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Lorena Bobbitt Testifies on Abuse Claims : Assault: She says she was raped, beaten and subjected to 'Marine-type tortures' by husband. Witnesses in mutilation case say they saw bruises.

January 13, 1994|MICHAEL ROSS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MANASSAS, Va. — Lorena Bobbitt, charged with cutting off her husband's penis, took the stand in her own defense Wednesday and told a jury in a trembling voice that her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt, raped her, beat her and used "Marine-type tortures" to cow her into submission during the violent course of their four-year marriage.

In halting English, the Ecuadorean-born woman described being forced to participate in anal sex and being threatened frequently with a repetition of the act.

"Later, every time we had sex he would threaten me," she said softly. "He would say he would like to have that kind of sex. . . . I tried not to let it happen again."

Mrs. Bobbitt's emotional testimony came on the third day of a trial that has drawn international attention because of the unusual nature of the crime.

If convicted on a charge of malicious wounding the 24-year-old manicurist faces up to 20 years in prison as well as deportation to Venezuela, where she grew up. Although Mrs. Bobbitt has admitted committing the mutilation of her husband, the defense has taken the position that she was a battered wife driven to temporary insanity.

Her husband, an ex-Marine whose penis was reattached after nine hours of surgery on the day after the June 23, 1993, incident, was acquitted of marital assault last November.

Much of the evidence produced in the last two days of testimony was never introduced at the previous trial, which was limited to the events that immediately preceded the mutilation and focused more narrowly on the issue of whether John Bobbitt had raped his wife on the night in question.

The defense hopes to convince the jury of seven women and five men that Mrs. Bobbitt is the "classic example" of a battered spouse who, pushed to the edge by "constant and relentless violence," acted on an "irresistible impulse" she could not control.

To do that, defense lawyers Blair Howard and James Lowe began by putting John Bobbitt on the stand as a hostile witness and allowing him to deny a series of specific instances in which Mrs. Bobbitt has said that she was beaten, threatened or verbally abused by him.

They then began calling witnesses who testified that they had seen Bobbitt abuse his wife on those occasions or that they had seen bruises on her body.

Two witnesses, friends of Bobbitt's, also testified that he once confessed to enjoying forced sex and watching women "squirm."

As the extraordinary trial entered its third day Wednesday in this small town 30 miles west of the nation's capital, six more witnesses--either friends or acquaintances of Mrs. Bobbitt--testified that she came to them, crying hysterically at times, after Bobbitt had beaten her.

From their comments to reporters earlier in the trial, it was clear that Bobbitt's lawyers had been hoping to discredit his wife's accusations by reminding the jury that no physical evidence of abuse was ever uncovered at his trial.

But while a physician who treated Mrs. Bobbitt for stress-related symptoms last June admitted under cross-examination that she saw no bruises on her body, four other witnesses called by the defense Wednesday testified that they saw bruise marks and swellings on her arms, shoulders, head and hips when she came to them after an episode of alleged abuse.

"Sometimes she would get hysterical and shake and cry. At other times she would be very quiet and depressed," said Mary Jo Willoughby, a friend in whom Mrs. Bobbitt confided frequently.

"I saw bruises on her wrists, upper arms and forehead," declared Beth Ann Wilson, the assistant manager of the apartment building where the Bobbitts lived.

Recalling an incident that occurred about two weeks before the mutilation, Wilson said that she was talking with Mrs. Bobbitt and watched her begin to tremble visibly when her husband approached. "You could see the fear in her. It was obvious she was having a terrible time."

Another witness, Mercedes Castro, said that she took Polaroid pictures of bruises on Mrs. Bobbitt's right hip, left shoulder and arms when the defendant came to her home one night in early 1991, looking "really scared and crying."

The emotional high point of the trial came when Mrs. Bobbitt herself was called to the stand earlier than the defense originally had planned.

Before eliciting Bobbitt's testimony, defense lawyers had planned to question a psychiatrist who would buttress the argument that the defendant was psychologically driven to commit an act that she never would have contemplated under normal circumstances.

But Judge Herman Whisenant Jr. ruled that the psychiatrist could testify only about facts already introduced into evidence. His ruling could have hampered the testimony unless Mrs. Bobbitt introduced into the record some of the alleged episodes on which the psychiatric evaluation was based.

In nearly two hours on the stand, she gave her account of episodes described in almost mirror-image fashion by her husband the day before.

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