Knoller’s Motion for a New Trial

The defendants’ motion for a new trial

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found the defendants guilty on all counts. The defendants moved for a new trial, on various grounds. The court denied the new trial motions for both defendants as to the lesser offenses of involuntary manslaughter and ownership of a mischievous animal causing death, finding that those verdicts were supported by “overwhelming” evidence. However, the judge granted Knoller’s motion for a new trial as to only the second degree murder conviction.

The trial judge was of the firm belief that Noel and Knoller both were conscious of the risk that someone would suffer bodily injury because of their dogs. The judge said that the defendants “were fully on notice that they had a couple of wild, uncontrollable and dangerous dogs that were likely going to do something bad” and that “the something bad was going to be that somebody was going to be badly hurt.”

However, the judge ruled that the evidence was insufficient to establish the subjective component of implied malice because Knoller did not subjectively know on January 26 “that her conduct was such that a human being was likely to die.” The court’s emphasis was on death, not mere bodily injury. Without proof of conscious disregard of the risk of actual death, there was no implied malice — and without implied malice, the murder charge failed. In addition, the court noted that it was troubled because Noel, whom the court deemed “more culpable,” was not similarly charged.

The court rejected the prosecution’s argument that impled malice included the subjective appreciation of both the risk of death and the risk of serious bodily injury.