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January 10, 1994, Lorena Bobbitt’s Trial For Severing Husband’s Penis Begins - Today In Crime History

On this day, January 10, in the year 1994, Lorena Bobbitt's jury trial for cutting her husband’s penis off began.  She would ultimately be found not guilty by reason of insanity. 

On June 23, 1993, Lorena Bobbitt claimed that her husband came home drunk and sexually assaulted her, a charge he denied and was later acquitted of at a jury trial.  Later that same night, Lorena went into the kitchen, selected a knife, returned to the bedroom and cut off her sleeping husband's penis.   She then got into her car and started driving.  Somewhere along the roadway, she rolled down the car window and threw her husband’s penis onto the side of the road.  Realizing the severity of her actions, Lorena called 911.   The penis was located by a search team, packed in ice, and taken to the hospital where surgeons were able to reattach it.

Soon after, Lorena was arrested  and charged with the crime of “malicious wounding”.  If convicted as charged, she faced up to twenty years imprisonment.  Her criminal litigation played out for months thereafter with incredible national media attention.

On January 10, 1994, with a jury of seven women and five men seated, her trial began with opening statements from the prosecutor and Lorena’s Bobbitt’s criminal defense attorney.  The prosecutor would tell the jury that Lorena knowingly and intentionally severed her husbands penis “in anger or out of revenge.”  While the prosecutor conceded Lorena may have been depressed, she “did not suffer a mental disease or disorder," the prosecutor argued to the jury.

Lorena’s criminal defense attorney told the jury in her opening statement that her client was "a battered woman in the classic sense" who acted in self-defense out of an "irresistible impulse" in response to years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her husband.   The defense attorney would describe the Bobbitt’s marital relationship as a “reign of terror” punctuated by ongoing violence perpetrated by the husband upon the wife, who was suffering from depression and a legitimate mental disorder caused by the trauma of the ongoing abuse.

On the stand, Lorena’s husband denied he had raped her just before the attack.  He testified that had she had tried to initiate sex when he returned from drinking, but he was too tired and fell asleep.  When awoke, he testified, "I was bleeding. I hurt real bad. I thought she just, you know, grabbed me, just pulled it out of my body."  The prosecution would also present evidence of Lorena’s statement to the police that "He always have orgasm [sic], and he doesn't wait for me to have orgasm. He's selfish."

Lorena would testify at her trial that her husband sexually, physically, and emotionally abused her during their marriage.  On the night of the incident, she told the jury that she had been raped.  During cross-examination, Lorena testified that she did not remember cutting her husband’s penis off.   Only when she found it in her hand while driving away, she testified, did she realize what had happened.

Lorena’s criminal defense attorney presented witnesses that supported her claim of ongoing physical and mental abuse during the marriage.   The defense would also present testimony from a psychiatrist who told the jury that Lorena suffered a "brief reactive psychosis" during which she attacked "the instrument that was the weapon of her torture."   

After six hours of deliberation, the jury found that Lorena Bobbitt was not guilty of all criminal charges, concluding that she was temporarily insane when she cut off her husband's penis.  State law required that Lorena be hospitalized for a period of weeks to determine whether she was a danger to herself or others.  Doctors who examined Lorena recommended that she be released.  In February 1994, upon the urging of Lorena’s criminal defense attorney, the Judge found that she did not present a danger to herself or others and ordered her release.

Sources and more information:

Lorena Bobbitt’s Assault Trial Begins, by Anne Gearan, Associated Press Writer

Husband Tells of Mutilation as Wife's Trial Starts, New York Times, January 11, 1994

Lorena Bobbitt's Trial Begins, Jrank Article

Lorena Bobbitt Acquitted In Mutilation of Husband, New York Times, January 22, 1994

Lorena Bobbitt is Released, The Free Lance Star, February 24, 1994

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