Judge OKs venue change

By Kim Curtis Associated Press Writer
Saturday September 15, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO – Acknowledging it would be “extremely difficult” to find a fair and impartial jury here, a judge agreed Friday to move the trial of Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel outside San Francisco. 

The couple face manslaughter charges in the January dog-mauling death of a neighbor, 33-year-old Diane Whipple. Knoller also faces second-degree murder charges because she was in the apartment hallway with the two dogs when they attacked. 

Judge James L. Warren, who said extensive publicity most likely would force the trial to Southern California, also pushed back the trial’s start date, from Oct. 22 to Jan. 21, to accommodate the change. 

Prosecutors did not object to the change of venue. Lawyers were expected to meet next week to discuss possible counties where the trial could be held. 

The judge also granted the media’s request to release most of the grand jury transcript, which had previously been sealed. 

Roger Myers, the lawyer representing several media organizations including The Associated Press, said he was pleased the nearly 1,000-page transcript would finally be released to the public, but was disappointed it took nearly five months. 

Warren decided to keep about a dozen pages sealed, saying that material was “inflammatory and inappropriate.” 

“The damage to the defense and the ability to have a fair trial would be immense,” he said. The court is expected to release the transcript next Thursday. 

Also Friday, the judge denied the media’s request to lift a gag order in the case, saying the “spin conferences” often held by lawyers in the court’s hallway would “poison the jury pool.”