Lorena mini-series premiere recap: The Night Of


Amazon Video series Lorena looks at the John and Lorena Bobbitt trial, his castration, their relationship and the media frenzy surrounding the case.

Shortly after June 23, 1993, the town of Manassas, Virginia would receive a lot of attention. However, it wasn’t the town that was interesting, but the castration of John Wayne Bobbitt by his wife Lorena.

All these years later, the case is as timely as ever. Lorena examines not only what happened but why, and suggests this case has more at stake than one dysfunctional marriage.

A responder at the scene, Officer John Tillman, now says it was a quiet night when he received the “nonchalant” call to go to Prince William Hospital. He and Officer Dan Harriss didn’t quite know what happened, as dispatcher Machelle Bailey didn’t give the information over the radio.

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It quickly became a special case, however, and urologist Dr. Sehn had to call in Dr. David Berman, a microsurgeon regarding what happened to Mr. John Bobbitt.

What happened to Mr. Bobbitt?

Speaking now, John Wayne Bobbitt says he thought he was dreaming that night, and that he imagined Freddy Krueger’s hand coming through the wall. He says she severed his penis because he planned on divorcing her, while she argues it was due to years of physical abuse and rape.

On the night of the actual severance, none of the responders knew quite what was going on. For example, Sindi Leo, the crime scene technician, says she was told Lorena may have actually swallowed the penis!

While that didn’t happen, the scene was ominous. There were blood droplets in the parking lot and Officer Tillman (and others) had the awkward task of looking for the penis in the Bobbitt apartment. There was also blood on the mattress, signs that Bobbitt was extremely intoxicated, and investigators also found pamphlets about rape.

Shortly after these events, Lorena Bobbitt visited her boss, Janna Bisutti, and they discussed the basics of what happened. Later, when she talked to police, she admitted she tossed it out of the car window at Rolk’s Road, where it landed in the grass. Also, in another county, she threw the fateful knife into a garbage can. Sindi Leo found it before it ended up in a garbage truck.

Regarding the severed piece of evidence, a Sgt. Hurley is said to have stepped on it (talking about it now, Lorena can’t hold back a bit of laughter). It is said to have been “carried ceremoniously into a 7-1” where it was “put on ice in a hot dog bag” for reattachment surgery.

Nurse Debra Parrish says she wondered what he did to prompt such a reaction. Oddly enough, John and Lorena were in the same hospital at the same time — her for a rape test kit, him for treatment of his injury.

Domestic violence, revenge and a media feeding frenzy

We get to hear from Kim Gandy, of the National Network to End Domestic Violence and see archival footage of the 1991 Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas sexual harassment trial. Kim Masters of Vanity Fair didn’t like that Thomas was confirmed as a supreme court justice.

Similarly, we hear about the 1991 Tailhook scandal, where 83 women and 7 men were allegedly sexually assaulted by United States Navy and U.S. Marine Corps aviation officers at the Las Vegas Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada. Was the Lorena Bobbitt story tying in with a national crisis?

Carlos Sanchez of the Washington Post says Lorena Bobbit told him John raped her. Most people obviously side with either John or Lorena, as it’s difficult to equally consider both stories. Some people take it less seriously, finding humor in it. The Bobbitt’s neighbor at the time, Joseph Fletcher, says he found it funny.

Indeed, comedians joked about it, including Whoopi Goldberg and Andrew Dice Clay. Microsurgeon David Berman appeared on Geraldo to discuss his specialty. Things were gearing up for a media showdown, both between the Bobbitts and between competing TV networks themselves.

Lorena hired James Lowe as her defense attorney and Alan Hauge as a media representative (who advised her not to speak about the events). John was taking similar steps. Now, his attorney at the time, Gregg Murphy, says the scandalous trial helped media narratives grow up across the country.

He says he just couldn’t refer to “cutting off his ding-a-ling,” so the word “penis” was being used more than it had been in the past. Urologist James Sehn calls it “a cultural moment for the p-word to get some airing.”

Things were getting messy due to the burgeoning media feeding frenzy. Lorena says she couldn’t leave the house. Nevertheless, she didn’t completely shy away from the spectacle. During her meeting with Vanity Fair‘s Kim Masters, Lorena did a swimming pool photo shoot, complete with a bathing suit.

In retrospect, one wonders if it was bad taste for someone charged with malicious wounding. In any case, John Bobbitt was facing charges of marital sexual abuse in a complicated case. Gregg Murphy says that of the four times police were called by a Bobbitt, three times it was John calling on Lorena, and only once where Lorena called on him.

Also, marital rape is not always easy to prove, either legally or forensically. Ultimately, Bobbitt was facing lesser charges of malicious sexual assault. Had it been a rape charge, he could have received a life sentence upon conviction.

A former Marine, John denies being a violent person, saying they got married too fast. While that may be true, not all failed marriages end up quite like this.

The trial against John Wayne Bobbitt

The trial was quite a sensation as reporters came in from around the world to Manassas. Locals sold novelty t-shirts and tabloid news was scurrying everywhere. The question was, who will the jury believe in this epic case of he-said-she-said? Perhaps wisely (or perhaps not), the trial was not allowed on TV.

It was also determined that only incidents within five days of “the incident” could be considered. We hear from former jury members Kenneth Hulse and Becki Rinker. Hulse says he saw evidence of Lorena having a conflicted personality, and that she flip-flopped in her appearance.

Ultimately, the trial found no outright signs of rape, which is what they would have needed to prove anything happened to Lorena.

Gregg Murphy hired the former head of forensics at the FBI to investigate the evidence. Supposedly the man saw a “discreet scissor cut” in her panties, suggesting they weren’t ripped by force.

Jury member Becki Rinker wonders why she would lie, however. Hulse tells us “You can’t vote with your heart,” and that you must vote with your head based on the evidence presented. Bobbitt was found not guilty of the charges.

Quite simply, the state lacked substantial proof that he abused her on that night, or in the five days beforehand.

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Although Prosecutor Paul Ebert went on to prosecute the infamous D.C. Sniper, this is a case that got away from him. Interestingly, though, John Bobbitt’s attorney accidentally said John was incapable of telling the truth when speaking to the press, though he meant to say the opposite.

Perhaps such a slip-up is exactly why cameras weren’t allowed in the courtroom. However, this would be allowed in Lorena’s castration trial.

What are your thoughts on Lorena? Let us know in the comments!