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After three weeks of blitzing the media with his version of the dog-mauling death of a woman, attorney Robert Noel may hire two veteran criminal defense attorneys to begin speaking for him and his wife. Noel named respected San Francisco attorney George Walker and the legendary Houston criminal attorney Richard “Racehorse” Haynes as his choices for defense counsel. Before a court hearing last week, Noel also said that he would probably ask for a change of venue for a trial if he and his wife, Marjorie Knoller, are charged in connection with the mauling death of Diane Whipple on Jan. 26. Noel and Knoller have been the subject of an intense police and district attorney’s investigation ever since their two Presa Canario dogs pounced on Whipple in the hallway of their Pacific Heights apartment building. She bled to death from her injuries. When asked if he would seek to move a trial, Noel replied: “Definitely, someplace where they don’t have television signals.” He wryly suggested “Quincy in Plumas County,” a remote northeastern California community. Noel blames alleged incendiary comments by District Attorney Terence Hallinan and Lt. Henry Hunter, who is supervising the police investigation, for poisoning the potential jury pool in San Francisco. He said Hallinan and Hunter appear “on the television everyday” to influence public opinion. He did not believe his own comments contributed to the media frenzy the story has generated. He was especially angry that Hallinan suggested Knoller had a self-inflicted facial wound rather than one she incurred while trying to rein in the dogs. Walker, meanwhile, confirmed that he has had preliminary contact with Noel about representing Knoller, but is not yet close to being on retainer. “Under the right circumstances, I would do it,” said Walker. He said his demands would include “to be able to control the case,” have no co-counsel and reach an agreeable “financial arrangement” with his client. “I’m a defense lawyer,” Walker said. “You don’t turn down cases because of an unpopular cause or the public hates the crime.” The defense attorney is quite aware of the swirling publicity connected to the case, including the media counteroffensive Noel has mounted to blunt comments by authorities. “It would be difficult to leash them in,” he joked. Walker said he has not begun to work on the case and hasn’t called the DA’s office. “I have not been contacted to do that yet,” he said. Several telephone calls to Haynes’ Houston office were not returned. Walker said he has handled matters for Haynes in Southern California in the past. Noel said he’s familiar with Haynes through a mutual friend. If Haynes and Walker are hired, the two together would bring more than 80 years of experience as criminal defenders. Haynes successfully defended a Fort Worth millionaire accused of the attempted murder of his ex-wife and the murder of her lover and his stepdaughter. He also successfully defended a woman accused of shooting her husband — a Texas politician — to death. Haynes told Dallas-based Recorder affiliate Texas Lawyer that he specializes in “Smith & Wesson divorce cases,” where one spouse shoots the other. He’s tried 32 of them and won acquittals for 30. The two he lost, he said, were because the defendants had reloaded. Although The Boston Globe in 1998 said “Racehorse” Haynes “is rounding the homestretch of a distinguished career,” he remains one of his state’s and the nation’s most respected criminal defense attorneys. Asked by the Globe why the name “Racehorse,” he replied: “Maximum throttle, all the way.” Walker has defended a San Mateo woman who smothered her three daughters, a 13-year-old San Mateo youth who fired a gun at his school principal, and a San Francisco woman suspected of illegally obtaining trucking contracts through the city’s minority business program. One of his most celebrated cases was in the mid-1980s, when he fashioned a favorable plea bargain for University of San Francisco basketball star Quintin Dailey, who was accused of sexually assaulting a female nursing student. Two new attorneys have slipped into the dog mauling case with the appointment last week by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Lenard Louie of David Harrison to represent Pelican Bay inmate Paul Schneider and Andrew Tursi to represent inmate Dale Bretches. Authorities have seized property and documents from Schneider and Bretches that Louie said may fall under the attorney-client privilege. He wants Harrison and Tursi, chosen from the conflicts panel of defense attorneys, to meet and confer with the inmates over what they consider privileged. Harrison said he has applied for clearance from the prison, which could take up to a week to secure. He said that court-appointed special master Michael Osborne has control of the seized materials, and he has not yet had the chance to review them. “I want to ascertain what is arguably privileged and what isn’t, so I can discuss specific items with [Schneider],” Harrison said. “At some point I’m going to have to review the documents. I can’t assert a privilege for documents I haven’t seen.” Harrison, who has practiced law for 20 years, the last 10 as a criminal defense lawyer, said he didn’t hesitate to take the case. “I’m on the conflicts panel,” he said. “When a judge calls you to take a case, you don’t usually say no.” As of Friday, Harrison said he hadn’t spoken to Schneider, the adopted son of Noel and Knoller. He said he planned to speak to him briefly before flying to Pelican Bay, which may occur this week. “I probably would not talk to him much about anything on the phone,” he said. “The calls are monitored by the prison.” Tursi said he wants to make sure Bretches wants him as his attorney before he starts reviewing the inmates’ documents. “I need to make sure Mr. Bretches is comfortable with me,” said Tursi, a 10-year criminal defense attorney. “I need to look at him in the face and he needs to look at my face. He may not want me to represent him.” He said he has contacted Pelican Bay prison officials about flying up there this week for his initial meeting. Tursi also said he has spoken with Osborne, the special master, about reviewing the documents, but no timetable has been set. Tursi said he was riding his motorcycle, when he got the call from Louie. “I said, ‘I’m in Menlo Park,’ ” Tursi recalled. “ He said, ‘I’m waiting.’ “ Tursi said he rode to the Hall of Justice, where the judge told him “you need to do the work … you need to get on it.” Tursi said he initially read little about the case. “I did not want to read about how this poor woman died.” He said he has since become familiar with the case. “Most of the people I represent have stories,” he said, “but this seems unreal to me.” While his office initially said it may file second-degree murder charges, Hallinan last week began backing off. He now talks about filing involuntary manslaughter charges at most. But the DA also said he is considering placing the facts before a criminal grand jury, which would relieve him of the charging burden. Jurors could decide whether murder charges were warranted. “It gives you 19 people weighing in on what the charges should be,” Hallinan said. “But it’s our responsibility and we’re not passing the buck.” Because of the complexity of the case, the DA now hopes to have a charging decision in two or three weeks.

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