Noel, 60, and his wife, Marjorie Knoller, 46, are charged in the death of neighbor Diane Whipple, 33, who was fatally mauled on Jan. 26, 2001, outside her apartment by at least one of the couple's two huge Presa Canario dogs.
Knoller is charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and keeping a mischievous dog that killed a person. She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
The four verdicts already reached are to be sealed, and will be read when the final count is decided.
The jury's partial decision followed a trial that lasted more than a month and included graphic testimony about the dogs' attack on Whipple, a lacrosse coach who was returning home with groceries to prepare for dinner.
During deliberations yesterday, the panel asked to be read again sections of Noel's testimony before a grand jury and a neighbor's account of earlier run-ins with the dogs.
Legal analysts said they believed the jury might be hung up on the second-degree murder count against Knoller - by far the most serious charge ever brought in a California dog attack case.
"The one thing that this case has been all about is whether or not there was a second-degree murder conviction there for Marjorie Knoller. That is the single count that they could be held up on. That's a no-brainer," said Peter Keane, dean of the Golden Gate University Law School and a frequent media analyst on the case.
Prosecutors were circumspect, saying only that they believed it showed the panel had made up its mind on the basic facts of the case.
"We hope that they resolve all five counts and reach verdicts," said Assistant District Attorney Kimberley Guilfoyle-Newsom.
"It appears that they are working very hard and are committed to doing just that. There appears to be justice at the end of the tunnel here." *