Dog bite expert & animal behavior specialist

Richard H. Polsky, PhD, CDBC
Los Angeles, California

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San Francisco dog mauling defendant has murder conviction upheld

In what might be the final word on the infamous San Francisco dog mauling case, defendant Margarie Knoller, had her second-degree murder conviction reinstated by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charlene Woodlard, in a September, 2008 ruling.

In the original 2003 jury trial, Knoller was found guilty of second-degree murder by a jury in Los Angeles, and sentenced to15 years to life, but then subsequently trial judge, James Warren, took the unusual step of overturning the conviction, and reducing the verdict to involuntary manslaughter. Warren reasoned that there was a lack of evidence to support second-degree murder, which was in fact the overwhelming opinion of most television legal experts commenting on the case.

Subsequently, over the next five years the case was heard at the appellate level, and then by the California Supreme Court, which decided that the case should be returned to the Superior Court for resolution.

Superior Court Judge Woodlard ruled that Knoller acted with “conscious disregard for human life”, apparently the legal standard needed for second-degree murder conviction, when her two Presa Canaro dogs attacked Whipple, a 33-year-old lacrosse court coach in the mutually shared hallway of a Pacific Heights apartment building in January, 2001.

In the months preceding the initial trial and during the trial, the case received much publicity, and became rather bizarre after it was learned that the defendant and her husband obtained the dogs from prison inmate, Paul Schneider, a ringleader in the Aryan brotherhood, who from prison was trying to establish a guard dog business on the Internet called “Dog-of-War.”

Subsequently, the defendant and her husband, both practicing attorneys in San Francisco, adopted Schneider as their son, only three days after Whipple’s death. Shortly after the mauling, the both defendants went on national television, defending themselves and their dogs, claiming that the victim must of been on steroids at the time of the attack. This video was shown to the jury by the prosecution at trial. Further allegations were made by the prosecution that the defendant engaged in sex with the dogs, but this was not allowed in as evidence at trial. Many legal experts felt that the defendants were their own worst enemy.

Throughout this ordeal, noted appellate attorney Dennis Riordan, has repeatedly maintained, the remorsefulness of Knoller, that the second-degree murder conviction was unconstitutional, and that the case was both politically and illegally driven.

Additional information can be found at http://www.sfdogmauling.com