Virginia jury ponders case for, against Lorena Bobbitt

January 21, 1994|By New York Times News Service

MANASSAS, Va. -- A jury today was weighing the evidence against Lorena Bobbitt to decide if she acted deliberately and maliciously when she cut off her husband's penis with a kitchen knife last June 23, or whether she was temporarily insane.

Mrs. Bobbitt's case went to the jury yesterday afternoon, and deliberations barely began before adjournment.

Earlier, in closing arguments, the prosecution told jurors that Mrs. Bobbitt had acted with intent and rage when she mutilated her husband. Defense lawyers countered that she was seeking to protect herself from an abusive husband and had snapped psychologically, yielding to an "irresistible impulse."

The charge is malicious wounding, for which Mrs. Bobbitt, who was born in Ecuador and raised in Venezuela, could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. She also could be deported.

To convict her, the jury must find that she acted with intent and "without legal excuse or justification" when her mind was "under the control of reason." One can act maliciously, the law says, even if the act is sudden.

Alternatively, the jury could find that Mrs. Bobbitt acted without intent but "in the heat of passion" -- that is, in response to what would induce in a reasonable person "an emotional state of mind VTC such as hot blood, or rage, anger, resentment, terror or fear so as to cause one to act on impulse without conscious reflection."

If convicted of the less serious crime of "unlawful

wounding," Mrs. Bobbitt would face shorter jail time or a fine.

The two views of Mrs. Bobbitt were not as divergent as they had been at the outset of the case. The prosecution is not disputing that Mrs. Bobbitt was a long-suffering woman who felt she was raped shortly before the maiming; some of the prosecution's own witnesses conceded that she might have acted impulsively.

The question before the jury was whether she could have resisted that impulse. Prosecutors said she could have and should have; the defense maintained she could not.

Mary Grace O'Brien, an assistant Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney, said, "This is a case about anger, it is a case about revenge, and it is a case about retribution.

"What she did cannot be excused, it cannot be condoned and it cannot be justified."

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