San Francisco judge voids murder-by-dog verdict
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August, 2002:
SAN FRANCISCO–Overturning the March 21 verdict of a Los
Angeles jury, San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren on
June 17 voided the second degree murder conviction of attorney
Marjorie Knoller, 46, for allowing two Presa Canario dogs to escape
her control and kill neighbor Diane Whipple, 33, in January 2001.
“There is no question in this court’s mind that in the eyes
of the people, both defendants are guilty of murder,” Warren stated
on live television. “In the eyes of the law, they are not.”
Knoller and her husband, fellow attorney Robert Noel, 60,
were also convicted of involuntary manslaughter and keeping a
dangerous dog. Warren allowed those convictions to stand, delayed
sentencing Knoller until July 15 to give San Francisco district
attorney Terrence Hallinan and lead prosecutor James Hammer time to
argue that the murder conviction should be reinstated, and hit Noel
with the maximum four-year sentence.
Credited with time already served while awaiting trial, and
likely to qualify for early release on account of good behavior,
Noel is likely to be free before Christmas.
Hallinan questioned why Warren even allowed Knoller to be
tried on the murder charge if he disagreed with the 19 grand jurors
who indicted her, as well as the 12 jurors who convicted her, that
the evidence of willful negligence was strong enough to warrent the
Warren earlier granted Knoller the right to petition for a
retrial, but the option of seeking a retrial is apparently not open
to the prosecution, legal experts mostly agreed, because a retrial
requested by the prosecution would violate the constitutional
guarantee that defendants may not be tried repeatedly on the same
Knoller and Noel still face a civil suit for damages filed by
Sharon Smith, Whipple’s companion of seven years.