LOS ANGELES – A San Francisco woman whose dog killed a neighbor would not have been charged with murder if she and her husband had shown remorse and acknowledged responsibility, according to a defense expert's report unsealed Thursday.
Superior Court Judge James Warren, speaking without the jury present, said he was revealing the pre-trial report in response to a defense attorney's claim that San Francisco prosecutors soured public opinion against the couple.
The defense expert found that Marjorie Knoller, 46, and husband Robert Nendants and an image of untruthfulness, lacking of sorrow and blaming the defendant for her own death," the judge quoted from the report, which will not be presented to the trial jury.
Whipple, 33, was attacked by one of the couple's large dogs in a hall of their San Francisco apartment building. Knoller is charged with second-degree murder. Both she and Noel are charged with involuntary manslaughter and keeping a mischievous dog that killed a person.
The couple has said they didn't know the dogs were dangerous, and Knoller said she injured herself trying to save Whipple from the attack.
The judge said the expert, Edward Bronson, "was obtained at enormous cost" by the defense to help argue why the case should be moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles because of publicity.
Bronson was hired by the public defender who initially represented the couple — not their current defense team.
Defense attorney Nedra Ruiz argued Thursday that a skewed grand jury had indicted the couple because San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan had created intense negative publicity.
The judge said those arguments motivated him to reveal the report. He also ruled that prosecutors would be allowed to rebut those claims by presenting evidence that the grand jury was instructed to be fair.