Lorena season 1, episode 3 recap: Irresistible Impulse


Episode 3 of Amazon’s Lorena looks closer at the abuse allegations against John Wayne Bobbitt and her “irresistible impulse” defense.

Lorena is undeniably a controversial show because taking sides in an abuse case can be contentious. Of course, the story also involves castration. Was it planned as revenge or was it an impulse she could not control? The Amazon series looks at different perspectives, even interviewing John Wayne Bobbitt himself. While her interviews and testimony footage are compelling, his segments are boring. In this episode, we find out why that may be the case.

There is indeed evidence that Lorena was abused, physically and mentally. In contrast, Bobbitt has little to say, other than to paint himself as a regular guy who never abused her, and was himself abused. In an odd way, the castration helped him win some sympathy, and certainly media attention.

Tabloid stalkers and trash-talkers

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Reflecting on the media frenzy, David Kaplan of Newsweek notes how, when his publication was poised to feature the Bobbitts, the Tonya Harding scandal broke out. They were also “out-tabloided” by Menendez brothers. While Kaplan says there’s nothing wrong with tabloid stories, it was certainly an awkward time. That aside, there were issues to talk about.

The Bobbitt’s neighbors, Joseph, and Diana Fletcher note how Lorena was constantly followed by reporters. Her media representative, Alan Hauge, says that Geraldo Rivera was especially obnoxious. The media even hounded her at home! Not surprisingly, this documentary doesn’t put Howard Stern in the most positive light, either.

Evidence of abuse

Lorena’s attorney, Blair Howard, says she was abused, and that the irresistible impulse.
Forensic psychologist Dr. Evan Nelson, says juries generally do not believe in insanity. In other words, Lorena had a real struggle on her hands. During the trial, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Susan Feister says Mrs. Bobbitt was under a constant barrage of abuse. Also, because she was Catholic, she felt additional conflict about the abortion her husband told her to have.

It’s also said that he belittled her for being an immigrant — which is strange, considering he married her with that full knowledge! On that note, Carlos Sanchez of the Washington Post says she had many Hispanic supporters. Amazon gives us some of that footage. She sought additional support, as she bought a tape recorder to record his verbal put-downs and abuse.

She says he found it and it violently enraged him. He also threatened her if she ever left. She only ever felt at peace when he wasn’t at home, and couldn’t eat or sleep due to anxiety. At the time there was no federal funding for abuse shelters, and battered woman syndrome was just coming to be recognized.

June 23, 1993

There are two main views on the castration issue. On the one hand, people like Alan Dershowitz argued it had to have been the last recourse. The problem is, this doesn’t by itself assess one’s mental state. On the other hand, Kim Gandy (National Network to End Domestic Violence) says, “You don’t know what you’d do if somebody you loved raised a hand to you.” Indeed, one doesn’t necessarily know if they’d react passively or violently.  Lorena tried to leave, staying with Diana Fletcher, but didn’t stay for long.

On the fateful night of June 23, 1993, John Wayne Bobbitt and his buddy Robert Johnston were out drinking. Robert maintains they both only drank a little. Despite that, while testifying in court, John says he doesn’t remember if he had sex with her that night. Still, he contradicts himself by saying he rejected her advances (You’ll notice how, at almost every opportunity in these interviews, John Wayne Bobbitt emphasizes how irresistible he is to women).

In contrast, Lorena says he raped her that night, further traumatizing her. Some time after he fell asleep, she got up and drank some water, then saw the knife. She says the next thing she remembers is being in the car and disposing of the evidence. This is where the case gets a little trickier. If she can remember that much, might she remember anything else? The psychologists/psychiatrists seem to all have different opinions, suggesting it’s largely about interpreting evidence.

An impasse

Jury foreman Clay Cocalis says she did recollect the knife, and originally told the detective she was angry. He also notes how the cut was surgical in nature, suggesting someone who wasn’t in a panicked state (although one wonders if she was in a trance-like state). At the trial, Dr. Susan Feister said Lorena was “at an impasse,” and that she had no control over her actions. In contrast, Dr. Evan Nelson suggests she wasn’t legally insane at the time. Similarly, forensic psychiatrist Henry Gwaltney saw no evidence of the psychotic disorder.

However, there is at least evidence that abuse occurred, and even that it negatively impacted Lorena’s manicures. Regina Keegan, a nail salon client, notes how Lorena’s
manicure work was very bad, and that her eyebrows were left uneven. Regina
also saw bruises all over Lorena’s arms, and Mrs. Bobbitt told her it was her husband’s handiwork.

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After seeing Lorena on TV, Regina called attorney Paul Ebert. Unfortunately for them, the first trial was almost over. So Ebert told Regina to Blair Howard to testify in Lorena’s defense for the 2nd one. It was a big turning point, as was Dr. Miller M. Ryans reversing his professional view of Mrs. Bobbitt’s mental state. He came around to saying she likely had P.T.S.D. While some say did know what she was doing, it was becoming more debatable.

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