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Lawyer: Trauma drove woman who cut off man’s penis

  • Catherine Kieu sat next to her attorney, deputy public defender, Frank Bittar, before opening statements Wednesday in Santa Ana, Calif. Kieu is charged with cutting off a man's penis and throwing it into a garbage disposal. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, )

SANTA ANA, Calif. » The defense attorney for a woman charged with severing the penis of her estranged husband said she “had a break from reality” the night of the attack.

“She’s a shattered woman who tried to do the best she could,” Frank Bittar, public defender for Catherine Kieu, said during closing arguments Thursday. But Bittar said Kieu’s mental health woes increased and she broke, according to City News Service.

The jury received the case and is scheduled to begin deliberating Monday on charges of torture and aggravated mayhem for the July 11, 2011, incident when Kieu, 50, was accused of drugging her husband, cutting off his penis, and throwing it in the garbage disposal.

Bittar said no one could condone what the victim went through. But he said Kieu had a childhood full of molestation and other trauma in war-torn Vietnam. He said that was compounded by her husband who constantly demanded sex in ways that put her in pain.

The man is going only by his first name in court and is not being named by The Associated Press because of the nature of the attack.

In its closing arguments, the prosecution said Kieu was blinded by jealous anger after her husband asked for a divorce and began seeing an ex-girlfriend.

“They say anger is the wind that blows out the candle of the mind,” Orange County Deputy District Attorney John Christl said.

The 60-year-old victim, who was not able to have the penis reattached, graphically described the attack during the trial and testified he felt as though he had been murdered.

Kieu could get life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

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