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Judge turns aside Chandler claim she faces double jeopardy

Dana Chandler (WIBW)
Dana Chandler (WIBW)(WIBW)
Published: Nov. 23, 2020 at 12:50 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Shawnee County District Attorney’s office isn’t barred from trying Dana Lynn Chandler a second time in the 2002 shooting deaths of two people in a west Topeka home, a judge has ruled.

Chandler had sought dismissal of the murder charges based on an alleged violation of the double jeopardy clause.

The double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits anyone from being prosecuted twice for substantially the same crime.

The double jeopardy clause “states that no person shall be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense,” District Court Judge Cheryl Rios wrote in the ruling answering the Chandler motion.

“The double jeopardy clause protects against prosecution for the same offense after an acquittal, after a conviction, or from multiple punishments for the same offense,” Rios wrote in her ruling.

Chandler was charged in 2011 in the two shooting deaths and was found guilty by a jury following the first trial in 2012.

In hearing Chandler’s appeal of the murder convictions, the Kansas Supreme Court “first reviewed the sufficiency of the evidence. (The Supreme Court) stated that ‘if the evidence during the first trial was insufficient to support the conviction, a second trial on the same charges would violate Chandler’s right to be free from double jeopardy under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 10 of the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights.’

“The court determined that there was sufficient evidence that a rational jury could find (Chandler) guilty of the crimes charged,” Rios said quoting court records.

Based on Kansas statute and the Kansas Supreme Court’s determination on appeal, Rios ruled the prosecution isn’t barred by double jeopardy in this case.

“Defendant’s motion to dismiss is hereby denied,” Rios wrote.

During an earlier hearing in this motion to overturn two counts of first-degree murder, Chandler called two witnesses to testify, including herself and the prosecutor who convicted Chandler in 2012.

Chandler also called herself to sit in the witness chair to testify.

Prosecutors, Chandler, who is acting as her own defense attorney, and Rios haven’t scheduled a date to retry the case.

Former Shawnee County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqie Spradling spearheaded the 2012 prosecution of Chandler.

Spradling now is the Bourbon County Attorney in southeast Kansas.

Spradling faces a formal complaint filed by the state Disciplinary Administrator’s Office, in part tied to the Chandler case.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned the convictions of Chandler in 2018.

When Chandler was in the witness chair, she took issue whether she should be re-tried, saying a Kansas Supreme Court document didn’t say she was to be tried again.

Rather, the Supreme Court order said she was to face “further proceedings” in Shawnee County District Court, Chandler said.

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, a total of 100 years.

The 60-year-old Chandler is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the July 7, 2002, shooting deaths of Michael 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.

A jury convicted Chandler of two counts of first-degree murder, and she was sentenced to two consecutive 50-year prison terms, a total of 100 years.

In another motion filed by Chandler, the defendant sought a lower bond, which Rios denied.

Chandler remains incarcerated in lieu of a $1 million cash or professional surety, which was the amount set during the 2012 trial, Rios wrote.

“Based on the pending charges against the defendant, the sufficiency of the evidence as determined by the Kansas Supreme Court, and the purpose of the bond to provide for the safety of the public and to assure the defendant’s appearance at court proceedings, the court will not modify the bond,” Rios wrote.

Chandler contends she should be released from custody because the COVID-19 pandemic threatens her life, health and safety if she remains in custody.

The judge denied Chandler’s motion to free her on bond “based on the risk of contracting COVID-19 if defendant is released” and “because of the seriousness of the charges pending against her.”

During her re-trial Chandler has issued 200 subpoenas seeking information. WIBW reporter Steve Fry was served with two subpoenas, but attorneys at Gray Television Inc., owner of WIBW, opposed the subpoenas, and they were quashed.

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