- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) The jury in the San Francisco dog-mauling trial reached verdicts yesterday on four of five counts facing a couple accused in the death of a neighbor, then adjourned until today to consider the last charge.
Superior Court Judge James L. Warren told the jury foreman to seal the completed verdicts in an envelope, which was to be kept under lock overnight. There was no indication which of the five counts remained undecided.
"When the jury comes back with all the verdicts, we will read all the verdicts," the judge said.
Robert Noel, 60, and his wife, Marjorie Knoller, 46, are charged in the death of neighbor Diane Whipple, 33, who was fatally mauled on Jan. 26, 2001, outside her apartment by at least one of the couple's dogs.
Mrs. Knoller is charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and keeping a mischievous dog that killed a person. She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Mr. Noel, who wasn't home at the time of the attack, faces only the latter two charges. He faces up to four years if he is convicted.
The jury's decision on the four verdicts came late on the second day of deliberations, after the panel had listened to a reading of testimony, including sections of one defendant's testimony to the grand jury that issued indictments in the case.
Behind closed doors, a court reporter read sections of Mr. Noel's testimony before a grand jury about the dogs and an incident in which a neighbor said one of the dogs lunged at him.
The segments were brief and mainly involved Mr. Noel answering "no" to questions about whether he considered the animals aggressive. Mr. Noel did not testify during the five-week trial.
The jury also asked to hear Mr. Noel's testimony about an incident in which neighbor Skip Cooley said he and his wife were the subject of a scary confrontation in the building.
Mr. Cooley, who lived next door to the defendants, testified that one of the dogs once lunged at him as he got out of an elevator. Mr. Noel discussed the incident during grand jury hearings.
Mr. Cooley said the dogs were normally docile toward him. But he said they became "attentive" toward his 5-foot-tall wife, who weighed less than the animals.
Mr. Cooley said the dogs appeared to go "on alert" when his wife was present. Her build is similar to that of Miss Whipple.


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