Chandler asks judge to remove appointed lawyers in peding murder re-trial

(WIBW/Steve Fry)
(WIBW/Steve Fry)(WIBW)
Published: Oct. 6, 2020 at 3:58 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Dana Lynn Chandler, who is facing the re-trial in the 2002 shooting deaths of her former husband and his fiancee, wants the stand-by attorneys aiding her legal defense to be removed from the case, Chandler said in a court motion.

Paul Oller, a Hays attorney, and Cynthia Short, a Riverside, Mo., attorney, are the fifth and sixth defense attorneys assigned to defend Chandler or aid in her defense in her re-trial.

Chandler,  who remains in jail in lieu of bond, is representing herself pro se.

Earlier stand-by attorneys appointed to assist Chandler have been James Spies, KiAnn Caprice, Jonathan Phelps, and Jason Belveal.

The 60-year-old Chandler is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the July 7, 2002, shooting deaths of Mike Sisco, Chandler’s 47-year-old former husband, and his fiancee, Karen Harkness, 53.

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

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

If Oller and Short are released as stand-by attorneys, they would be the fifth and sixth lawyers to be appointed and released as Chandler’s standby attorneys.

Oller and Short began representing Chandler in October 2019.

Chandler is seeking the release of Oller and Short as standby attorneys based on:

Oller didn’t provide unspecified “legal material” that she said he promised to provide. When Chandler hadn’t received the material by March 2020, Chandler told Short it would be "necessary for the defendant to re-assert her right to self-representation, Chandler wrote.

Short “became enraged” and told Chandler she would be “off the case,” then abruptly hung up on their phone call.

Chandler also asserted her right to represent herself because she contended Oller “had a conflict of interest.”

Oller wrote a letter to Chandler dated March 31, 2020.

"I believe what you want is a legal team, a legal team in which you are the chief, and others work for you at your direction. I will not do this.

“Cyndy and I are open to hearing your ideas and thoughts. We can have discussions and debates about the proper course of action, but as long as I am counsel of record, I must agree with the course of action, and I will not compromise that for anyone. I do not compromise this responsibility to anyone under any circumstances.”

Chandler alleged Oller “aggressively lunged” at her during a meeting with Chandler at the Shawnee County Adult Detention Center and yelled at her.

Chandler alleged Oller made a “cruel comment” to Chandler about her adult daughter and was “emotionally and mentally abusive.”

Besides removing Oller and Short as standby counsel, Chandler’s motion also asks the judge to appoint replacement standby counsel.

During court hearings, Oller and Short sit in the gallery, not in front of the bar, according to instructions issued by the judge.

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 50-year prison terms.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned the convictions in 2018.

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