Lorena Bobbitt's fate finally was put into the hands of a jury yesterday after one last courtroom tangle on her trial's central question: Was she insane or angry when she cut off her husband's penis last June?
Insane, defense lawyer Blair Howard told the jury, arguing that his client had committed "one of the most bizarre acts that has happened in this country in one long time. Everything about this case is crazy and bizarre."
Angry, countered prosecutor Mary Grace O'Brien: "You don't need a medical degree from Yale University to realize this - it's common sense - there is no insanity in this case. . . . This is a case about anger. This is a case about revenge. And this is a case about retribution."
The jurors spent about 20 minutes deliberating before going home for the night. When they reconvened this morning, the seven women and five men began weighing their options.
In doing so, they sent a message asking the judge questions about evidence and jury instructions. But Judge Herman Whisenant refused the jury's request to see the reports of psychologists and psychiatrists who testified, saying none of the reports was placed into evidence.
Whisenant agreed to provide the jury with reference numbers of jury instructions related to the issue of "irresistible impulse."
Jurors could find Lorena Bobbitt guilty of malicious wounding or of a less serious felony charge, unlawful wounding, either of which could send her to prison. Or the jurors could acquit her, either because they believe her claims of temporary insanity or self-defense, or on grounds of insufficient evidence. A guilty verdict could mean 20 years in prison and jeopardize the Ecuador-born defendant's immigration status.
Both the defense and the prosecution asked the jury to send a message.
The defense said an acquittal would be justice for a woman whose mind suddenly snapped after a four-year marriage in which she was repeatedly beaten, raped and belittled by an unfaithful husband.
Prosecutors countered by saying that two wrongs don't make a right, and that Bobbitt acted without justification in maiming her husband June 23.
As the lawyers wrapped up their case, the scene at the Prince William County courthouse typified the images TV viewers often saw.
The 24-year-old defendant sat at the counsel table, sobbing, head down. Outside, 100 South American and Central American supporters chanted, "Lorena! Lorena!"
It was the social symbolism that people have read into the mutilation of John Wayne Bobbitt that Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert was most anxious to erase in jurors' minds as he made his final argument.
Case as "cause celebre"
"This case has become a cause celebre for various groups," Ebert said. "It's become a man/woman thing, it's become a race thing, it's become an abortion/right-to-life thing. . . . Some people say this case represents the last attack against the male domination: The penis is the last bastion of male superiority. This case is not about that."
Rather, he argued, it was a "basically simple" case of a woman who considered herself battered and raped by her husband striking back in anger and vengeance. "We can't take the law into our own hands."
John Bobbitt, whose mumbled denials of raping his wife were discounted even by prosecutors although a jury acquitted him of marital assault Nov. 10, is "not any rocket scientist," Ebert said. Still, Ebert said, the marriage wasn't totally horrific, and Lorena Bobbitt had a network of supportive friends and neighbors she failed to turn to before striking back.
"They are like children - neither one of them playing with a full deck," Ebert said. Lorena Bobbitt, while "hard not to feel sorry for," was a self-admitted thief who stole on four occasions, he said.
Ebert and, earlier, O'Brien, concentrated on negating the opposing side's contentions that Lorena Bobbitt acted either out of self-defense or a momentarily insane inability to control an "irresistible impulse."
Reminding jurors that Bobbitt was asleep when his wife cut him, O'Brien said the "peril of impending attack" needed for self-defense was absent. "When she cuts his penis off, that's not self-defense. That's revenge," O'Brien said.
For the defense, Howard dwelled on the alleged rapes and described his client as fearful, not angry - but also temporarily psychotic.
"One of the most bizarre events"
The incident was "probably one of the most bizarre events that has happened in this country for a long, long time," Howard said. "It is so unique what she did, going out of the house with a Game Boy (video game) and a penis in a hand? Everything about this case is crazy and bizarre. This is a classic case of irresistible impulse."
Howard plainly focused his argument on the jury's women. "I'm going to rely on you ladies back there in the jury room," he said. "No matter how healthy your mind, you're in a state of hysteria and disorientation when you're raped.
"By your verdict you can restore a little bit of self-respect, so she can walk out of this courtroom not heaving and crying, as you saw last week, but with her chin up," Howard told the jury. Referring to his client's tearful testimony, he said, "It's been a tremendous ordeal."
The arguments capped seven days of testimony from dozens of people, including the Bobbitts and those who knew them before and after the episode that made them the focus of international attention.
From opening statements to yesterday's windup, this proceeding has been a sad chronicle of pain - from the horrifying wound John Bobbitt suffered, to the cycle of violence Lorena Bobbitt says was forced on her by a man she once believed was her dream-come-true.
The couple separated twice - in the spring of 1991 and in the fall of 1991. They are seeking a divorce.
Material from Newsday and Associated Press is included in this report.
The jury in Lorena Bobbitt's trial was given three options:
-- Guilty of malicious wounding: Jury decides she injured John Bobbitt with intent to maim, disfigure, disable or kill and the act was done with malice. Penalty: five to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.
-- Guilty of unlawful wounding: Jury decides she injured Bobbitt with the same intent, but without malice. Penalty: one to five years in prison or as much as a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
-- Innocent: Jury decides she acted in self-defense if she believed she was in danger of great bodily harm. Or jury decides her mind was so impaired that she couldn't resist the impulse to commit the crime.