Friday, August 29, 2014

A review of Until the Twelfth of Never- Should Betty Broderick Ever Be Free?

I purchased the late Bella Stumbo's book, the exhaustive Until the Twelfth of Never- Should Betty Broderick Ever Be Free? in April of this year.  I have just now gotten around to reading it.  I normally breeze through books in a matter of days, but this one took me about three weeks to finish.  This book is the story of the tragic relationship between former San Diego malpractice attorney Dan Broderick and his first wife, Betty.  It's one of several books written about this controversial case of an enraged woman scorned who resorts to murdering her ex husband and his second wife.

I must admit to being something fascinated by Betty Broderick.  She was born and raised in New York State, the daughter of respectable Catholic parents who had brought her up on the idea that being a wife and a mother was of utmost importance.  When Betty and Dan married in April 1969, it looked like Betty was going to be one of those women who married well.  Dan had graduated from medical school and then decided to become a lawyer.  Given his dual degrees in medicine and law, he was a powerful force in a courtroom.  He became very successful and was quite wealthy by the time he died at the hands of his ex wife and mother of his four children, Betty.

Betty Broderick had been a beautiful, educated, gracious woman.  By her account, she had helped Dan Broderick become the success that he was.  Dan repaid her by fooling around with his 21 year old secretary, Linda, then deciding that he wanted to dump Betty for Linda.  Dan's actions enraged Betty, who began to refer to Dan and Linda in the most vile, vulgar terms possible.  She also vandalized Dan's home and possessions, ruining his clothes, smearing Boston Creme pie on his bed, and driving her vehicle into his house.  Dan retaliated by fining Betty, refusing to give her access to their children, and using his extensive legal training to keep her from getting what she felt she was owed.

Things got to a fever pitch on November 5, 1989.  Betty went to Dan's and Linda's home with a gun.  She shot them as they slept, then ripped the phone from the wall.  She was tried twice; the first trial ended with a hung jury.  She was convicted during the second trial and sentenced to 32 years in prison, where she remains today.

Bella Stumbo wrote Until the Twelfth of Never years ago, but it has been updated with the edition I own.  There is an analysis of Betty's handwriting included as well as some statements by friends of Dan Broderick's.  I'm not sure the extra material made this book better.  Frankly, I thought it was way too long and, at times, rather redundant.  Stumbo includes a lot of detail in this book, but some of it was probably better left omitted.  For example, I don't need to be reminded umpteen times how profane Betty was when she called Dan on the phone.  But Stumbo included a number of transcripts that explicitly spell out the filthy language Betty uses to the point at which it becomes tiresome.

I did think that Stumbo did a good job in presenting a somewhat even look at Dan and Betty Broderick, although if I had to guess, I would guess Stumbo was slightly more sympathetic to Betty over Dan.  To be sure, Dan Broderick comes across as a real jerk in the seemingly callous way he dealt with his ex wife.  However, Betty Broderick had absolutely no right to kill her ex husband and his wife, Linda.  Had the gender roles in this case been reversed, I seriously doubt people would sympathize with Dan and claim he was driven to kill, no matter how awful Betty was to him.  I'm not one of those people who thinks women should get a break when they turn murderous.  Betty Broderick was not being threatened when she killed.  Dan and Linda were sleeping when she shot them.  There is no reason why Betty should be in prison now, other than her own selfish actions.  At the same time, I did have some empathy for her on one level.  It does sound like her ex husband was a jerk.

I thought the information Stumbo included about Betty's behavior in jail was interesting.  Apparently, Betty Broderick's antics in 1991 were so outrageous that they upstaged news about the fall of the Soviet Union.

Bella Stumbo's Until the Twelfth of Never is basically well-written, but I think it could use an editor.  It's maybe 100-150 pages too long, does not include any photos, and there are some typos that could be corrected.  I'm kind of relieved to be finished with this book because I'm ready to move on to the next subject, but I would recommend it to those who are interested in the war of the Brodericks.  Just be prepared to read for a long time.

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