The on-going litigation over the murder case of lawyers Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel has resulted in another ruling in San Franscisco. A Superior Court judge has reinstated the conviction of Knoller in the 2002 second-degree murder of her apartment neighbor Diane Whipple. Whipple was savagely attacked by Knoller’s and Noel’s two Presa Canario dogs. The case has taken many legal turns and this ruling will now return Knoller to jail.
The Whipple case helped establish both criminal and civil precedents on the liability for vicious dogs. The common law has long recognized a “one free bite rule,” where owners are not strictly liable for dogs (as they are for wild animals) until they have notice of the vicious propensities of their dog. The rule is a bit of a misnomer since you actually do not need a free bite to be put on such notice — as in the case of Whipple. Various neighbors complained about the dogs, which the couple inherited from a convict. Paul “Cornfed” Schneider is a reputed member of the Aryan Brotherhood and was planning a guard-dog business to be called “Dog-O-War.” Three days after Whipple’s death, the couple adopted Schneider as their son.
Judge Charlotte Woolard ruled that Knoller, 53, “acted with conscious disregard for human life” when two Presa Canarios Whipple, a 33-year-old lacrosse coach, in the hallway of their apartment building on Jan. 26, 2001.
The mauling of Whipple lasted for 10 minutes and produced a horrific scene before the gods, Bane and Hera were pulled away. Whipple suffered 77 wounds and lost one-third of her blood.
Knoller never called 9-11 and was accused of being largely passive during much of the attack.
Knoller’s second-degree murder conviction of Knoller was subsequently overturned by Judge James Warren for a lesser, involuntary manslaughter conviction. She served three years of a four-year prison sentence, and was released on parole with credit for good behavior while in prison.
Noel was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and also spent three years in prison.
In 2007, the state Supreme Court ruled that Warren used the wrong standard in reducing Knoller’s conviction and ordered a new hearing on whether the second-degree murder conviction was the correct one. The court this week reinstated the verdict.
Knoller, who now lives in Florida, faces a maximum of 15 years to life in prison.
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