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A veterinarian testified Wednesday that the two dogs who mauled Diane Whipple to death were untrained, undisciplined and dangerous. But his testimony could eventually help defendants Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel. After 49 years as a veterinarian, Dr. Donald Martin said he had rarely encountered dogs that scared him. But he said cold fear rippled through him when he saw Bane and Hera, the dogs that killed Whipple on Jan. 26, 2001. San Francisco attorneys Noel and Knoller, whom city licensing records show as owners of the two 120-pound dogs that have since been destroyed, are on trial for the death of Whipple. Knoller is charged with second-degree murder. She and Noel also are charged with manslaughter and keeping mischievous dogs. They have pleaded not guilty. In the second day of the trial, moved to Los Angeles because of massive pretrial publicity in the San Francisco Bay Area, the judge quarreled with a defense attorney over discovery, and two prosecution witnesses assessed for the jury of seven women and six men the pair of presa canarios. Martin said when he came to the Hayfork, Calif., ranch of Janet Coumbs — who raised the dogs — to give rabies shots, he was startled by the two dogs and others like them. “These dogs had no control, no training,” the vet said. They were jumping around and making quite a commotion.” He says he totally avoided Bane, whose head measured a foot wide with a jaw to match it in size. “I felt it would be unsafe to handle him too much,” Martin said. “These are massive dogs that can do real damage.” Afterward, he wrote a letter to Knoller, who had asked him to give the dogs their rabies shots, telling her of the danger they posed. “These dogs would be a liability in any household,” the veterinarian wrote. But under cross-examination by Noel’s defense attorney, Bruce Hotchkiss, Martin agreed that because Coumbs failed to train or socialize the dogs, Noel and Knoller possibly did not know of their potential to kill. Coumbs had testified earlier that she had entered into an agreement with Pelican Bay State Prison inmate Paul “Cornfed” Schneider to raise the dogs for him. Coumbs said Schneider gave her money to buy and mate the dogs with others, and then sell the pups. Coumbs said she was not initially aware that Schneider and his cellmate, Dale Bretches, were members of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang. She said she found out later and is now in the witness protection program. She testified that, on Schneider’s orders, she never disciplined the dogs. Schneider told her that would have caused the dogs to bond to her rather than to whoever eventually bought them, she said. Under cross-examination by Hotchkiss, Coumbs described how she and Schneider set up their dog-raising enterprise, from which she expected to get extra money to live on. The defense attorney, seeking to show that the relationship between Coumbs and the dogs was not much different than that of the defendants, asserted that Noel and Knoller simply kept the dogs for Schneider. Hotchkiss and Judge James Warren got into a crisp exchange over Coumbs’ testimony that she gave letters that Schneider had written her to the district attorney and an investigator from the California Department of Corrections. Hotchkiss said he never got them during discovery. The judge told the attorney it was too late to revisit the issue and he believed all documents had been presented to the defense. “Don’t ask me to do anything with this witness,” Warren said. “Counsel, we are in the middle of a trial here. Discovery has already run.” After the jury was sent to lunch, Hotchkiss and the judge renewed their heated discussion. Hotchkiss called Coumbs “a liar” for saying she gave up all of the letters to make herself look like a cooperative prosecution witness. “This is the first time I’ve heard that there are some letters floating around,” he said. “I do not want Janet Coumbs to have a false aura of credibility.” The judge said he could see nothing new to rule on and wasn’t going to stop the trial to search for documents that he believed were copied and turned over. “Counsel, the witness is here but Hayfork is at the opposite end of the state. I don’t like being surprised with something in the middle of a trial.” Prosecutor James Hammer told Hotchkiss that he would stipulate that no documents remain outstanding. The defense attorney, however, appeared ready to salt away the issue, perhaps to raise on appeal. Although the first day of the trial saw every seat taken, on day two, people drifted in and out. A strange designated seating situation exists with Whipple’s mother, Penny Whipple-Kelly, sitting directly in front of Knoller’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. David Knoller. The trial resumes Thursday with the key prosecution witness, corrections department investigator Dean Hawkes, testifying about the Aryan Brotherhood’s entrepreneurism outside prison.

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