TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) — Almost two weeks after Dana Lynn Chandler received a standby attorney to help her mount a defense in her retrial on charges she killed two people, the attorney stepped aside Thursday, saying his caseload was too heavy to help Chandler.
Chandler, 58, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Micheal Sisco, Chandler’s first husband, and Karen Harkness, Sisco’s fiancée. On July 7, 2002, each victim was shot at least five times as the two slept.
On April 6, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned Chandler’s 2012 convictions on two counts of first-degree murder, saying a Shawnee County prosecutor falsely told jurors that a protection-from-abuse order was filed by Sisco against Chandler in her divorce case.
Since June 20, Chandler has represented herself. A standby counsel is a lawyer appointed to assist a client, who is acting as her own attorney.
On July 26, Chandler said she wanted the judge to appoint a standby attorney, and lawyer James Spies was appointed a few days later. But on Thursday, Spies asked Shawnee County District Court Judge Nancy Parrish to be allowed to withdraw from the Chandler case.
Spies listed a series of criminal trials he is tied to in state courts and U.S. District Court in September, October and November, which include murder and drug cases. Spies is representing a defendant in another murder trial in Shawnee County.
“There’s no way I could do it,” Spies said of the Chandler case. Parrish granted Spies’ request to withdraw from the Chandler case.
Chandler said she had hoped Spies would have been asked about his case load before he was appointed.
“Now I have lost two weeks of trial preparation,” Chandler said. As of Thursday, Chandler’s retrial is scheduled to start in 53 days on Oct. 1.
The judge said she would seek to quickly find a standby attorney to aid Chandler.
On Thursday, Chandler didn’t seek a later date to start her trial based on the loss of Spies as standby attorney. If Chandler does ask for a later start-up trial date, the extra days wouldn’t count against the prosecution’s speedy trial requirement, the judge told Chandler.
Speedy trial means a trial must start within a certain time frame or the charges must be dismissed.
In another development, prosecutor Charles Kitt said a search of records hadn’t uncovered 1,200 pages of cell tower records requested by Chandler. The records are due on Friday.
Kitt, who is the chief of staff in the district attorney’s office, said a document he read indicated the cell tower records were “previously discovered.” Discovery is the right of the defendant to get access to evidence necessary to prepare her own case, according to “Black’s Law Dictionary.”
At the last court hearing, Chandler said the cell tower records she wanted were “new” evidence, Kitt said, and he had searched for new data rather than in evidence earlier discovered. Kitt said he would “make every effort” to find the 1,200 pages of cell tower data.
Law enforcement investigators can determine the latitude and longitude of a person on a specific date by tracking signals emitted by his or her cell phone.
On Thursday, Chandler quoted documents she said mentioned cell tower data including Colorado and Denver.
During Chandler’s first trial in 2012, the Chandler defense contended she was in Colorado at the time of the slayings of Harkness and Sisco. During Chandler’s first trial, a Denver businessman testified Chandler told him she was driving and hiking in the Colorado mountains when the victims were killed.
If the district attorney’s office isn’t able to produce the 1,200 pages of cell tower data, that would be a violation requiring the state to dismiss the charge until they can produce the 1,200 pages, Chandler told the judge.
Suggesting a dismissal as of Wednesday would be early, the judge said.
Chandler wants a lower bond on the murder charges and indicated she had filed the motion. The motion wasn’t reflected on the district court web site on Thursday. In an earlier motion to modify her bond, Chandler requested a signature bond. The defense withdrew the earlier motion.
It appears the bond question will be dealt with during the next hearing, which hadn’t been scheduled on Thursday.
After the Kansas Supreme Court overturned Chandler’s murder convictions in April, her bond was reinstated to the original amount of $1 million.
Chandler remains in Shawnee County Jail in lieu of a $1 million professional surety bond.