When the verdict came down last week, Lorena Bobbitt did not seem to know how to react. "Is that good?" she asked one of her attorneys. After seven hours of deliberation, a jury of five men and seven women had acquitted her by reason of temporary insanity for what the law describes as the malicious wounding of her husband John Wayne Bobbitt. In the more familiar language that even the most squeamish have learned to say out loud since she wielded her knife last June, she cut off his penis. "Fifty years ago, Lorena Bobbitt would have been convicted without a shadow of a doubt," says Lawrence Friedman, a Stanford law professor. "They would not have listened to any argument that her deed was justified by a history of abuse. They would have focused on the act itself, which horrifies all males."
Changing sexual politics had indeed been one of the fig leaves used to discuss the case in polite company. How far can an abused wife go to protect herself? But John had been acquitted last November of marital rape. And last week the jury bought the tales of abuse and cruelty Lorena's defense team presented. A finding of temporary insanity is often a jury's way to let off a guilty defendant who has won its sympathy.
"This case was not about a penis," said Lisa Kemler, one of Lorena's lawyers. "It was really about a life." In fact, two rather sad lives. Lorena is off to a Virginia mental hospital for a 45-day period of evaluation. She may soon partake of John's life of foolish fame -- book deals, movie offers and the like. At the verdict, his media adviser Paul Erickson said there would be no comment. "He's not into dancing on graves."