The belated nature of justice

August 22, 2008 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)


By default when someone goes to trial for a crime – murder for example – while they may pay a price for their actions, the truth is that no penalty can ever really erase the crime.
After all, jail time doesn’t bring back someone’s life.
But in this case, I have to say that I was thrilled to hear that Marjorie Knoller is back in jail – and this time perhaps for the rest of her life.
As far as I’m concerned she’s getting off easy.
For anyone for whom this name rings not even a distant campanile, here’s the Cliff Notes version.
Late in January 2001 a woman by the name of Diane Whipple was fatally mauled in the hallway of her San Francisco apartment building. The perpetrators: her neighbor’s two, Presa Canario Mastiffs.

In the days that followed, San Francisco’s District Attorney was having a hard time finding people to testify in the trial. People in the building were terrified of the couple who owned the dogs.
I’m not a resident of that building, and in fact live quite a few blocks away. But I’m a dog owner, and so meandering the neighborhood and spending time in all the parks means that I cross paths with pretty much anyone attached to a canine in the area.
And I had two encounters – one with Knoller and one with her husband, Robert Noel – that in hindsight made my blood run cold.
If things had gone just a bit differently, I might have been first.

I’ve not written about my experience in this trial – mostly because at the time there was a gag order by the judge and so I avoided all contact with the press and kept the story to myself. And as time passed, the experience shifted and somehow bringing it up again felt like ripping the scab from an almost healed wound.
But this week’s news about the reinstatement of Knoller’s sentence, brings it all up again.
This time it makes me think about miscarriage of justice … and how even when the system works – as it has in this case – the victory is bittersweet. Sure, there may be other people protected in the future by laws that are now more stringent. And yes, people may now be more vigilant when it comes to noting that someone has a dog that’s dangerous or out of control. But what of the loss? And what of the fact that the perpetrators in this case seemed to have little regards for the fact that they were directly responsible for snuffing out a young, vibrant life?


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