Chandler hearing ends Thursday with murder defendant still talking in near-empty courtroom

Dana Chandler (WIBW)
Dana Chandler (WIBW)(WIBW)
Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 5:40 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Murder defendant Dana Lynn Chandler, who is defending herself in a retrial on charges she killed her former husband and his fiancee in 2002, continued to stand and argue what she considered legal points after the hearing was officially over on Thursday.

After Shawnee County District Court Judge Cheryl Rios ended the hearing, the three deputy district attorneys gathered their gear and left the courtroom.

When Chandler continued arguing legal points, the judge instructed the court reporter to resume taking notes briefly, and Rios instructed Chandler to file her requests in writing and be prepared to argue them when the court resumes at a future date.

“We’re standing in recess,” Rios said.

The judge gathered her documents and left the courtroom. Chandler resumed talking to the court reporter, who had again stopped taking notes.

The court reporter takes the official word-for-word record of what is said in a court hearing or trial.

During the hearing, Chandler at one point sought to discuss lowering her bond, noting one case of COVID-19 has surfaced in the Shawnee County Jail.

Before court ended, Chandler argued that being housed in the Shawnee County Jail is a “death sentence for me” if she contracts COVID-19.

Chandler noted that a Shawnee County Jail inmate had recently contracted the virus. Chandler said she is at risk to contract the virus, noting her age is 60 and listing several health problems she contends she has.

“Now they have confirmed a COVID case in jail, and my anxiety is becoming unmanageable,” Chandler said.

The focus of the Chandler hearing on Thursday was the judge telling prosecutors and Chandler that the judge had prepared a list of pending motions, which haven’t been resolved. The judge referred to it as the “undecided list.”

“There are a lot of motions in this case,” Rios said. The purpose of the list is to make sure prosecutors and defense are “on the same page,” the judge said.

The motions will be handled on October 23, 26 and 30.

The judge told Chandler several times she would break in as Chandler talked because we have to have “some procedure, order of things, a way to manage our time.” We can’t “just ramble” on issues, the judge told Chandler.

A date to start the re-trial of Chandler hasn’t been scheduled. Chandler is acting as her own attorney.

Chandler is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the July 7, 2002, shooting deaths of her former husband, Mike Sisco, 47, and his fiancee, Karen Harkness, 53.

Sisco and Harkness were slain in the Harkness west Topeka home.

The bodies of Harkness and Sisco each bore a number of gunshot wounds when they were found in the basement of the Harkness home.

Following a lengthy trial in 2012, a Shawnee County District Court jury convicted Chandler of two counts of first-degree murder, and she was sentenced to two consecutive terms.

But the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the convictions in 2018.

According to a recent court filing, Chandler has asserted she was in Colorado when her former husband and his fiancee were shot to death.

Chandler recently filed a three-page, handwritten notice of alibi saying she was in Colorado.

“On the date and time the alleged offense occurred in Topeka, Kansas, (on) July 7, 2002, Ms. Chandler was west of Denver, Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains of the state of Colorado,” Chandler wrote in the alibi notice.

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