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  • Writer's pictureKim Curtis

Harsher penalty sought for killer-dog owner

Updated: Feb 15, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO – Calling two 100-pound plus dogs that fatally mauled a San Francisco woman in 2001 “predatory killing machines,” a prosecutor Tuesday asked the California Supreme Court to uphold a second-degree murder conviction against a lawyer who owned the dogs.

“The defendants were fully on notice they had wild, uncontrollable dogs who were virtually certain to attack,” said Amy Haddix, a deputy state attorney general who argued that a judge erred in reducing Marjorie Knoller’s conviction to manslaughter.

Knoller’s lawyer, Dennis Riordan, disagreed, saying his client had to know the Presa Canarios, Bane and Hera, were more than just dangerous – she had to know they were going to kill someone.

In reviewing Knoller’s murder conviction, the high court’s seven justices were asked to more clearly define the concept of implied malice. Is it enough to consciously disregard someone’s safety? Or must a defendant know an action is likely to cause death?

The fatal attack took place in the hallway of a Pacific Heights apartment building where Knoller and her husband lived down the hall from Diane Whipple, 33, a college lacrosse coach.

Whipple was returning to her apartment Jan. 26, 2001, with groceries when the pair of muscular hounds pulled their owner down the hallway to attack her. They tore her clothes off and left her bleeding to death.

The case quickly became national news because of the viciousness of the attack and the seemingly cavalier attitudes of Knoller and her law partner and husband, Robert Noel, who blamed Whipple for the incident. They also said they were keeping the canines on behalf of a white supremacist accused of running an attack dog ring from his state prison cell. The couple eventually adopted the prisoner, Paul “Cornfed” Schneider, as their son.

A jury convicted Knoller of second-degree murder and Noel of manslaughter, but a judge quickly overturned Knoller’s verdict, saying she didn’t realize her actions were likely to cause Whipple’s death.

But the 1st District Court of Appeal disagreed and reinstated the conviction. Knoller appealed that decision, sending the case to the high court.


PUBLISHED: March 7, 2007 at 12:00 am | UPDATED: August 29, 2017 at 2:45 am


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