Judge releases 5th and 6th defense attorneys from Chandler re-trial

Dana Chandler (WIBW)
Dana Chandler (WIBW)(WIBW)
Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 2:06 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Dana Lynn Chandler, murder defendant, didn’t want two stand-by attorneys to continue to represent her in her re-trial.

Likewise, Paul Oller, a Hays attorney, and Cynthia Short, a Riverside, Mo., attorney, were seeking to be released from representing Chandler.

On Tuesday, the defendant and defense attorneys got what they wanted.

Shawnee County District Court Judge Cheryl Rios signed a one-page order allowing Oller and Short to withdraw from the case.

Oller and Short “should be and are hereby allowed to withdraw as attorneys of record for Dana L. Chandler,” the court order said.

On October 6, Oller and Short had filed a motion asking the judge to allow them to withdraw from the case.

In their motion, Oller and Short noted Chandler filed a motion to remove the two lawyers from her case "and has expressed on more than one occasion to have the court-appointed counsel removed.

“The defendant has created a situation wherein communication between counsel and the defendant are impossible for counsel to continue as appointed stand-by counsel,” the defense attorneys' motion to withdraw said.

Oller and Short were the fifth and sixth defense attorneys assigned to defend Chandler or aid in her defense in her re-trial. Oller and Short began representing Chandler in October 2019.

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

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

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

-- In a March 31, 2020, letter to Chandler, Oller said, “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.”

Oller told Chandler that he and Short would hear Chandler’s ideas, “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 also asked the judge to appoint a replacement standby counsel. As of Wednesday, a replacement standby counsel hasn’t been appointed for Chandler.

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.

The two were slain in Harkness' west Topeka home.

Each victim bore a number of gunshot wounds when they were found in the basement.

Following a lengthy trial in 2012, a 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 of Chandler in 2018.

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