Judge: Dana Chandler can't dump back-up lawyer

By  | 

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A judge has denied Dana Lynn Chandler's request to remove Chandler's court-appointed stand-by attorney, saying "insufficient cause exists" to require KiAnn Caprice to step down from the case so a replacement could be appointed, the judge's order says.

Chandler, who is acting as her own attorney, sought the replacement of Caprice, contending communication between Chandler and Caprice had deteriorated to the point they don't communicate.

On May 8, Chandler made an oral motion to have Caprice removed.

"I've tried to work with her," Chandler said on May 8. But Chandler said she and Caprice had a breakdown in communication.

Caprice yelled and screamed at Keen Umbehr, Chandler's research attorney, and was "very abusive to him," Chandler told the judge.

Umbehr told the judge the relationship between Caprice and Chandler is "more adversarial" than it is communicative.

"This is news to me," Caprice told the judge. "I'm blindsided by this." Umbehr hasn't returned Caprice's phone calls and emails, Caprice said.

"I am on board for the trial," said Caprice, who has 20 years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer. "I understand how to try a case."

In his court order, Fairchild wrote that the court had appointed several attorneys to defend Chandler. Caprice is an "experienced and capable counsel," who "feels she can work with the defendant to provide competent legal representation for the defendant."

Shawnee County District Court doesn't have "readily available another attorney" with experience to provide adequate representation for Chandler, Fairchild wrote in a ruling.

"The court finds that insufficient cause exists to require Ms. Caprice to withdraw and for the court to appoint a new stand-by attorney for defendant," Fairchild wrote. "Defendant's motion is denied."

The judge "cautions" both attorneys to act in a professional manner and to cooperate in order to provide the best possible representation for Ms. Chandler," Fairchild wrote.

In March 2012, a Shawnee County jury convicted Chandler of the two counts of murder in March 2012, nearly 10 years after Mike Sisco, Chandler's former husband, and Karen Harkness were slain in Harkness' southwest Topeka home.

After a Shawnee County District Court convicted Chandler in 2012 of two counts of first-degree murder and she was sentenced to two 50-year prison terms, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned Chandler's convictions on April 6, 2018.

The judge is Senior Judge Robert Fairchild, who replaced a judge who stepped down to undergo heart surgery. Before that, Chandler had asked the original judge four times to recuse herself.

Chandler's second trial on two charges of first-degree murder will start Sept 16.