gained some weight having those 4 children, and you are self conscious of those stretch marks on your belly and the fine lines on your face. You have been hitting the gym, but you’re just not 20 anymore. Your husband, on the other hand, still looks as good as he ever did; he’s a millionaire wearing the most expensive suits money can buy, he’s paid for himself a nose job, he’s still in shape, and he’s out of the house every day, active while you’re forever stuck home with the kids. The more successful your husband becomes, the worse your marriage is. He’s not just a doctor anymore, he’s a lawyer too – hubby actually calls himself Count du Money, as he’s literally rolling in the cash.
On your husband’s 39th birthday, you go to his office to surprise him, but he’s not there; you discover that he’s gone out with his new secretary. You see 2 glasses of champagne on his desk, and you wait for him to come back, but he just never does.
You find out this secretary, named Linda, is beautiful, blonde, and just 22 years old; truth be told, Linda looks a whole heck of a lot like you did at her age. You know something is going on, but your husband denies it. Now the man you’ve loved has a new reason to call you names; he says you’re crazy and delusional, and to be honest you are aware that you’re beginning to lose your grip. While sitting at home alone all night on your own birthday, you try and commit suicide by slitting your wrists.
Your husband is now a medical malpractice attorney, he makes his living proving precisely what psychological trauma does to people! He knows damn good and well what he’s doing to you! Though you’ve sacrificed everything for him, he leaves you alone with the kids nonetheless. He files for divorce, agrees to give you money each month until the divorce settlement but every time you respond to his abuse he fines you – the man literally deducts money from your monthly alimony payments. At the end of one month alone you owe him $1,300 in fines.
You try and find a lawyer to take your case, but literally everyone knows your husband! By this time he has already served as President of the San Diego Bar Association, no lawyer in their right mind will dare go against him. At court you are forced to act as your own attorney, and you do a painfully pitiful job. In the end you are given nothing you believe you are due; he gets custody of your children, and you walk away with just 30K. But in reality you’re not even getting that; though the man is a millionaire, you now owe him $750,000. in child support!
This man has done everything within his power to prove you crazy, and he’s succeeded. During the divorce he sold your home out from under you; you only found out that the home you’ve raised your children in is gone after it was already sold. When this happened, you spent time in a mental institution.
Not only has he called you names to your face, but your ex has told everyone in town that you’re a terrible person, that you’re crazy, and each of your friends have abandoned you. You must admit that you’ve done some things which would be considered crazy, you every drove your vehicle through the front door of his home! But now you are now completely alone in this world; you have no one, even your children are gone and you are not permitted to properly mother them. Days before you do the unthinkable, your children beg their father to allow you to take them trick or treating; without giving a reason he simply says no. All you are left with is a constant tremor, your whole body shakes uncontrollably.
Finally Dan admits to the affair, so you know that you weren’t crazy! On April 22nd of 1988, just 10 days after what would’ve been your 20th wedding anniversary, he marries his beautiful young secretary, Linda. Now it’s not just Dan who is psychologically torturing you, Linda partakes in the fun as well. The woman who broke up your marriage is laughing at you; she calls you names, and begins sending you weight loss and wrinkle cream ads!
This is what Betty lived through. Just 2 days before she did the unthinkable, Betty had received legal papers that Dan was taking her back to court again, for one reason or another. She refers to this as “emotional terrorism” and says that the papers were like “hammers in my head”. On the night of the murders she wrote what she claims to be a suicide letter, and drove to her exes home. Betty says that her intention was never to murder Dan and Linda, but to commit suicide in front of them; she changed her mind when she saw the couple peacefully laying there in bed. Using the firearm which she had purchased 8 months prior, Betty shot them both; Linda was shot twice, and Dan 4 times. Betty immediately turned herself in.
Betty was tried twice for the murders, the first trial resulting in a hung jury. One of the jurors would later say that she couldn’t understand what took Betty so long to kill him, the juror would’ve done it much sooner! At the next trial, much of the evidence in Betty’s favor was banned. This time the woman scored was convicted and sentenced to 32 years to life.
Betty has met the parole board multiple times, but she’s just not too remorseful. She still claims that Dan deliberately drove her crazy, and parole is always denied. If she pretended to be sorry it’s likely Betty would be free, but she can’t even pretend – not even to achieve her own freedom.
Again, opinions on this case are split right down the middle. What do you think? Does the punishment fit the crime in Betty’s case? And what do you think your breaking point would be?