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Man's Case Hinges on Competence of Knoller, Noel

July 23, 2002|From Associated Press

CRESCENT CITY, Calif. — Incompetent lawyering by the couple convicted of manslaughter in the dog attack death of a San Francisco woman probably will result in the overturning of a prison guard's assault conviction, officials said.

Del Norte County Superior Court Judge William Follett ruled earlier this month that former correctional officer Jose Ramon Garcia received incompetent legal representation in his 1998 trial.

"What this says is Jose served a couple years in prison he shouldn't have," said Garcia's new lawyer, Dennis Riordan. "There was no legal basis for the time he served."

Garcia was represented by husband-and-wife attorneys Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller, who were convicted in March of involuntary manslaughter in the death of their neighbor, Diane Whipple.

Prosecutors have 30 days to appeal, but Dist. Atty. Jim Fallman said it is unlikely they will.

"These same defense attorneys later proved their incompetence when they got on TV in the dog-mauling case and got themselves convicted in that case," he said.

Garcia was convicted of conspiracy to assault inmates and sentenced to about four years. He was released on parole in spring 2001.

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