The trial judge, James Warren, defended his decision to toss out Knoller's second-degree murder conviction. Prosecutor James Hammer and Sharon Smith were among the critics who said that Judge Warren had "stolen justice" from them by overturning the jury's decision. The judge stated:

"There was a statement made that this court has destroyed a sense of justice in the city of San Francisco. I certainly hope that is correct. I hope that is the result that I accomplished. A sense of justice is precisely what this court will never become involved in creating. A sense of justice is personal. It is infected with bias, prejudice, public opinion, public feeling, everything that the court should not be involved in. A sense of justice was achieved by vigilante posses. A sense of justice, I suggest, was achieved by Ku Klux Klan members and I daresay a sense of justice was achieved by people who flew airplanes into buildings not so long ago. That is not justice. That is not justice, in fact. It is a sense of justice that is personal. And it is precisely that which this court will seek to avoid. We will administer justice, in fact, in this case without regard to whether anyone feels that a sense of justice on a personal level has been achieved.

"I wish I were superhuman judge but I am not. I do not have every one of the 60 or 70,000 cases dealing with second-degree murder at the tip of my tongue or the tip of my hand. It does no good to go back today and say, 'Gee, if you had everything you knew today would you have done something different then?'"