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Murder Conviction Upheld in for Woman in Fatal Dog Attack Case

In 2001, college lacrosse coach Diane Whipple was attacked and viciously mauled by two "Presa Canario" dogs in the hallway of her San Francisco apartment building. When the dogs finally left Whipple, she had lost 33 percent of the blood in her body through more than 70 wounds. She was dead before emergency crews arrived.

Following the fatal dog attack, Marjorie Knoller was tried for and convicted of second-degree murder. The ruling was not without questions, and the Superior Court judge who sentenced her acknowledged that a new trial might take place in the future.

Finally, in 2007, the California Supreme Court ruled that the "correct legal standard in such cases should be whether a defendant had a conscious disregard for human life." (Mercury News)

The two dogs involved in the attack were powerful, strong-willed examples of a breed known to be aggressive if not properly socialized and trained. Most would probably agree that a Presa Canario is not the sort of animal you take to live in an apartment complex.

Strong will aside, the breed is one that needs ample exercise and space to expend energy. Keeping an animal like that in an apartment will more often than not lead to restlessness and frustration, emotions which can evolve into aggression.

Did Knoller "willfully engage in behavior that was a danger to human life" when she let the dogs into the hallway of her apartment building?

Last week, a California State Appeals panel ruled that Knoller had engaged in such behavior and reaffirmed the 2002 conviction for second-degree murder, resulting in a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.

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