Chandler attorneys funded by public, private agencies

Dana Chandler and her attorneys, Paul Oller (right) and Cyndy Short (left).
Dana Chandler and her attorneys, Paul Oller (right) and Cyndy Short (left).(WIBW)
Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 1:41 PM CST
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The defense services of a two-lawyer team representing Dana Lynn Chandler in her retrial in the 2002 shooting deaths of her former husband and his fiancee are paid by a mixed bag of public and private agencies, one Chandler defense attorney said Tuesday.

Chandler faces a retrial on two charges of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Mike Sisco, 47, and Karen Harkness, 53, who were slain on July 7, 2002. Their bodies were found in Harkness' west Topeka home.

The re-trial of Chandler, 59, in the shooting deaths almost 19 years ago likely will start in the first quarter of 2021 and conclude in April 2021, Chandler defense attorney Paul Oller told Senior District Court Judge Robert Fairchild on Jan. 3, the first time Oller appeared in court as Chandler's attorney.

On October 23, 2019, Oller, entered his appearance to defend Chandler. A second defense attorney, Cyndy Short, a Missouri lawyer, also is representing Chandler.

On Tuesday, Oller said Judge Fairchild appointed him, and the the Kansas Board of Indigents Services, a state agency, is paying him for his legal work. BIDS, which is funded by Kansas taxpayers, pays for legal counsel for those unable to afford legal representation and related service for each indigent person.

Oller accepted appointment as a Chandler defense attorney "because I feel an obligation as an attorney and a duty as a human," he said.

Short is paid by the Miracle of Innocence, an Overland Park-based organization seeking to free wrongfully imprisoned defendants, according to an Innocence web site. Miracle of Innocence was founded by Darryl Burton, who was imprisoned for 24 years for a murder he didn't commit. Burton founded the agency in 2017 to help free people who are wrongly convicted and to provide care after release.

Oller isn't paid by Miracle of Innocence, he said Tuesday.

Oller's tie to the Chandler defense began six days after Chandler fired her fifth stand-by counsel in court on October 17. At the time, Chandler was acting as her own attorney.

Based on an earlier agreement between Chandler and prosecutors, the start-up date for Chandler's re-trial earlier had been postponed indefinitely until Chandler agreed she was finished filing motions. A trial normally must start within a specified deadline.

In 2012 following a lengthy high-profile trial, Shawnee County District Court jurors convicted Chandler of two counts of first-degree murder, and Chandler was sentenced to two 50-year prison terms.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned the convictions in 2018, concluding prosecutors falsely claimed during the trial that Chandler's former husband had taken out a protection from abuse order against her.

Supreme Court justices wrote that no protection order existed.

The next hearing in the retrial will be a status conference on March 27.

On Tuesday, Chandler remained in Shawnee County Jail in lieu of a $1 million cash or surety bond, according to jail records.

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