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John Wayne and Lorena Bobbitt Trials: 1993 & 1994

John Bobbitt Tried For Malicious Assault

On Monday, November 8, 1993, nine women and three men sat in the jury box in the Prince William County Circuit Court to hear John Wayne Bobbitt tried for malicious assault. Rape was not charged because under Virginia law it applies only to couples living apart or in cases where the victim suffers serious physical injury. Reporters from around the world packed the courtroom. Outside, pushing their way through the hundreds of spectators and reporters who failed to find room inside, hawkers sold nine hundred T-shirts, at $10 each, with the inscription, "Manassas, Va.—A cut above the rest."

Lorena Bobbinl arriving at the courthouse for her trial in the malicious wounding of her husband. (AP/Wide World Photos) Lorena Bobbinl arriving at the courthouse for her trial in the malicious wounding of her husband. (AP/Wide World Photos)

On the witness stand, Lorena Bobbitt tearfully described how her husband had come home drunk, woke her, choked her, and raped her for the second time in two days. "I was crying," she testified. "I said, 'You • hurt me again and again and again. How much do I have to put up with?'"

She said Bobbitt then fell asleep. She went to the kitchen to get a drink of water. "The refrigerator door was open," she testified, "and that was the only light. And I turned and saw the knife. I took it. I went to the bedroom. I pulled the sheets off, and I cut him." She said she then ran out, threw the knife into a garbage can, jumped into her car, and drove away. When she realized she still held the penis in her hand, she tossed it into the vacant field next to the convenience store.

Bobbitt took the stand, telling the jury, "I felt a pull, a jerk that hurt real bad and I sprang up—like, silent pain. I grabbed my groin area and held myself." John Bobbitt could not recall whether he had had sex that night. A police detective testified that at the hospital John Bobbitt told him, "if he had sex with his wife, then he may have done it while he was asleep, that he did those things very often."

Stephen Roque, a Prince William County court counselor, told the court that two days before the attack, Lorena Bobbitt had complained of physical and sexual abuse by her husband and had asked about court protection. Told she would have to appear before a judge, she said she would return later in the week.

Called back to the stand, Lorena Bobbitt explained that five days before the attack, her husband had raped her while calling out the names of other women.

In his summation, Prosecutor Ebert said, "You might say these two people deserve each other."

After deliberating for only four hours, the jury found John Bobbitt not guilty. Afterward, a juror said the jury had agreed with John's lawyer, Gregory L. Murphy. The case was too circumstantial, and it could not rely solely on Lorena Bobbitt's word. "If someone had heard her scream," continued the juror, "or if there had been some sort of bruising, that would have made more substantive evidence."

It would be two months before Lorena's trial would begin. Meanwhile, appetites for the sensational were being well fed. Shock jock Howard Stern put John Bobbitt on a New Year's Eve telethon to raise money to defray $250,000 of his legal and medical fees. People magazine made the Bobbitts its cover story and devoted five full pages of the same issue to the Bobbitts. Late night talk show hosts Letterman and Leno vied to see who could come up with the most jokes. Feminist author Katie Roiphe wrote in The New York Times:

Lorena Bobbitt has become a symbol of female rage.… With that primal cut, she exposed the raw hostility between the sexes that is usually clothed in everyday social interaction.… We need to understand the part of the women's movement that yearns for a Lorena Bobbitt.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994John Wayne and Lorena Bobbitt Trials: 1993 1994 - Lorena Bobbitt Is Charged, John Bobbitt Tried For Malicious Assault, Lorena Bobbitt's Trial Begins