- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) Against a backdrop of bloody autopsy pictures, a prosecutor implored jurors yesterday to convict two dog owners in the mauling death of a neighbor.
According to the prosecutor, the dog owners ignored the warning signs of their "time-bomb" animals.
"There were earlier explosions, but this time they killed a woman," prosecutor Jim Hammer told the jury.
Jurors later heard a defense attorney suggest prosecutors were pandering to San Francisco's homosexual community and that the victim's lesbian partner lied on the stand. The case was moved to Los Angeles because of extensive publicity in the Bay area.
The case was expected to go to the jury today, following the prosecution's rebuttal.
Holding up a cast of the gaping teeth of the dog that killed Diane Whipple, the prosecutor pointed to the defendants and said, "Do not let them get away with their lies, and don't let Marjorie Knoller get away with murder."
Mrs. Knoller is charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and owning a mischievous dog that killed a person. She could receive 15 years in prison if convicted. Her husband, Robert Noel, is charged with the latter two crimes and faces up to four years if convicted.
Mrs. Knoller's attorney, Nedra Ruiz, said that maybe the prosecution "wants to curry favor with the homosexual and gay folks."
Miss Ruiz accused the victim's partner, Sharon Smith, of lying when she testified that Miss Whipple suffered a previous bite by one of the dogs and feared them.
"Sharon Smith has every right to sue for the wrongful death of her girlfriend," Miss Ruiz said. "But she has no right to come here with false testimony and try to frame Marjorie Knoller for murder."
Mr. Noel's attorney, Bruce Hotchkiss, told the jury that the mauling was a tragic but unforeseeable accident.
"It's a case full of passion and prejudice," he said of the prosecutor's argument. "You saw a lot of passion here this morning, and the reason you saw a lot of passion is because that's all there is to this criminal case."
He presented a slide show of the dogs, Bane and Hera, with their owners at San Francisco tourist spots, where he said no one was afraid of them.
Earlier, Mr. Hammer recounted a television interview in which Mrs. Knoller was asked if she took responsibility for Miss Whipple's death.
"And cold as ice, she said, 'No, she should have closed her door. That's what I would have done,'" Mr. Hammer said.
Mr. Hammer ridiculed Mrs. Knoller's testimony in which she painted herself as a hero who tried to save the life of Miss Whipple, 33, killed as she brought groceries to her San Francisco apartment on Jan. 26, 2001.
Mrs. Knoller claimed she threw herself on top of Miss Whipple to protect her from the dog, Bane, one of two massive presa canario dogs the couple kept.
But it was too late by then, Mr. Hammer argued. He said Mrs. Knoller and Mr. Noel should have known that their dogs could become killers at any moment.
He showed jurors charts recounting the testimony of more than 30 witnesses who said that Bane and the other dog, Hera, lunged at them, barked and growled, in one case bit a man, and terrorized people in their building and outside.
"By January 26, it was not a question of whether someone was going to be mauled," Mr. Hammer said. "The only question was when and who and where. That is the issue in this case: What did they know before January 26? They knew they couldn't control the dogs and they knew what the dogs could do."
The prosecutor pointed to a letter in which Mrs. Knoller said that if Bane were to get away from her, she could not stop him, and to comments by Mr. Noel that his wife alone could not control the dogs.
"That was reckless and flagrant disregard, because they didn't give a damn about people," the prosecutor said.



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