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Judge Throws Out Murder Verdict Against Knoller

June 21, 2002

Re "Mauling Murder Count Voided," June 18: All of us who have served on juries are offended by Judge James Warren's ruling--after the jury deliberated--that a second-degree murder conviction of Marjorie Knoller in the atrocious killing of an innocent woman by viciously trained dogs was inappropriate. The judge could have eliminated second-degree murder as a possibility before the jury deliberated. But he did not. He let the jurors waste their time, which the judge obviously values at zero. All of us who have to serve time in the Superior Court jury waiting rooms know that the judges consider us less than human--and treat us accordingly.

We live not in a democracy but in a "juristocracy." The courts and the judges rule. It does not matter who votes in a law--or a referendum--if a judge disagrees, the issue is dead. Voters have no control over the judiciary branch of government, which is seizing power.

Orville L. Chapman

Los Angeles

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Re "Say No to Jury-Dodging," editorial, June 18, and the dog-mauling verdict: How does a judge find such an obvious preference for lawyers in this case? Testimony clearly showed that the dogs were trained to go for the jugular. If trained to do that, that alone would indicate to any thinking person that their intent is to kill--in this case murder. Who wants to spend two weeks in jury service and have a judge set aside the verdict?

P.S. I have spent two weeks on a jury listening to volumes of technical medical terminology and seeing evidentiary exhibits, graphs, illustrative videos and other visuals in a malpractice suit. We spent two or three days in reaching a verdict. If after all that time and effort our verdict had been set aside, I would find a reason to not serve on a jury again.

Katherine Gerstenberger

Ventura

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The American Heritage Dictionary and California law defines murder as the intentional killing of another with malice aforethought. There is no evidence that Marjorie Knoller intended to kill Diane Whipple by deliberately unleashing her dog for that purpose. Criminally irresponsible? Yes!

Knoller is also guilty of being repugnant and arrogant, but that should not influence the decision. It is not the duty of either a judge or jury to assume the role of "thought police," and to do so sets a dangerous precedent. The case deserves to be revisited, with a judge providing better legal instructions to the jury.

Bonnie O'Neil

Newport Beach

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