A federal appeals court has upheld the second-degree murder conviction and 15-year sentence of Marjorie Knoller in the notorious San Francisco dog mauling case that resulted in the death of her neighbor.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Wednesday that while threatening a defense lawyer with jail for raising an objection during trial, coupled with the prosecutor’s inappropriate argument, “rose to the level of constitutional error.” But the panel held that Knoller failed to show that created “actual prejudice,” in a nonprecedential order.
Knoller, along with her husband, Robert Noel, were both lawyers in 2001 and had been caring for two large Presa Canario dogs for their client, Paul “Cornfed” Schneider while he was in Pelican Bay State Prison. Schneider, a purported Aryan Brotherhood prison gang member, allegedly planned to use the dogs for a guard dog business.
Knoller walked the two dogs outside her apartment when they attacked and killed her neighbor, Diane Whipple, a 33-year-old lacrosse coach. The grim details of the case drew international attention.
Knoller was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison while Noel, who was not there at the time of the attack, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and has since served his time in prison and been released.
She remains in state prison in Chowchilla.
Case: Knoller v. Miller, No. 14-16449