New trial denied in fatal dog mauling case

August 22, 2008 6:16:17 PM PDT
Marjorie Knoller is back in jail after the murder sentence she escaped serving six years ago, caught up with her again.

There is a saying in French that means roughly, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and this is an example of that. The best Marjorie Knoller's attorney could have hoped for was granting of a new trial, and they didn't get it. Knoller is back in jail, awaiting sentencing for a conviction she thought she'd beat.

Walking in to court this morning would be Marjorie Knoller's last act as a free woman.

In 2002, a jury found her guilty of second degree murder for the dog mauling death of her neighbor, Diane Whipple.

But trial judge James Warren reduced the sentence to involuntary manslaughter, and Knoller was out of prison the next year.

But after winding its way through the courts, the case was back before another judge, who re-instated the jury's murder verdict.

Whipple's partner, Sharon Smith, was there.

"Being here today, seeing Marjorie Knoller for the first time in six years it just erases the last six years of my life. I feel like I'm right back in it, all the tragedy, all the memories come flooding in," said Smith.

Judge Warren reduced the conviction because he said he believed Knoller when she said she had no idea her dogs could kill.

But on Friday, Judge Charlotte Woolard agreed with the Deputy Attorney General that Knoller's testimony was not credible. The judge also agreed that there was plenty of evidence to support the definition of murder.

"The evidence was absolutely overwhelming. It took the court 20 minutes to summarize the evidence that was shown in this case that showed a conscious disregard for life," said Attorney General Amy Haddix.

Jim Hammer was the prosecutor in the original case.

"A real woman died for no good reason. That's what a San Francisco grand jury said, the LA jury said, what the Supreme Court said and now Judge Woolard said it," said Hammer.

But Knoller's defense attorney says it not over. He will appeal.

"I don't think anyone should have any confidence that this murder verdict is going to be upheld," said Knoller's attorney Dennis Riordan.

Knoller and her husband Robert Noel were living in a Pacific Heights apartment with two Presa Canario dogs, when one of those dogs attacked and killed Whipple in the building hallway. Noel was not there when the attack happened. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Noel was out on parole in September of 2003. Knoller will be sentenced on September 22. She could get between 15 years and life, though she will get credit for time already served. She's being held with no bail.


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