Ben Alford, the jury foreman in the Dana Chandler trial, explains why he was unable to vote for Chandler’s conviction on Thursday afternoon.
The evidence simply wasn’t there for the majority of the jurors to find Dana Chandler guilty of the murders of her ex-husband Mike Sisco and his fiancee Karen Harkness in 2002.
Ben Alford, the jury foreman, and Carrie Kimes, another member of the panel, described why the jury was unable to come to a decision after 40 hours of deliberations about an hour after Alford informed Shawnee County District Court Judge Cheryl Rios that they were unable to do so.
The jury’s divide was fairly even when deliberations began on August 25 and moved in either direction several times throughout the course of the six-day process. In order to determine the impact of deliberations, jurors cast multiple votes daily using anonymous cards and a show of hands.
But despite daily polls, the outcome didn’t frequently shift significantly. The jury’s decision to convict Chandler was supported by an 8-4 vote, which was as near to a unanimous decision as they got. Seven jurors voted to convict, and five voted to exonerate, as the jury’s deliberations came to a close.
Chandler continues to be detained until a status conference on September 29, at which point Rios may decide to halt the case. After Chandler’s initial 2012 conviction was reversed by the Kansas Supreme Court due to prosecutorial misconduct, that would leave open the potential of a third trial.
Although it would be up to Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay to make such a choice, he declined to speak with The Capital-Journal about it before meeting with the Sisco and Harkness families.
Why some jurors failed to convict Dana Chandler
Alford understood Chandler’s motivation for killing Sisco and Harkness, but he disagreed that the prosecution had established intent.
Was there sufficient contempt or hatred for the victim to suggest criminal intent? Alford speculated. “Can you accept the premise that, sure, that person was despised, but only to that extent, and that the individual was prepared to go that far? Some of us believed that there was no evidence or claim that could convince you that this was true without a shadow of a doubt.”
He and Kimes claimed that no juror had given Terri Anderson’s testimony, a last-minute witness who unexpectedly showed up during the trial and caused a multi-day break in the proceedings, any weight.
In the early stages of the trial, Anderson, a previous neighbor of Harkness’, was conversing with a hairdresser client when she claimed to have heard gunshots and seen Chandler leave the house after allegedly executing the murders. The client then alerted Mike Sisco and Dana Chandler’s daughter Hailey Seel, who subsequently told the police.
Previously: According to the prosecution, Dana Chandler killed in a jealous rage. Defense: conspiracy theory
On the witness stand, Anderson added that she had called 911 that evening to report what she had observed and that the next day she had spoken with investigators about the incident.
However, there are no documents that support any aspect of her account, and Anderson’s purported point of view on the Harkness residence that evening would have certainly been hidden.
Alford cited the defense’s closing arguments as evidence that Anderson’s testimony had been somewhat disrespectful. “Even on the witness stand, the account altered a few times, and it appeared to be a last-ditch effort. Simply put, there wasn’t much support there.”
Kimes gave the prosecution more credit and stated that she knew that Charles Kitt, the lead prosecutor, had no choice but to present all the information at hand and let the jury decide whether or not Anderson was trustworthy, which they did not do.