Parole denied to attorney serving life sentence in San Francisco dog mauling

In this Feb. 19, 2002, photo, Marjorie Knoller weeps as her attorney describes the death of Diane Whipple. California commissioners on Thursday denied parole for the former San Francisco attorney serving a life sentence in the dog-mauling case.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times )

California commissioners denied parole Thursday for a former San Francisco attorney serving a life sentence in a bizarre dog-mauling case that tested the limits of the state’s murder laws.

Marjorie Knoller is serving a sentence of 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder after her dogs attacked and killed her neighbor, Diane Whipple, 33, in their San Francisco apartment building in 2001.

Commissioners decided Knoller can try again in three years, said parole board spokesman Luis Patino.


From the archives: Marjorie Knoller, the dog attack and the importance of being human »

Thursday’s hearing was Knoller’s first chance at release during her second stint in prison. She was initially freed in 2004 when a judge reduced her second-degree murder conviction to involuntary manslaughter, but she was sent back when another court reinstated the tougher conviction.

The California Supreme Court eventually decided Knoller acted with a conscious disregard for human life when her 140-pound Presa Canario escaped and killed Whipple. The sentencing judge said Knoller did little to stop the attack.

Whipple, the women’s lacrosse coach at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, bled to death from 73 bites, including fatal injuries to the neck.

By policy, parole officials won’t release the name of the attorney who represented Knoller at her hearing. Two attorneys who represented her at her sentencing, Don Horgan and Dennis Riordan, said they were no longer involved with her case and couldn’t comment on her behalf.


Knoller’s husband and law partner, Robert Noel, wasn’t home at the time but was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and failing to exercise care with an attack dog. He was sentenced to four years in prison and paroled in 2003.

The couple said they were keeping the dogs in their apartment on behalf of a state prisoner whom they eventually adopted as their son.