Chandler wants firearms expert in murder re-trial

Dana Chandler
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) --- Cold case murder defendant Dana Lynn Chandler wants a judge to order a state agency to pay a firearms expert to examine evidence on behalf of Chandler, then testify as a defense witness.

The Kansas Board of Indigent Defense Services has already declined to fund the proposed expert, who charges fees ranging from $100 an hour to $200 an hour.

Chandler, 58, is charged with fatally shooting her former husband, Michael Sisco, and his fiancee, Karen Harkness, on July 7, 2002. Each victim was shot at least five times as the two slept in their west Topeka home.

On April 6, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned Chandler’s 2012 murder convictions, saying an earlier Shawnee County prosecutor falsely told jurors that a protection-from-abuse order was filed by Sisco against Chandler in her divorce case.

"The extremely serious nature of the first-degree murder charges which Ms. Chandler is facing, justifies and supports the expense of $200 per hour for a forensic ballistics examiner, $100 per hour for travel, and $200 per hour for trial testimony," Chandler wrote in the six-page motion seeking to obtain the services.

Chandler filed the motion on Friday.

Funds to hire an expert forensic ballistics consultant are necessary to ensure Chandler's Sixth and 14th Amendment rights and to mount an "effective defense in support of her claim of innocence and present evidence which supports an alternate suspect theory."

The Sixth Amendment guarantees fair and speedy trial, to know the accuser, and to find counsel and witnesses for the defendant. The 14th Amendment includes the due process clause and equal protection clause.

Chandler wants BIDS to fund the services of Christopher Robinson, whom she refers to as a forensic consultant.

Chandler is acting as her own defense attorney, but attorney KiAnn Caprice, of Basehor, her standby counsel, and Alma attorney Keen Umbehr, Chandler's assistant counsel, sit with Chandler at the defense table.

In an email to Caprice dated Oct. 3, BIDS state director Patricia Scalia said the fee schedule received from Robinson "is not acceptable," apparently referring to the billing format.

"Mr. Robinson has been hired before and these issues should not appear," Scalia wrote.

In a followup email from Umbehr to Scalia, Umbehr said Robinson agreed to charge $200 an hour for the time he would be needed to testify during the trial "in lieu of his normal $1,200 per day flat rate fee."

Scalia also questioned whether Chandler needed the services of a forensics expert.

"It is my recollection that there was no firearm evidence presented in the trial and that no firearm was ever identified as being the murder weapon," Scalia wrote in an email.

"Under these circumstances, there is nothing to refute or address through the services of a ballistics and tool mark expert, therefore the services cannot be funded," Scalia said.

Chandler said Scalia "erred" when she wrote no firearm evidence had been presented.

Chandler said the prosecution provided 18 documents to the defense, which refer to firearms evidence, including Topeka police officers, a Kansas Bureau of Investigation witness, a police evidence custody receipt listing 9mm shell casings, projectiles and projectile fragments, and four newspaper stories.

A motion hearing in the Chandler case is next scheduled to be on Oct. 22, and a second motion hearing will be eight days later on Oct. 30.

In other defense motions, Chandler asked the judge to order:

  • Prosecutors to hand over a complete copy of the CBS video coverage of the 2012 jury trial of Chandler;
  • A copy of the court order directing prosecutors to produce a copy of the prosecution letter directing law enforcement officers to comply with two Kansas Supreme Court rules dealing with trial publicity and the special responsibilities of a prosecutor;
  • Prosecutors to hand over a "cheat sheet" that prosecutors and the judge are using to track all motions and court orders;
  • Jury selection in Chandler's trial will start either on Jan. 28 or 29.

Jury selection will require about a week, then the three-week trial then will start on Feb. 4 with a jury of 12 people and six alternate jurors hearing the testimony.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dunbar and Chief of Staff Charles Kitt are prosecuting the case.