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Jury Selection Begins in Mauling Death

Court: A pool of 280 potential jurors is asked about attitudes toward dogs. A couple are standing trial in the San Francisco case, which was moved to L.A.

January 25, 2002|ANNA GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jury selection began Thursday in the trial of a San Francisco couple charged in connection with the death of a woman who was fatally mauled by their two dogs.

Potential jurors filled out questionnaires that asked about their feelings about dogs, whether they had ever been snapped at or bitten by dogs, and whether they ever had a dog that needed a muzzle.

A judge screened 280 possible jurors in search of a panel for the four- to five-week trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court, where the trial was moved because of publicity in the Bay Area. More prospective jurors are expected in court today.

The trial was moved when Judge James Warren ruled that the defendants--Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel--would have a better chance of finding an unbiased jury in Los Angeles.

One prospective juror Thursday demonstrated that may be a difficult task. She said she valued human life over animals.

"Someone has to account for the death," she said. "The dog can't testify."

Knoller, 46, and Noel, 60, are charged with involuntary manslaughter and keeping a vicious dog. Knoller also faces second-degree murder charges in the death of college lacrosse coach Diane Whipple.

Whipple was attacked on Jan. 26, 2001, by two Presa Canario fighting dogs as she scrambled to unlock her apartment door.

If convicted, Knoller could face 15 years to life in state prison. Noel could receive four years in prison.

Knoller and Noel were allegedly keeping the dogs, Bane and Hera, for state prison inmates who authorities say are members of a white supremacist gang and were running an illegal attack-dog breeding ring.

Opening statements in the trial are expected to start Feb. 19.

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