Judge allows Knoller to argue for new trial

The Associated Press
Saturday April 13, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — The woman convicted of second-degree murder in the dog mauling death of her neighbor has a new set of defense attorneys and a chance to convince a San Francisco judge she deserves a new trial. 

Superior Court Judge James Warren acknowledged the prosecution’s request for a speedy resolution but granted Marjorie Knoller’s requests Friday because of the case’s “unprecedented” nature. He delayed her sentencing date from May 10 to June 7. 

Knoller was convicted in the January 2001 mauling death of Diane Whipple, a college lacrosse coach who lived next door to Knoller in a San Francisco apartment building. Knoller faces 15 years to life in prison after becoming the first Californian convicted of second-degree murder in such as case. 

The same Los Angeles jury also convicted Knoller and her husband, Robert Noel, of manslaughter. He faces up to four years in prison. 

On Friday, Warren also granted Noel’s request to argue for a new trial. 

Warren said by June 7 he will either sentence the two, or grant them a new trial. San Francisco attorney Dennis Riordan, who with two other lawyers will replace Nedra Ruiz as Knoller’s defense team, said the evidence against Knoller was insufficient. 

Ruiz said Friday she was “totally on board” with Riordan taking over. 

During the trial, Ruiz’s dramatic style got her into trouble with the judge. Legal experts questioned her courtroom antics — at one point she got on her hands and knees to imitate a dog. 

“If I made mistakes I’m happy to admit them,” Ruiz told reporters. “I look forward to having Marjorie have a new and fair trial.” 

Prosecutor Jim Hammer said the conviction will stand because the jury carefully considered its decision. “It’s unfortunate Ms. Ruiz attacked the jury and their verdict,” he said.