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Bobbitt trial a prime-time spectacle

IF PUBLIC thirst for the lurid details of how Lorena Bobbitt assaulted her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt, last summer by slicing off his penis with a kitchen knife has still not been assuaged, surely it will be this week as she stands trial in Manassas, Virginia, on a charge of malicious wounding.

Mrs Bobbitt, who faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty, has admitted amputating the penis on 23 June when her husband, 26, returned from a night out, allegedly intoxicated. He himself was found not guilty last year of marital sexual assault.

On the second day of her trial yesterday, defence lawyers continued to make the case that Mrs Bobbitt had suffered a 'reign of terror' in her marriage and was in a pyschotic state when she committed the act.

Mrs Bobbitt, 24, has admitted cutting off two-thirds of her husband's penis. She subsequently fled their home and after driving several miles in her car, threw the penis out of the window.

Jurors - and anyone watching live television - were given repeated renditions of the of events, illustrated by close-up pictures of the recovered penis, which was reattached to Mr Bobbitt in a local hospital. Doctors say Mr Bobbitt may eventually regain all use of his penis.

The trial has drawn a crush of journalists, most of whom are being accommodated in a special media hall nearby. Outside the courtroom itself, a bad-taste street market has sprung up. Chocolate penises are on sale for dollars 7.95 ( pounds 5.30) as well as T-shirts allegedly signed by Mr Bobbitt. A radio station has been giving away cans of Slice, a fizzy drink, and frankfurters.

The case has been attracting the attention of women's groups, some casting doubt on Mrs Bobbitt as a heroine and a model for women around the country trapped in violent marriages.

(Photograph omitted)