USA Network’s Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story comes to an end the only way possible – given that this is based on true events and Betty Broderick remains in jail – in episode eight, “Perception is Reality.” Episode seven ended with Betty murdering Dan and Linda, calling her friends to report what she’d done, and then ultimately being taken into custody for a double homicide. The season finale opens with Betty (Amanda Peet) on the stand describing the period of time when she dropped her children off at Dan’s place.
Betty claims she was overwhelmed after caring for their children for months without his help. When the house had rats, that was the breaking point. She wanted him to be more involved, but the prosecutor insists she was “dumping” the kids. Her attorney, Jack Earley (Louis Herthum), objects to that wording and rightly so as she took the kids to their father’s to see if their presence would prompt him to help out.
The prosecutor steers much of the questioning to financial support she received from Dan (Christian Slater). The prosecutor points out a lot of what he paid her was not court-ordered but voluntarily given to her by Dan.
Other lines of questioning include how close to the vest Dan kept their problems. The prosecutor claims he didn’t want to go public with their marital issues, but Betty doesn’t agree. She explains Dan would spread lies to his family and friends about her while also denying any relationship with Linda. Betty confirms she did speak to her friends about what was going on. She says the idea of Linda being in her house prompted her to tell her social circle how she felt.
The prosecutor claims Betty lost her friends because they didn’t want to continue to listen to her bad-mouthing Dan. However, Betty turns it around and says she voluntarily withdrew from organizations, clubs, and her social circle because her hours were filled with trying to keep up with court hearings and trials.
“I was totally under siege,” says Betty while on the witness stand.
The prosecutor walks her through the pivotal moments right before the shooting. Pointing to a diagram of Dan’s house, the prosecutor has Betty agree she walked through the home with a gun looking specifically for Dan Broderick.
Betty says she doesn’t remember actually driving to Clairemont and making a call after the murders. She only realized she was in Clairemont when a person she called asked her location.
When not in court, Betty receives lots of fan mail from women who’ve read about her story in assorted articles in the local paper. Some women can relate to her situation and empathize with what she went through. Some even send photos and jokes, and one person mails her an embroidery that reads, “Free Betty Broderick so she can kill another lawyer.”
Betty writes back to her fans, penning letters on a yellow pad. She even adds a smiley face at the end of her notes.
The prosecutor delivers her closing argument, defining the charges and reminding the jury that there isn’t a set amount of days required to make an act premeditated. Plus, just because Betty’s emotions were all over the place doesn’t make her innocent of premeditated murder.
The first jury is deadlocked and dismissed. In interviews immediately after the hung jury announcement, jury members express their opinions over Betty’s guilt or innocence. One male juror acknowledges everyone has a breaking point. He believes she should have argued self-defense because she was abused and emotionally battered. He ends his interview with, “What took her so long?”
Betty meets with Jack Earley in jail and she’s excited over all the fan mail she’s been receiving, some of which includes money and candy. Most of the current batch of mail is in response to an article in the Ladies Home Journal which she believes is great for their side of the case. Betty thinks if there’s another hung jury, they’ll wind up letting her go free.
Her attorney attempts to tamp down her enthusiasm by reminding her the prosecutor made a tactical miscalculation. She didn’t go into detail about the actual murders and what happened in Dan’s bedroom that night. The prosecutor won’t make that same mistake twice and will do further research to prepare for questioning Betty.
Betty’s upset she’s being denied bail when even Jeffrey Dahmer’s bail was set for $1 million.
Betty kills time in jail pranking her friends by calling them and insisting she’s escaped and needs their help. She also sits for more interviews and is happy to tell Jack Earley she’s got an interview set with People magazine. He warns her he has a bad feeling about that particular reporter based on phone calls they’ve exchanged. Betty believes he’s unnecessarily worrying when he should be excited about all the press.
Her attorney provides her with transcripts from her interrogation. She needs to read through them and make sure she knows what she’ll be up against in her second trial.
Betty’s second trial begins and the prosecutor explains to the jury that Betty channeled her hate and was laser-focused on Dan Broderick. When it’s the defense’s turn, Jack Earley tells the jury that in order to understand how Betty Broderick got to this point, they have to see who Dan really was. The jury needs to understand her life, her dreams, and the promises made to her.
Betty sits with the People magazine reporter and explains her side of the story. She’s way too sure of herself while speaking with the reporter, mistaking the tone of the interview for a confessional. The reporter says she’s talked to people all over San Diego and even her driver from the airport called Betty “used and abused.”
The reporter reveals a woman in La Jolla even said what Betty has done will make the next Dan Broderick think twice before doing the same thing. That woman also thought that sometimes you need a little prairie justice.
And here’s the moment Betty completely screws up and allows herself to be reeled into giving an answer she never should have. The reporter asks Betty her opinion on that prairie justice statement and Betty smiles and says she can’t answer that. But then she leans in, covers her mouth, and winks as she whispers, “But you know what the answer is.”
The reporter immediately makes a note of that.
Next, Betty’s two young sons finally visit her in jail. They don’t give their mom a hug and it’s a surprisingly uncomfortable meeting.
Back in court, the friend who initially checked on Dan and Linda describes checking and not finding a pulse. Both bodies were cold. He also describes the phone in the hall with its wire shredded. The police arrived as he was leaving and he told them Dan and Linda were dead.
Friends also describe how much Betty hated Dan and Linda. Marie (Emily Bergl) explains Linda was losing friends because they were bored of her constant complaining about Dan. Karen (Missi Pyle), one of Betty’s closest friends, testifies she begged Betty to keep her mouth shut about the divorce.
Both Marie and Karen recall she didn’t seem to care about being in jail, equating her time there to summer camp. Karen calls Betty someone who loved money more than her kids, describing her as an alcoholic spender.
Marie testifies she heard Betty multiple times say she was going to kill Dan.
One friend does come to her defense by saying Betty loved and wanted her children. She wouldn’t have given them up to Dan if she thought he was going to keep them. She was even putting her life back in order so that she could get custody.
Testimony from Betty’s friends also brings out that Betty believed Linda was destroying her family and by shooting her she destroyed Linda. The prosecutor asks if Betty laughed when she admitted shooting Linda and the witness confirms she did.
Betty’s two daughters testify and it’s obviously painful for both. One says her dad didn’t really understand how to be a father but that he tried really hard.
Finally, it’s Betty’s turn on the stand and she lays out her story while crying. She explains she was going to go to the beach to kill herself but instead she went to Dan’s.
The prosecutor reads transcripts of her phone messages. It’s not looking good for Betty and it doesn’t get any better as she continues to respond to intense questioning. Many of the questions earn vague or unsure replies, including when Betty’s asked when exactly she made the decision not to go to the beach and to drive over to Dan’s home to kill herself.
When the prosecutor questions her about why she actually took the gun inside the house, Betty’s on the verge of losing her temper as she replies. “I took the gun inside the house so that he would listen to me. If he wouldn’t listen, then I was going to kill myself.”
The prosecutor is getting under Betty’s skin a little, but Betty attempts to hold it together. She’s asked why her story’s a little different this time and Betty claims it’s because the questions are different. Plus, she thinks she might just be explaining herself better this second time around.
Betty walks the jury through what happened in Dan’s bedroom, repeatedly claiming she doesn’t remember ever pulling the trigger. She does remember it going off when her arm tensed. The prosecutor reminds her the gun was a revolver which would require her to actually pull the trigger each time. Betty doesn’t change her story as the prosecutor asks her if she tensed once, twice, three times, and then again for a fourth shot.
The prosecutor has definitely learned from errors made in the first trial. She makes Betty admit that when she walked into the room the gun was at her side. She would then need to bring it up to shoot Linda when she moved in bed. If she tensed once and shot Linda, then she’d have to change her angle and tense again to shoot Dan.
Obviously this story doesn’t make any sense, but Betty continues to deny she saw them clearly because it was so dark. She also claims she didn’t change her aim or move, yet somehow shot them both while they were on opposite sides of the bed.
The prosecutor asks Betty to confirm she never intended to kill herself with any of those five shots. Betty replies, “I thought about it after but there weren’t any bullets left in the gun.”
Betty’s forced to admit she didn’t leave the room immediately after shooting them. Instead, she retrieved the phone which meant she had to walk around the bed, by where Dan was laying on the floor, and grab the phone to yank it from the wall. (Dan didn’t die immediately and may have been able to call for help had Betty not ripped out the phone.)
The prosecutor brings up that Linda’s written hundreds of letters while in jail. In none of those letters does she express remorse. Plus, in one letter to an LA Times reporter she corrects what the reporter stated were Dan’s last words.
Betty’s caught in a major lie. She just testified she doesn’t remember what happened in that room, yet she corrected the LA Times about Dan’s exact words. Betty can’t have it both ways.
The prosecutor delivers her closing argument, acknowledging the jurors will have passionate feelings about the evidence. They need to air out their arguments and judge the evidence. She concedes Dan should have given Betty everything she asked for, including the kids and more money. She also concedes Linda shouldn’t have gotten involved with Dan. “But the verdict forms you will be filling out do not read ‘We the jury find Dan and Linda Broderick were perfect people,’” says the prosecutor.
The defense attorney also does a terrific job, pointing out only the two people involved in a marriage really know what happens behind closed doors. He also argues that if they decide Betty brought the gun into the house, they should find it’s involuntary manslaughter in this case.
The prosecutor argues Betty executed Dan and Linda, imposing the death penalty on the couple without them being able to present their case.
Betty and Jack Earley are playing cards when they learn the jury has returned a verdict. Everyone gathers in the courtroom as the judge reads the verdict. Given that this season’s based on a true story, the outcome of the trial is, of course, a guilty verdict on two counts of second-degree murder.
In interviews after the verdict, jury members explain there was one member who would not ever agree to first-degree murder. The one hold-out on first-degree says Dan killed Betty’s spirit first and “flipped her out.” The hold-out is also completely shocked to learn during her interview after the verdict was delivered that Betty could receive a sentence of 32 years to life. She had assumed Betty would be out in four or five years. She claims she would have hung the jury had she been aware a lengthy sentence was a possibility.
The judge delivers his sentence, indicating Betty showed a high degree of callousness by aiming at both people and carrying the phone into the hallway. Betty receives a sentence of 15 years to life on both counts, to be served consecutively.
She’s allowed to give one of her daughters a hug before being taken out of the courtroom. (Only one of the two testified in support of her mom.)
After being sentenced, Betty gives another interview by phone. She even sings “their” song, “The Twelfth of Never,” over the phone.
The last two minutes of episode eight (and of the season) present an alternate version of events in which Betty never acted on her anger. She never crashed into Dan’s house, she showed up for a hearing even though she believed it had been canceled with the attorney she didn’t fire, and she introduced herself to Linda the first time she suspected something was going on. Although she drove the kids to Dan’s and intended on dumping them there, in this alternate universe she thought better of it and called them back into her car.
And in this altered version of reality, Dan admitted right away that he was in love with Linda instead of constantly lying and making Betty believe she was going crazy.
But, none of that actually happened and Betty now sits in her cell where she’s visited by the ghosts of Dan and Linda who say nothing as they stare at her in judgment.
And that’s a wrap on USA Network’s Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story.
The real Betty Broderick has been denied parole twice (she continues to blame the victims) and is currently incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in Chino, CA.
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 1 Recap and Review
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 2 “The Turtle and the Alligator” Recap
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 3 “Marriage Encounter” Recap
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 4 “More To It Than Fun” Recap
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 5 “Scream Therapy” Recap
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 6 “The Twelfth of Never” Recap
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 7 “The Shillelagh” Recap