LOS ANGELES – A woman whose huge dog killed a neighbor denied Tuesday that she blamed the victim for the attack, and testified that her greatest mistake was not understanding how violent her beloved dog could become.
"I was angry at some of the things being said," defendant Marjorie Knoller told the jury as she tried to explain comments she made to the news media following the fatal attack on Diane Whipple last year.
"Do you blame Diane Whipple?" defense attorney Nedra Ruiz asked.
"No, never have," Knoller said.
"Did you ever claim you were not responsible for what happened?" Ruiz asked.
"I said in an interview I was not responsible but it was not in regard to the attack. It was in not knowing what he would do," Knoller said.
Knoller, 46 is accused of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and owning a mischievous dog that killed a person. Her husband, Robert Noel, 60, who was away at the time, is charged with the latter two counts. Both are attorneys.
Whipple was attacked by one of the couple's Presa Canarios as she carried groceries in the hallway of her San Francisco apartment building on Jan. 26, 2001.
"It was a bizarre event," Knoller said. "How could you imagine a dog that was gentle and loving could do something so horrible and brutal and disgusting and gruesome?"
Much of Knoller's second day of testimony focused on her own injuries. A doctor briefly testified to support her claim that the dog, Bane, bit her as she fought to protect Whipple.
She showed scars to the jury and identified pictures of bruises on her body.
"It was a battle," Knoller said. "It was between 10 and 20 minutes. It seemed like an eternity. ... I finally was able to get to my feet and I was restraining him with everything I had left. I was holding on to him for dear life and hoping he wouldn't go back to doing what he had been doing. I wanted to get him away from Diane Whipple."
Knoller said she knew Whipple was gravely injured and at one point applied pressure to the side of her bleeding neck while still trying to hold the dog.
She said she finally decided it was more important to get the dog out of the hallway and into her apartment. She said she also was distracted by trying to locate her other dog, Hera, which was running loose.
In the weeks afterward, she said, she and Noel traveled around California, eventually staying at a friend's South Lake Tahoe home. She described her mental state then as "abysmal."
The physician who testified briefly, Cedars Sinai Medical Center emergency room supervisor Dr. David Barcay, said that, based on pictures he examined, Knoller's injuries appeared identical to bite marks found on Whipple.
But on cross-examination he said he never examined Knoller and looked at only two photos submitted by the defense for evaluation of her injuries. He said he was not told until Tuesday that he would be asked to make a comparison to Whipple's injuries.