Opening arguments take place Friday afternoon in Dana Chandler retrial

FILE - Defendant Dana Chandler told a judge she no longer wanted standby counsel Jason Belveal...
FILE - Defendant Dana Chandler told a judge she no longer wanted standby counsel Jason Belveal (foreground) sitting at the defense during her murder retrial case. (WIBW/Steve Fry)(WIBW)
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 2:18 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Opening arguments were held Friday afternoon, Aug. 5, in the highly anticipated retrial of Dana Chandler, who is accused of killing her ex-husband Mike Sisco and his fiance Karen Harkness in July 2002 at a home in west Topeka.

Twelve jurors and five alternates were sworn in shortly after 2 p.m. The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.

Shawnee County District Court Judge Cheryl Rios then went over a list of rules for those in the jury.

Chandler was convicted in 2012 of the double-murders in 2002 of her ex-husband Mike Sisco along with his fiance Karen Harkness at a west Topeka residence.

The state and defense presented opening arguments in a nearly packed courtroom.

Chandler was arrested and charged with the murders in 2011, and convicted in 2012.

However, in 2018, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the conviction, citing misconduct by former prosecutor Jacqie Spradling, who has since been disbarred.

Charles Kitt, the chief of staff for the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office, represented the state in opening arguments.

“You’re going to hear evidence that law enforcement made efforts” Kitt told the jury. “They tried to collect DNA. They tried to collect fingerprints. They tried to collect hair.”

Kitt said “science is not going to solve this case.” He said the case is “not based on DNA. This case is not based on hair. This case is not based on fingerprints.”

The case, Kitt said, “is based on jealousy, rage and obsession, and at the end of this case, when you’ve heard all of this evidence, the state’s going to ask you to find the defendant guilty of murder in the first-degree times two.”

Tom Bath, of the Leawood-based law firm Bath and Edmonds, represented Chandler in opening arguments.

“On July 7, 2002, Dana Chandler was nowhere near Topeka, let alone Kansas,” Bath said. “She was in Colorado, 700-plus miles from the Harkness residence.

“In 20 years of investigation -- 20 years of investigation -- reviewing cellphone records; banking records; credit card documents; looking at her cellphone activity; looking at her banking activity; talking to friends, co-workers, family -- all that information -- in addition, looking for fingerprints; hair; fiber; DNA; examining shell-casings; looking for any evidence whatsoever to connect Dana to that crime scene -- for 20 years -- has not put her any closer to Topeka, Kansas, than 20 years ago, when she was in Colorado.”

The trial is expected to resume on Monday.

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