Justice mauled. (Courts).
Superior court judge James Warren stunned court observers June 17 by overturning the second-degree murder conviction of Marjorie Knoller during the sentencing phase of the infamous San Francisco dog-mauling trial. Knoller and husband Robert Noel owned two presa canario dogs that fatally attacked their neighbor Diane Whipple in January 2001. In March Knoller and Noel were each found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Knoller, who was present during the attack, was also convicted of second-degree murder. Warren, who during the trial denied a defense motion to dismiss the murder charge, suddenly voided the jury's decision, apparently because it was not proved that Knoller knew the dogs would kill Whipple. Warren handed Noel the maximum four-year prison term while postponing Knoller's sentencing to allow prosecutors time to respond.
"We're going to continue the fight," San Francisco deputy district attorney James Hammer told The Advocate. "But the big issue here is not the legal issue, it's [Whipple's surviving partner] Sharon Smith. She suffered so much through the first trial that to live through this again, especially having seen the judge take this away from her, I'm just not sure."