Catherine Kieu Trial Update: Trauma drove woman who cut off husband's penis, lawyer says

FILE - This file booking photo provided by the Orange County District Attorney's office shows Catherine Kieu. Opening statements are scheduled to begin Wednesday April 17,2013 in the trial of Kieu, who is accused of drugging her boyfriend with Ambien, tying him to the bed, severing his penis and mutilating it in a garbage disposal. (AP Photo/Orange County District Attorney, File) Uncredited

Catherine Kieu
AP Photo/Orange County District Attorney, File
(CBS/AP) SANTA ANA, Calif. - The defense attorney for Catherine Kieu, a woman charged with severing the penis of her estranged husband, said she "had a break from reality" on the night of the attack.

"She's a shattered woman who tried to do the best she could," said Kieu's public defender, Frank Bittar, during closing arguments Thursday. 

The jury is scheduled to begin deliberating Monday on charges of torture and aggravated mayhem related to the July 11, 2011, incident when Kieu, 50, allegedly drugged her husband, cut off his penis, and threw in the garbage disposal.

Bittar said no one could condone what Kieu did. but that she 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 husband 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.

Complete coverage of Catherine Kieu on Crimesider

  • Crimesider Staff