Facing heart surgery, judge steps down from Chandler trial

Judge Nancy Parrish (Source: Office of Judicial Administration)
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- District Court Judge Nancy Parrish stepped down from handling the retrial of Dana Lynn Chandler in June because she will undergo open-heart surgery, the judge told 13NEWS on Thursday.

Parrish submitted a one-paragraph request to re-assign the case to another judge to Chief Judge Evelyn Wilson on Tuesday.

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.

Parrish's diagnosis requires open-heart surgery followed by an estimated absence from court for five to six weeks. The surgery is scheduled to be done in June, the Parrish letter to the chief judge said.

As of Thursday, the Chandler re-trial remains scheduled to start on June 10, and a judge to replace Parrish hasn't been selected. The trial is expected to last six weeks.

"I take the responsibilities of my job (as a district court judge) seriously," Parrish said. "This is a personal decision I've made. I've put off the surgery and I need to have it."

Deciding to ask another judge to take over the Chandler re-trial clearly was a heavy choice for Parrish.

"I take my job very seriously and do the best I can," the judge said. "It is very difficult to have another (judge) take this case."

Parrish handles a criminal case load,including a steady stream of murders and other serious offenses. She will continue to handle her case load of other offenses.

Besides the Chief Judge, the letter was sent to Chandler, who is acting as her own attorney, defense counsel KiAnn Caprice and Keen Umbehr, and prosecutors Dan Dunbar and Charles Kitt.

Parrish has been assigned the Chandler case since mid- 2011 when Chandler was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the then nine-year-old cold case.

On April 11, Parrish denied Chandler's fourth demand that Parrish recuse herself from handling Chandler's re-trial in the 2002 shooting deaths on of Chandler's ex-husband and his fiancee. So far, Chandler has sought Parrish's recusal four times. The three earlier requests have been denied by another judge examining the recusal requests.

Chandler's request to move the trial at least 100 miles away from Shawnee County hasn't been dealt with. 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.

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

For four-two-year terms, Parrish served as chief judge of Shawnee County District Court; was president of the Kansas District Judges Association; was the state Secretary of the Department of Revenue; was a state senator; and was a member of the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals.

Later this year, Parrish will celebrate 25 years as a district court judge.

Shawnee County has 15 district court judges.