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John Wayne and Lorena Bobbitt Trials: 1993 & 1994

Lorena Bobbitt Is Charged, John Bobbitt Tried For Malicious Assault, Lorena Bobbitt's Trial Begins

Defendants: First trial: John Wayne Bobbitt; second trial: Lorena Bobbitt
Crimes Charged: First trial: marital sexual assault; second trial: malicious wounding
Chief Defense Lawyers: First trial: Gregory L. Murphy; second trial: Lisa B. Kemler
Chief Prosecutor: Both trials: Paul B. Ebert.
Judge: Both trials: Herman Whisenaut, Jr.
Place: Both trials: Manassas, Virginia
Dates of Trials: First Trial: November 8-10, 1993; second trial: January 10-22, 1994
Verdict: First trial: not guilty; second trial: not guilty

SIGNIFICANCE: These two trials involving allegations of rape and sexual mutilation captured the attention of the public. In so doing, the nature of what is deemed acceptable for broadcast media changed forever.

When Lorena Bobbitt picked up a 12-inch fillet knife in her kitchen at 5 A.M. on June 23, 1993, she presumably never gave a thought to the gift she was about to bestow on the nation's editors and news anchors: the opportunity to put the unmentionable word "penis" in front-page headlines and on network news by the dinner hour. Was it on her mind to focus world attention on the issue of violence against women? Moments later, with one stroke of the knife, she accomplished both results by severing her slumbering husband from his most cherished possession. This act produced two courtroom dramas.

Lorena and John Bobbitt had met, when she was 19 and he was 21, at a club for enlisted men near the Quantico, Virginia, Marine Corps base, where he was a lance corporal. Raised in Venezuela, she was, at the time they met, a manicurist in Manassas, Virginia. She was slender, 5′2″, attractive, with long dark brown hair. She held a U.S. immigration visa that was soon to expire.

John was inexperienced with women. Lorena's strict upbringing had included chaperones tagging along on dates, no premarital sex, and no tolerance of divorce or abortion. "She was pretty," said John later. "She had a cute accent. We thought we were in love. I didn't want her to leave." They were married on June 18, 1989.

Trouble soon began. John drank. He spent money extravagantly. A month after the wedding, when she criticized his erratic driving, he struck her. When they argued over a television program, he broke off the rooftop antenna, knocked her down with his car, and drove off. In another fight, she locked herself in the bathroom. He unscrewed the doorknob. When she dialed 911, he ripped out the phone. Neighbors noted her recurring bruises. Short of cash, Lorena stole money from her employer and stole dresses from Nordstrom's department store.

Upon completing his Marine enlistment, John began working as a bouncer at a Manassas night club. Over their four-year marriage, interrupted by long separations in 1991 and again in 1992, both Bobbitts called the police to break up their disputes several times. In mid-June 1993, Lorena requested a restraining order against her husband. Two days later, at 3 A.M., he came home drunk.

A house guest, John's buddy Robert Johnston, was asleep in the next room. At about 5 A.M., he felt a kick. He looked up. John Bobbitt, naked, a bloody sheet clutched to his groin, calmly asked Robert to get him to the emergency room. Lorena was not in the house. On the way to the hospital, John said, "They better be able to make me a new penis."

Urologist Dr. James T. Sehn examined Bobbitt, explaining to him that, unless the missing penis was found, he would have to sew the stump closed. With Bobbitt on a gurney ready for surgery, Dr. Sehn pushed him toward the operating room.

At that moment the police arrived at the hospital with the missing organ, packed in ice. They had received a call from Lorena Bobbitt, who told them her husband's penis could be retrieved from a field next to the neighborhood 7-11 convenience store. Dr. Sehn immediately called Dr. David E. Berman, a skilled microsurgeon, and in a nine-hour procedure, they reattached John Bobbitt's penis.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994