Monday, March 25, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 115



Knoller's murder conviction unfair

Richard W. Whitrock

When Marjorie Knoller was convicted of murder for the mauling death of Diane Whipple, most Americans knew very little about the case. Since
the conviction, however, that has changed dramatically.

Despite the fact that Knoller's lawyers were grossly incompetent and did little to aid in her defense (some even say they hindered it), many
people were surprised at the guilty verdict. I, for one, am most certainly surprised at it, and the entire sham of a trial, for that matter.

After researching the case, verdict and trial itself, it is evident to me that there are serious problems with both the U.S. legal system and the
moral fiber of many Americans. All around, the entire situation makes me sick.

Before going any farther, there are a few things I wish to get out in the open. I do not think Knoller should get off scot-free. She is at least partially
responsible for the actions of animals under her care. Also, her blatant disregard for the human life that was taken by her pets is sickening and
should in some way be punished.

That said, I believe wholeheartedly that a guilty verdict for murder is wrong in this case. As the prosecution pointed out, many people had warned
Knoller that her Presa Canario dogs were dangerous. In fact, she had ignored these opinions from more than 30 people, which was most
certainly irresponsible of her.

However, how is it criminal not to follow advice? I once told Bill Gates that he should give me $3 million is it criminal of him not to do so?

Presa Canarios, incidentally, are bred to guard cattle and experts say that, if properly trained, the dogs are safe.

Many breeds of dogs are dangerous and aggressive. Rottweilers, Dobermans, German shepherds and countless other breeds are extremely
protective by nature, and as anyone who has ever owned one of these breeds can tell you, it is a very common thing to be told that these animals
can be dangerous.

Many dogs just have a reputation based on their size, regardless of temperament, and therefore the owners are "warned" about how
"dangerous" their dogs are at first sight.

Does this mean that the owners are required by law to destroy their dogs based on the biased opinions of people who speak more on the
reputation of an animal than on its individual nature?

In Knoller's case, the person who raised the dogs warned her the female was dangerous. She had, however, said the male was perfectly fine
and that she even considered him a "clown." Obviously, she was wrong so much for the advice of others.

In all truthfulness, I have no problem with the manslaughter charge, or even the having-a-mischievous-dog-that-killed- someone charge.

I could theoretically even agree with the murder charge. I wasn't there and I wasn't on the jury, so I can't really say what she was or was not guilty

My biggest problem, however, is that she was charged with all three of these crimes, and they all allege the same thing. In this country, we have
a double-jeopardy law that prevents people from being tried for the same crime twice. It is in the spirit of this law that I condemn the practice of
charging someone with three different versions of one crime.

The tactic is that if someone is charged with enough crimes over one incident, the chances of a conviction go up (not to mention the fact that it
makes a plea bargain easier, all of it geared towards forcing a guilty verdict or plea).

This is all great and wonderful for the guilty and for improving conviction rates, but the simple fact of the matter is that guilt should be proven, not

I believe that charging a person with three different versions of one crime for the same incident is wrong, especially when the only real difference
in the charges is their severity.

Whitrock, a freshman university 
studies student, can be reached at


To contact the Opinon Section Editor, send e-mail to

To contact other members of 
The Daily Cougar Online staff, 


Advertise in The Daily Cougar

Student Publications
University of Houston
151C Communication Bldg
Houston, Texas 77204-4015

©2005, Student Publications. All rights reserved.
Permissions/Web Use Policy


Last upMonday, March 25, 2002:

Visit The Daily Cougar