Marjorie Knoller's Dog Mauling Conviction Upheld

Monday, Aug 23, 2010  |  Updated 12:15 PM PDT
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Marjorie Knoller's Dog Mauling Conviction Upheld

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400056 01: (FILE PHOTO) Robert Noel (L) and his wife Marjorie Knoller (R) wait to present their case in a vicious dog trial that will determine the fate of their dog Herra February 13, 2001 in San Francisco, CA. Noel and Knoller are facing murder charges for the dog mauling death of 33-year-old Diane Whipple in 2001. Jury selection for the murder trial will begin January 24, 2002 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A state appeals court has upheld the second-degree murder  conviction and sentence of 15 years to life for a San Francisco woman whose  dog fatally mauled her neighbor in 2001.
     
A Court of Appeal panel ruled Friday that Marjorie Knoller, 55,  "deliberately engaged in behavior that was a danger to human life" when she  took her two powerful Presa Canario dogs into the hallway of her Pacific  Heights apartment building on Jan. 26, 2001.

The dogs, Bane and Hera, attacked and killed Knoller's neighbor,  lacrosse coach Diane Whippple, 33.

Whipple suffered 77 wounds on her body and lost one-third of her  blood, according to trial evidence.

The finding that Knoller had a conscious disregard for human life  provided the basis for a judgment of second-degree murder and the sentence of  15 years to life.

Knoller was convicted of second-degree murder in a 2002 trial, but  the original trial judge, Superior Court Judge James Warren, granted a new  trial on the ground that it wasn't clear that she knew her conduct was likely  to result in death.

After further appeals, the California Supreme Court weighed in on  the case in 2007, saying that the correct legal standard in such cases should  be whether a defendant had a conscious disregard for human life.
     
A new trial judge, Charlotte Woolard, then ruled that Knoller's  conduct met that standard and affirmed the original conviction.

In Friday's ruling, the appeals court said Knoller "knew that her  conduct was dangerous to human life and acted with a conscious disregard for  human life" by taking uncontrollable dogs out into the public.

Knoller and her husband, Robert Noel, who were law partners, were  caring for the dogs for a prison inmate, Paul "Cornfed" Schneider, and had  registered themselves as owners in early 2001.

Schneider, whom the couple adopted as their son three days after  the attack, was a member of the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood prison  gang and was planning a guard dog business to be called "Dog-O-War."

Noel, who was not present at the attack, was convicted of  involuntary manslaughter.

Knoller could appeal again to the California Supreme Court and  then in the federal court system. Her lawyer on appeal, Dennis Riordan, was  not immediately available for comment.

Deputy California Attorney General Amy Haddix, who represented  prosecutors in the appeal, said, "I think the court did a good job of  disposing of the issues."

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