FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | March 12, 2001
(SAn Francisco, CA, March 12, 2001) — I am Michael Cardoza. I am here with my client Sharon Smith, with co-counsel Robert Lazo, and also with co-counsel Kate Kendell, from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and additional counsel Helene Wenzel. At 8 o'clock this morning we filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Sharon against Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel for the death of Diane Whipple. The complaint alleges that Bane and Hera were inherently dangerous and that Knoller and Noel were negligent in their handling of the dogs. The complaint also names the owner of the apartment building and alleges that he was negligent in allowing the dogs to remain in the building given the obvious danger they presented to the tenants.
Let me be clear! This case is not about gay versus straight. This case is about the civil consequences of conduct that we believe constitutes second degree murder.
The facts in this case show a reckless disregard for human life that, even in this day and age, is depraved and shocking. The dogs that killed Diane Whipple were vicious--they were dangerous. Some people call this breed of dogs "fuzzy guns." Having dogs of this type is like having custom-made 357s with fangs. Keeping these hyper-aggressive, massive animals inside a small apartment in an urban setting defies reason. Doing so was like waving around a loaded gun with a hair trigger. It was inevitable that someone was going to be hurt and, tragically, that is exactly what happened.
This case has had a profound effect on everyone who has come into contact with it. The circumstances in this case are like holding up a mirror to our culture and forcing us to ask some very basic questions. Where do we want to draw the line? Do we draw the line between gay people and straight people? Is that where we draw the line? Or do we draw the line between ordinary, decent, law-abiding people and individuals who appear to have shown a callous and brutal disregard for human life?
Although some have argued that a same-sex spouse should not be entitled to bring a wrongful death suit, Sharon Smith is seeking nothing more nor less than any spouse in an intimate and lasting human relationship would be entitled to.