Page One

Judge to hear arguments for separate trials in dog attack

By Kim Curtis The Associated Press
Monday January 14, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO – Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel, the couple accused in last year’s fatal dog mauling of Diane Whipple, will ask a judge Monday to grant them separate trials. 

Their trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, but they filed severance requests earlier this month. A superior court judge is scheduled to hear arguments Monday. 

Whipple was attacked Jan. 26, 2001, by two massive presa canarios that chased her down and mauled her in the apartment hallway she shared with Knoller and Noel. 

Knoller and Noel, both lawyers, face charges of involuntary manslaughter and keeping a vicious dog. Knoller also is charged with second-degree murder. 

Now, neither spouse wants to be associated with the other in court. 

Knoller argued that comments made by her husband to neighbors and the media, including calling Whipple a “timorous mousy blonde,” will prejudice jurors against her. 

Noel says he was not present during the attack and it was his wife who failed to muzzle or control the dogs that day. It was she who failed to call the paramedics and who seemed calm throughout the incident, he said. 

Prosecutor Jim Hammer has said he will vigorously fight the motions. 

Also Monday, Judge James Warren will hear arguments about evidence the couple thinks should be excluded from their trial, which was moved to Los Angeles after the judge decided it would be extremely difficult to find impartial jurors in San Francisco. 

Evidence that Knoller and Noel want excluded from their trial includes: 

• testimony about whether Bane and Hera, the dogs involved in the attack on Whipple, were naturally aggressive. 

• photographs of Bane’s teeth. 

• testimony regarding the couple’s adoption of Pelican Bay inmate Paul “Cornfed” Schneider or Schneider’s involvement in a prison gang. Schneider and Dale Bretches were accused of running a dog breeding ring from prison. Bane and Hera were among their dogs, but allegedly weren’t fit for fighting. 

• any sex-related testimony. Evidence of bestiality reportedly was found during the investigation, but testimony to the grand jury about sex has not been released to the public. 

• evidence or testimony about Whipple’s previous encounter with Noel and the dogs. Whipple’s partner, Sharon Smith, claims Whipple was previously bitten by one of the dogs.