I just saw this story resurface in the news and instantly remembered it because of the widespread attention it garnered. Back in 2001, Marjorie Knoller was convicted of a manslaughter offense for not stopping an attack by her two dogs on a la crosse coach in her building in the San Francisco area. The New York Times reports on the story here.
Originally, Marjorie wsa sentenced to 4 years in prison, now she is facing 15 to 99 years, as the original conviction was set aside by a superior court and returned to the trial level.
Citing that Marjorie expressed no remorse and held her dogs in higher regard than human life, the judge sentenced her to the higher penalty. Law.com says this about the matter:
The case turned into a tabloid sensation because of the viciousness of the attack — the dogs tore all of Whipple’s clothing from her body and left her with more than 70 bites — and the seemingly cavalier attitudes of Knoller and her law partner and husband, Robert Noel, who blamed Whipple for the attack.
The couple also said they were keeping the canines on behalf of a white supremacist accused of running an attack dog ring from his state prison cell. The couple eventually adopted the prisoner, Paul "Cornfed" Schneider, as their son.
Knoller, who has served three years in prison, will have to serve 12 more years before she can apply for parole.
In denying Knoller’s plea for probation, Woolard noted that Knoller didn’t call 911 or otherwise try to help Whipple during the 10-minute attack. The judge said Knoller knew the dogs were dangerous, ignored numerous warnings to train them and hasn’t expressed remorse for the attack.
"She has blamed the victim and has held her dogs in higher regard than humans," Woolard said.
Whipple’s partner, Sharon Smith, addressed Knoller before she was led off to jail. Smith called Knoller’s relationship with the two dogs and the prisoner "perverted" and expressed satisfaction with the lengthy prison sentence.
"It is very hard to find forgiveness for someone who doesn’t accept responsibility," Smith said.
What the California Supreme Court said on the matter when determining the appropriate standard for "implied malice" is stated below:
… according to the Supreme Court, the "Court of Appeal set the bar too low" and "the trial court set the bar too high."
"In short, implied malice requires a defendant’s awareness of engaging in conduct that endangers the life of another — no more, and no less," Kennard wrote in People v. Knoller, 07 C.D.O.S. 6178. She also reaffirmed the implied malice test the court set in 1966 with People v. Phillips, 64 Cal.2d 574, which requires that a person act "with conscious disregard for life."
According to Kenneth Phillips, a Beverly Hills dog bite attorney who watched the Knoller trial closely, the ruling makes prosecuting dog mauling cases more difficult.
"A dog owner is never going to be aware of the risk of death," he said.
Although the Supreme Court said that Judge Warren gave the 2002 jury proper instructions, he granted the new trial based on an inaccurate definition of implied malice. The "high probability of death" standard was just one of two parts of the implied malice test set forth in 1953′s People v. Thomas, 41 Cal.2d 470, and Judge Warren had applied it incorrectly, the court said.
So there are three points to this story from my point of view:
1) Whenever a person is going to be sentenced in Court, show some kind of remorse… it really should not be that difficult considering what they are facing, and if they are truely remorseless, then I guess they get what they "deserve."
2) Know your dog, or keep it away from the public.
3) This decision is a bit troubling to me because of the standard applied, "a defendant’s awareness of engaging in conduct that endangers the life of another." Taking the dogs out seems to be a far cry from this unless she sent the dogs to attack the victim or stood by and did nothing to help the victim or try to stop the attack. Bottom line, most jurors said they did not like Knoller and found her testimony "inconsistent."