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Old 03-04-2007, 05:01 AM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Whipple case hits California Supreme Court

Dog-Mauling Case Hits the Calif. High Court

Millie Lapidario

The Recorder

March 5, 2007

The case of the widely despised San Francisco dog owner is back in the spotlight.

When San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren threw out Marjorie Knoller's second-degree murder conviction for the dog-mauling death of her neighbor Diane Whipple, the judge justified his controversial decision by explaining that Knoller did not know her conduct had a "high probability of death to another human being."

Since Warren's 2002 ruling, the 1st District Court of Appeal reversed, putting the second-degree murder conviction back on the table. The California Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday on the larger debate of what constitutes implied malice, a requirement of second-degree murder.

The case of Knoller and her husband Robert Noel attracted worldwide media attention that continued long after Warren's ruling. It was, and still is, the first dog-mauling case in the state to get a murder conviction.

Among the many unique facts of the case, Knoller and Noel were keeping the two massive dogs for Paul Schneider, a life inmate and member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang who bred and sold Presa Canarios as guard dogs using people outside the prison. The couple later adopted Schneider, then 39 years old.

Days after the attack, Knoller appeared on "Good Morning America" and showed no remorse. Noel also publicly insulted San Francisco's then-DA Terence Hallinan and partly blamed Whipple for the attack.

To avoid jurors tainted by the public sentiment against Knoller and Noel in the Bay Area, the trial was moved to Los Angeles.

In the current debate before the Supreme Court, Deputy Attorney General Amy Haddix argues the murder conviction must be reinstated because the standard of conscious disregard for life includes conscious disregard of a likely risk of serious bodily injury.

Knoller's attorney, Dennis Riordan, however, argues that adopting this standard would wipe out the distinction between murder and involuntary manslaughter -- which does not require malice.

"Death and great bodily injury are most assuredly not one and the same thing," Riordan states in his reply brief.
Knoller reportedly moved to Florida after being released from prison in 2004 after serving two years. She had been sentenced to the maximum term of four years for the lesser counts of involuntary manslaughter and owning a mischievous animal that caused death. Noel, also convicted of the two lesser counts, served his prison time and was released in 2003.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the prosecution, Knoller would face the possibility of going back to prison to finish out a sentence of 15 years to life for the second-degree murder conviction.

Two years ago, the 1st District ruled the prosecution did not have to prove Knoller knew her two dogs would kill, but only that she knew taking them out of her apartment without a muzzle would endanger someone else's life.
According to Riordan's opening brief, the issue before the high court is whether substantial evidence supports the trial court's ruling that the prosecution didn't prove Knoller was aware of a high probability of death. Riordan highlights the prosecution' s lack of evidence, noting that no evidence was entered that Knoller's dogs or the Presa Canario breed had ever killed a human.

But James Hammer, the former assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case in the trial court, said the argument requiring absolute certainty that someone will die sets a "dangerous standard."

"It suggests you get one free death," Hammer said. The more than 30 incidents where Knoller's dogs lunged at people, as well as the warning from the dogs' veterinarian that the dogs needed muzzles, should have been enough of a warning that they would kill someone, he said.

Hammer plans to attend the Tuesday hearing with Sharon Smith, Whipple's partner.

To exhibit malice, Haddix states in her brief, "a defendant never has to know the probability of the outcome ... as opposed to the nature of the potential harm."

Citing case law, Haddix offers examples where defendants have been found guilty of murder despite arguing they didn't know it would result in death: a parent who shakes his infant child and kills the baby, a drunk driver, a person who discharges a gun into the ceiling of an apartment building and kills the person in the room above.

This particular case is unique, though, because a separate being committed the murder, according to Beverly Hills, Calif., attorney Kenneth Phillips, who represents dog-bite victims throughout the country and gave regular TV commentaries of the Knoller trial. Stretching out the definition of implied malice to punish Knoller with a longer prison sentence is not the answer, he said.

"Should dog owners be exposed to murder convictions if their dogs are not trained to attack people or known to attack people?" he asked. "That's a real serious liability. There are probably millions of dog owners in California that can be exposed to a murder conviction if the California Supreme Court is going to uphold this second-degree murder conviction."

The court will also address whether Warren abused his discretion by granting Knoller a new trial on the murder charge. In addition to incorrectly defining implied malice, the trial court overstepped its bounds by accepting testimony from Knoller, an incredible witness, according to Haddix. Because Warren also said Noel was equally as culpable as Knoller and that punishment should be equal, Haddix argues that should not have been a consideration.

http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1172829805185

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Old 03-04-2007, 05:16 AM   #2 (permalink)
 

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a very interesting case and very bad thing for the presa breed...now when i look in the classified ads in the local papers you actually see presa's for sale,before that case they were unheard of..i clearly remember the media descibing the presa breed as "a pitbull on steriods" .
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Old 04-07-2007, 04:31 AM   #3 (permalink)
 
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S.F. couple convicted in fatal dog mauling lose law licenses
Marisa Lagos, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, April 6, 2007
(04-06) 11:01 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco couple convicted of manslaughter after their dog fatally mauled a neighbor in 2001 have both lost their licenses to practice law in the state, according to the State Bar of California.

Marjorie Knoller -- who was convicted of second-degree murder in the attack and later had her conviction reduced to involuntary manslaughter -- resigned from the State Bar in January, records show. Knoller, now living in Delray Beach, Fla., had her law license suspended after the conviction in 2002 and voluntarily gave up the license earlier this year, according to the State Bar.

Robert Noel, who was not present during the attack, was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2002, and his license was suspended at the time. He was ordered inactive by the State Bar in 2006, records show, and was disbarred Feb. 17. His address is listed in Fairfield.

According to records, the State Bar's hearing department disbarred Noel after he failed to respond to the interim suspension order, which is required by the State Bar.

When the attack occurred, the couple was taking care of the dogs, two Presa Canarios, for a prison inmate they later adopted as their son. The canines attacked Diane Whipple, 33, in the hallway of her Pacific Heights apartment building on Jan. 26, 2001, with the male, 140-pound dog inflicting the fatal wounds.

Both have served their prison sentences, but Knoller could face more jail time. In 2005, a state appeals court overtured a Superior Court judge's decision to reduce her conviction to involuntary manslaughter, which he did on the basis that Knoller could not have known the dogs were likely to kill someone.

The California Supreme Court is currently reviewing the appeal court's decision.

E-mail Marisa Lagos at [email protected] com.

http://sfgate. com/cgi-bin/ article.cgi? f=/c/a/2007/ 04/06/BAGIDP483P 7.DTL

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Old 06-02-2007, 05:18 AM   #4 (permalink)
 
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Breaking news: CA high court sends dog maul case back to lower court

Published 05/31/2007
by Ed Walsh


Both sides in San Francisco's infamous dog-mauling case are praising a decision by the California Supreme Court that sends that case back to a lower court for reconsideration of Marjorie Knoller's second-degree murder conviction.

On Thursday, May 31, the high court sent the case back to San Francisco Superior Court for review based on its opinion of what constitutes murder. The high court ruled that the original trial court used too high of a legal standard of murder when it overturned Knoller's conviction and that the appeals court's standard was too low when it reinstated the conviction.

Knoller, 51, could be sent back to prison if the trial court rules against her. The court would also have the option of again overturning her murder conviction resulting in her continued freedom.

Knoller was convicted of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter for the 2001 dog mauling of her neighbor, Diane Whipple. Jurors sided with prosecutors, who argued that Knoller and her husband, Robert Noel, ignored warnings that her two Presa Canario dogs were dangerous. Noel was not with the dogs during the hallway attack and was convicted only of involuntary manslaughter.

"It's a good decision, it's wonderful," Knoller's mother, Harriet Knoller, told the Bay Area Reporter from her home in Florida. According to published reports, Knoller moved in with her mother after being paroled in 2004. Knoller's husband, Noel, was paroled to Solano County, California.

The elder Knoller declined extensive comment, explaining that the news media often distorts what she says. She would not comment on whether her daughter was still married to Noel and when asked how her daughter is doing, replied, "We're managing, we're strong."

Jim Hammer, the former San Francisco assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case in 2002, noted that the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren was wrong when he threw out Knoller's second-degree conviction.

"It's very gratifying to know that we were right," Hammer told the B.A.R.

Hammer, now an attorney in private practice, said he would renew his request to the San Francisco District Attorney's office that he be allowed to argue the case when it comes before San Francisco Superior Court. He said he would not charge the city any fee for his work. He noted that he was asked to return to the case by Whipple's friends and her surviving partner, Sharon Enlow-Smith.

A message seeking comment from District Attorney Kamala Harris was not immediately returned.

[Late Thursday, Harris issued a statement saying it was "premature in the process" to comment on Hammer's offer.
"This is a victory for the prosecution and the victims of a horrendous crime," Harris said in the statement. " We believe the defendant should be sentenced as originally mandated by the jury. The decision does not become final for at least 30 more days, and all of our attention right now will be focused on ensuring the issue comes back to Superior Court quickly so that the original sentence can be restored."]

The lawyer who argued the case before the high court echoed Hammer's assessment of the decision. "We're very pleased," California Deputy Attorney General Amy Haddix told the B.A.R.

Haddix added that the murder case against Knoller was one of the strongest she's seen. Haddix explained that the Supreme Court reaffirmed a previously accepted decision of what constitutes murder in California.

In its written ruling the justices summarized, "... the Court of Appeal set the bar too low, permitting a conviction of second-degree murder, based on a theory of implied malice, if the defendant knew his or her conduct risked causing death or serious bodily injury. But the trial court set the bar too high, ruling that implied malice requires a defendant's awareness that his or her conduct had a high probability of resulting in death, and that granting defendant Knoller a new trial was justified because the prosecution did not charge co-defendant Noel with murder. Because the trial court used an incorrect test of implied malice, and based its decision in part on an impermissible consideration, we conclude that it abused its discretion in granting Knoller a new trial on the second-degree murder count."

Knoller's attorney, Dennis Riordan, noted the Supreme Court's rebuke of the Court of Appeal's decision that reinstated her murder conviction. In a press release, Riordan wrote that Knoller believes that when the case goes back to San Francisco Superior Court, "it will again find that the evidence in her case is clearly insufficient to support a second-degree murder conviction."

Riordan wrote that the Supreme Court decision to overturn the Court of Appeal decision "vindicates the rule of law in California."


http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php...s&article=1883




In an e-mail to the B.A.R. Noel said that he has read the decision but would defer comment on the case to Knoller's attorney.
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