SF dog attack judge defends ruling

Tuesday July 16, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO— The trial judge in the dog mauling case on Monday defended his decision to toss out a second-degree murder conviction against Marjorie Knoller. 

Prosecutor James Hammer and Sharon Smith, whose partner Diane Whipple was mauled to death, were among the critics who said that Judge James Warren had “stolen justice” from them by overturning the jury’s decision. 

“There was a statement made that this court has destroyed a sense of justice in the city of San Francisco,” Warren said before sentencing Knoller to four years in prison on the other conviction, involuntary manslaughter. 

“I certainly hope that is correct. I hope that is the result that I accomplished,” Warren said in an unusual soliloquy: 

“A sense of justice is precisely what this court will never become involved in creating. 

“A sense of justice is personal. It is infected with bias, prejudice, public opinion, public feeling, everything that the court should not be involved in. 

“A sense of justice was achieved by vigilante posses. 

“A sense of justice, I suggest, was achieved by Ku Klux Klan members and I daresay a sense of justice was achieved by people who flew airplanes into buildings not so long ago. 

“That is not justice. That is not justice, in fact. It is a sense of justice that is personal. And it is precisely that which this court will seek to avoid. We will administer justice, in fact, in this case without regard to whether anyone feels that a sense of justice on a personal level has been achieved.” 

Warren said he believed he had managed the trial well, given its sensational nature. 

Knoller and her husband, Robert Noel, were caring for the presa canario dogs that killed Whipple, a 33-year-old lacrosse coach, in the hallway of her upscale apartment building in January 2001. They enraged San Francisco by denying responsibility and refusing to apologize. 

“I wish I were superhuman judge but I am not. I do not have every one of the 60 or 70,000 cases dealing with second-degree murder at the tip of my tongue or the tip of my hand,” Warren said.