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Criminal Law Keyed to Ohlin
People v. Knoller
Citation:41 Cal.4th 139, 158 P.3d 731 (2007)
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Knoller agreed to work with Schneider, a member of a prison gang that sought to engage in a business of buying, raising, and breeding Presa Canario dogs. They are very large dogs and typically used for combat and guard. Knoller acquired four of the dogs. The previous owner warned Knoller that the dogs had killed his sheep, but Knoller did not seem to care.
Knoller contacted Dr. Marin, a vet, to exam the dogs. The vet told her that they are huge and have had no discipline, and that these animals would be a liability in any household. Knoller thanked Dr. Martin but ended up registering herself as the dogs’ owners and brought the dogs to her sixth floor apartment.
There were about thirty incidents in the span of a year in which the dogs displayed violent behavior. One day, the dogs attacked and killed a neighbor, Diane Whipple. An autopsy revealed over 77 discrete injuries covering Whipple’s body “from head to toe.”
A jury convicted Knoller of second degree murder. She requested a new trial, and the court granted on the grounds that second degree murder required a finding that Knoller was aware of the high probability that her actions would cause another’s death. Because Knoller testified that she was not aware that the dogs were violent, that she did not research the breed, and that she did not receive warnings about their threatening behavior, the court ruled that Knoller lacked the required awareness. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order granting Knoller a new trial. It held that a second degree murder conviction can be based on a defendant’s “ conscious disregard of a likely risk of serious bodily injury. Knoller appealed.
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