BY LUKE NOZICKA AND KATIE MOORE UPDATED AUGUST 05, 2022 8:12 PM
A woman accused in a 2002 double murder faced jurors Friday as the second trial finally began in a case marred by past prosecutorial misconduct, scathing national media attention and years of delays.
Dana Chandler maintains she is innocent in the killings of her ex-husband and his fiancee. Chandler, now 62, was found guilty at the end of the first trial in 2012. Her convictions were overturned in 2018 because of prosecutorial misconduct.
The Kansas Supreme Court disbarred prosecutor Jacqie Spradling earlier this year after concluding she engaged in “intolerable acts of deception” at the trial.
After years of court continuances, many of which were requested by Chandler, jury selection began on July 28.
Opening statements were presented Friday afternoon in Shawnee County District Court. Deputy District Attorney Charles Kitt recounted the day Mike Sisco and his fiancée, Karen Harkness, were found shot to death, July 7, 2002, in the basement bedroom of their Topeka home.
He said detectives learned through interviews with relatives that Chandler had caused “problems” for the couple by showing up at their home and calling them repeatedly.
Chandler’s divorce with Sisco had taken years and was “acrimonious,” Kitt said. Sisco was awarded sole custody of their children and child support — which Chandler was “not happy” about, Kitt said.
“Science is not going to solve this case,” Kitt told the jury. The case, he said, was based on “jealousy, rage and obsession.” One of Chandler’s lawyers, Tom Bath, told the jury that Chandler was hundreds of miles away when the couple was killed. For 20 years, he said, Topeka police, with the help of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, have “scoured” for evidence to place Chandler at the murder scene but have come up empty handed.
Bath said a recent crime scene reconstruction showed the shooter was likely taller than Chandler. He also said Chandler has never matched DNA, fibers, fingerprints or other physical evidence collected during the investigation. “No match,” he said. “No match at all.”
TIMELINE OF HIGH PROFILE CASE In 2009, CBS’ “48 Hours” aired an episode about the unsolved killings and portrayed Chandler as the prime suspect. She was arrested two years later in Duncan, Oklahoma. At the time, Bath told the jury Friday, police seized “everything” that Chandler owned in the hopes of implicating her in the crime. “There’s nothing,” he said.
Prosecutors alleged that Chandler had driven from her home in Denver to Topeka and killed her ex-husband and his fiancee. Chandler was convicted and given two consecutive life sentences in prison. In July 2016, attorney Keen Umbehr filed a complaint against Spradling, the prosecutor, alleging she presented false information to the jury about a protection from abuse order that did not exist.
Chandler’s convictions were overturned in 2018 because of prosecutorial misconduct, setting in motion proceedings for a retrial. Meanwhile, Umbehr’s complaint made its way through Kansas’ Office of the Disciplinary Administrator.
In June 2021, the disciplinary panel unanimously recommended Spradling be disbarred for carrying out what they described as a deliberate pattern of misconduct. Spradling, the panel said in its report, took a “win at all costs approach” that led to the reversal of two high-profile cases, including Chandler’s.
The second case involved a Holton man who was convicted of rape and other sex crimes. In May, the Kansas Supreme Court disbarred Spradling, concluding she engaged in a “serious pattern of grossly unethical misconduct,” which included intentionally lying to the high court about statements she made during Chandler’s trial.
She also fabricated the subject of a phone call between Chandler and Sisco. Over the summer, scores of subpoenas and motions have been filed as Shawnee County prosecutors and Chandler’s legal team prepared for the retrial. The retrial is being covered by national news outlets, including Dateline NBC.
This story was originally published August 5, 2022 5:03 PM. RELATED STORIES FROM KANSAS CITY STAR
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