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Two attorneys indicted in the dog-mauling death of a San Francisco woman will be arraigned today on felony charges, although neither has yet retained counsel. Both were fingerprinted, photographed and booked into county jail last night after they were returned from Tehama County, in Northern California, where they had been presented with San Francisco grand jury indictments handed up Tuesday. Prosecutors asked that Marjorie Knoller, charged with second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and failure to control a vicious dog be placed under a sheriff’s department suicide watch in the medical psych unit, because of erratic behavior. Her husband, Robert Noel, charged with involuntary manslaughter and failure to control the dog, was being classified to determine the most appropriate housing within the jail for him, said Eileen Hirst, Sheriff Michael Hennessey’s chief of staff. Their court appearance commences what could be a long and tempestuous journey through the criminal justice system for two criminal defense attorneys who have made their living in those very courts. Noel, 59, and Knoller, 45, are defendants in a case in which two Presa Canario dogs they cared for attacked and mauled to death college lacrosse coach Diane Whipple in the corridor of an apartment building in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, where the attorneys and victim both lived. After their indictment, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Lenard Louie set bond for Knoller at $2 million and for Noel at $1 million. When the two were brought before Tehama Superior Court Judge John Garaventa Wednesday, they were told that if they attempted to use real property to bail out, their bond would be doubled to $4 million for Knoller and $2 million for Noel, a court clerk said. They were arrested at a friend’s ranch in Tehama County, after leaving San Francisco on the afternoon the grand jury indicted them. En route, Noel was ticketed by the Highway Patrol for speeding, allegedly pushing 90 mph. Defense attorney George Walker, who had preliminary discussions with the couple about representing Knoller, said Noel called him Tuesday night from Tehama County. They were supposed to meet earlier in the evening but the couple never showed. “He called me from the ranch and said, ‘I’m surrounded,’ ” Walker said. “ I told him to surrender to San Francisco authorities.” Judge Louie is also expected to lift a gag order today and unseal documents such as the police affidavits and supporting material that led to issuance of search warrants for the attorneys’ apartment and for the cells of two Pelican Bay state prison inmates, Paul “Cornfed” Schneider and Dale Bretches. Noel and Knoller cared for the two dogs, Bane and Hera, which were bought by Schneider and Bretches from proceeds they won in successful lawsuits filed against the state Department of Corrections. Bane, believed by authorities to be the dog most responsible for Whipple’s death, has been destroyed. Some lawyers have said that was a mistake. “It’s preventing the defense from having an expert examine the animal,” said attorney Ronald Lewis, who represents a defendant in a similar case in Barstow, San Bernardino County, where two dogs killed a 10-year-old boy. “You’ll never know what set off the dog on the attack if the dog’s not around. It’s like destroying the murder weapon in a homicide.” In the Barstow case, the caretaker of the dogs is also charged with second-degree murder. His trial is scheduled to begin today. Lewis’ client, an owner of the two dogs, is charged with failure to control the vicious animals, a lesser felony. The second-degree murder charge, which carries with it the assumption of implied malice, may be difficult to sustain in the San Francisco case, said Kenneth Phillips, a Los Angeles sole practitioner who has become the state’s unofficial expert dog bite lawyer. Phillips said that a key witness will be a neighbor who allegedly saw through a peephole the dogs maul Whipple in Knoller’s presence. “This is the one feature of this death case that makes it different than every other dog attack case in memory — the owner was right there during the five-minute mauling,” he said. San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who initially suggested his office would seek manslaughter charges only, believes Knoller is the more culpable of the two defendants. “She was there,” Hallinan said. “He was not.” Assistant District Attorney James Hammer, who presented the case to the grand jury and is expected to be the lead prosecutor, said “the evidence controls the charges.” “A second-degree murder [conviction] would involve a jury finding malice, that the killing was done with implied malice, that is with such a reckless disregard knowing the danger and constantly disregarding it,” Hammer said. After Noel and Knoller settle their bail issue, the couple will have to decide whether to challenge Louie as the trial judge. He has consistently denied their motions and granted the prosecution’s. If convicted, Knoller faces up to life in prison, while Noel could get a maximum four-year prison term. Mike McKee contributed to this story.

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