Sentencing set today for couple convicted in SF dog mauling

By Ron Harris, The Associated Press
Friday June 07, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco couple convicted on charges related to the fatal dog mauling of their neighbor were scheduled for sentencing Friday, though a judge first was expected to rule on a bid for a new trial. 

Marjorie Knoller and her husband, Robert Noel, were caretakers of the two large presa canarios that pounced on their neighbor, college lacrosse coach Diane Whipple, and mauled her to death at her apartment doorstep last year. 

Knoller was convicted in March of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and keeping a mischievous dog that kills. She faces 15 years to life in prison. Noel was convicted of the involuntary manslaughter and mischievous dog charges, and could be sentenced to four years. 

Knoller is seeking a new trial on grounds she received ineffective counsel from her trial lawyer, Nedra Ruiz. 

In documents filed in San Francisco Superior Court, Knoller’s new lawyers, Dennis Riordan and Dylan Schaffer, argue to Judge James Warren that Ruiz’ poor performance during the trial in Los Angeles deprived Knoller of her right to competent representation. 

Knoller’s lawyers also argued her conviction should be dropped because a judge improperly allowed prosecutors to associate Knoller with the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, and that Knoller cannot legally be convicted of both murder and involuntary manslaughter. 

Noel and Knoller, both lawyers, last year adopted the dogs’ owner, Pelican Bay State Prison inmate Paul “Cornfed” Schneider, an avowed member of the white supremacist prison gang Aryan Brotherhood. 

“Had jurors been properly instructed, it is likely they would not have returned a verdict of murder,” Knoller’s lawyers said in documents supporting their client’s request for a new trial. 

Prosecutors said they were confident Warren will dismiss the motion.