Criminal Law, Pages 287–291

People v. Knoller

Supreme Court of California, 2007

Facts:

Defendants owned two large dogs known to be violent and untrained. They had about 30 incidents of being out of control or threatening others, generally with no response from the defendants. Finally, one day victim was entering her apartment when one of the dogs broke away from defendant Knoller, jumped on the victim, and knocked her down. The victim cried for help and struggled to get away, but the dog attacked her more fiercely, causing over 77 discrete injuries over the victim's entire body and eventually killing her by crushing her throat. Knoller only had some bruising to her hands. Noel was not present for the attack.

Procedural History:

Knoller was charged and convicted of second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years to life; Noel was charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Issue:

Did Knoller have implied malice?

Rule:

LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 290, Paragraph 2

[Malice] is implied, when no considerable provocation appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart."

Explanations:

  • LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 290, Paragraph 3
    People v. Thomas

    ". . . [M]alice is implied when β€œthe defendant for a base, antisocial motive and with wanton disregard for human life, does an act that involves a high degree of probability that it will result in death.”

  • LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 290, Paragraph 3
    People v. Philips

    Malice is implied when the killing is proximately caused by "'an act, the natural consequences of which are dangerous to life, which act was deliberately performed by a person who knows that his conduct endangers the life of another and who acts with conscious disregard for life.'"

Reasoning:

A killer only acts with implied malice when acting with an awareness of endangering human life. The court of appeals held that a second degree murder conviction can be found based simply on an awareness of the risk of causing serious bodily injury to another. Thus, their finding of such is not sufficient to sustain defendant's conviction.

Holding:

The fact that Knoller acted while aware of the risk of causing serious bodily injury is not sufficient to find implied malice. Reversed and remanded.

Note:

Knoller's conviction for implied malice murder was upheld on remand.