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Bobbitt Jury Re-Enacted Pre-Crime Events : Trial: Members say these actions, a search for the wife's thoughts and feelings, were turning point in deliberations.

January 23, 1994|PATRICIA DAVIS and JANE SEABERRY | THE WASHINGTON POST

MANASSAS, Va. — In the final hours of their deliberations, as they agonized over Lorena Bobbitt's state of mind on the night that she severed her husband's penis, the jurors kept asking themselves what she must have been thinking and feeling.

They tried to place themselves in her bedroom, to imagine the moment. They decided to re-enact the crime, some of the jurors said Saturday.

A male juror played the role of Lorena at one point and held the same kitchen knife she had used. On a blackboard, he drew a timeline with slash marks for the events that had occurred in the 15 minutes before Lorena cut her husband as he lay sleeping.

John Wayne Bobbitt was represented by a paper cup.

Was it an act of irresistible impulse, as defense attorneys argued? The jurors listened, again and again, to the statement Lorena gave police about how her husband earlier had raped her.

"The more we did, we realized that this was not a person who was acting in a sane manner," juror Jeanne Elmore, 42, said Saturday. "You could see as we were reading her words, the emotion building."

Elmore and four other jurors interviewed Saturday said the re-enactment was a turning point in reaching the verdict that the 24-year-old woman was not guilty of malicious wounding by reason of temporary insanity.

Although all 12 jurors did not agree on exactly when Lorena Bobbitt snapped, in the end they were unanimous in their belief that she did.

"We felt she'd been really abused, a victim," said a juror who asked that her name be withheld. "Unfortunately, over a period of time, most of us would be able to react" in a more rational way. "We didn't feel she was strong enough. She had been stripped of everything at that point."

"In my mind in a way," Elmore said, "she went after what threatened her most."

The jurors said they had no trouble believing the crux of the defense team's case. Lorena Bobbitt, they concluded, was raped by her 26-year-old husband in the early morning hours of June 23 and then suffered a psychotic breakdown brought on by years of abuse.

No one witness or incident convinced them of this, they said. Rather, it was the litany of beatings, verbal threats, sodomy and rape that they heard during the two-week trial. The couple's friends testified to this abuse, as did psychiatrists appearing for the prosecution and defense and Lorena Bobbitt herself.

"I believe John raped her over the course of the years he was with her," said one male juror, who also asked not to be identified. "I think pretty much every time they had sex he raped her."

The juror said that John Bobbitt's acquittal in November on a charge of marital sexual assault was no secret to the jury. It was briefly mentioned in the jury room, he said, but was given no weight during the 7 1/2 hours of deliberations Thursday and Friday.

Those interviewed said they believed that John Bobbitt, a witness for the prosecution, actually did more to help the defense team. "I thought he was basically a liar," Elmore said.

Said another female juror: "There was nothing positive about him. As far as his testimony, none of us got a good feeling about him."

Although the jurors saw Lorena Bobbitt as a victim, they also thought she brought problems of her own to the marriage.

"She was not completely guiltless," said a juror, citing what that juror called the woman's temper tantrums and immaturity. "They were real bad for each other."

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