Lawyers Want Murder Conviction Reinstated in Dog-Mauling Death

Prosecutors asked an appeals court Tuesday to reinstate a murder conviction for a woman who served two years in prison for manslaughter in the dog-mauling death of a neighbor.

Separately, Marjorie Knoller's (search) attorneys asked the court to reverse her March 2002 conviction in the death of 33-year-old Diane Whipple (search).

Whipple was attacked in the hallway of their San Francisco apartment building in January 2001 by two mammoth Presa Canario dogs (search) Knoller and her husband were watching. Knoller's husband, Robert Noel, was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter and is seeking to have his conviction overturned.

The couple's trial judge overturned the jury's second-degree murder verdict for Knoller, saying he believed the evidence failed to show that she had known the dogs were likely to kill someone. Noel was not convicted of murder because he was not with Knoller at the time of Whipple's death.

However, state prosecutor Amy Haddix said Tuesday that Knoller knew the dogs were dangerous. "These dogs are capable of extreme force and violence," Haddix said. "They have very large teeth."

Dennis Riordan, one of Knoller's attorneys, countered that the state was asking the appeals court to "eliminate the power of a judge" to insure a jury's verdict was consistent with the evidence.

Riordan argued in his appeal to have the conviction overturned that the trial judge erred when he forbade Knoller's trial attorney from being able to object during the state's closing arguments.

Haddix said the prosecutor had not said anything objectionable during his closing argument.

Knoller, 49, a former defense attorney, was released last year from prison and now lives in Florida. Noel, 63, was released and paroled to Solano County, north of San Francisco.