Judge denies Chandler request to step down from re-trial

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- For the fourth time, a Shawnee County District Court judge denied Dana Lynn Chandler's demand on Thursday that the judge recuse herself from handling the re-trial of Chandler in the 2002 slayings of Chandler's ex-husband and his fiancee.

A second judge must review Chandler's motion asking District Court Judge Nancy Parrish to step away from the re-trial. In earlier Chandler motions seeking the judge's removal, Judge Teresa Watson reviewed the Chandler demands and denied removal of Parrish as the judge hearing the re-trial.

The Thursday motion hearing started with Parrish instructing everyone to leave the courtroom as she listened to Chandler, who is acting as her own defense attorney, explain why she thought Parrish she recuse herself from the case.

Those ordered to leave the courtroom were prosecutors, two journalists and two supporters of Chandler.

"The state objects to being asked to leave," Chief of Staff Charles Kitt said. The statute dealing with judicial recusals requires "an informal hearing, not an ex parte hearing," where only the defendant, judge and court reporter are present.

Kitt and Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Dunbar were told to leave the courtroom.

Court was closed for 33 minutes while Chandler urged Parrish to leave the case.

At that point, Kitt urged the judge to handle motions until Chandler formally filed an affidavit related to the recusal in the clerk of the court office. Kitt also whether the June 10 start-up date for the re-trial is still on.

At that point, an attorney helping Chandler walked out of the courtroom to deliver the affidavit to the court clerk's office.

The judge said she didn't have authority to conduct court business in the Chandler case while another judge was considering the affidavit seeking Parrish's recusal.

Chandler then complained that she hadn't received discovery from prosecutors that Parrish earlier had ordered, adding she wouldn't be "ambushed" by prosecutors during the re-trial. Chandler said she is asking the judge to find prosecutors to be in contempt of court on the discovery issue.

Before ending the hearing Thursday, the judge noted that Chandler, prosecutors and the judge had lost "two full days" last week to handle court business due to Chandler's previous recusal motion. Prosecutors and defense also lost a third day on Thursday due to the latest recusal motion, the judge said.

So far, Chandler has sought Parrish's recusal four times. The three earlier requests have been denied.

Chandler's request to move the trial at 100 miles away from Shawnee County wasn't mentioned on Thursday. In that motion, Chandler contends she can't get a fair and impartial trial in Shawnee County and must be moved at least 100 miles.

Chandler, 59, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the July 7, 2002, shooting deaths of Michael Sisco, her former husband, and Karen Harkness, Sisco's fiancee, in her west Topeka home. Each was shot at least five times.

The Chandler convictions in the 2012 trial were overturned by the Kansas Supreme Court on April 6. 2018, based on prosecutorial misconduct.