By Alana Bleimann and Koda Slingluff
KANSAS – Prosecutorial misconduct proceedings for ex-Shawnee County Deputy DA Jacqie Spradling opened for a third day Wednesday as two key witnesses were presented to the court.
The virtual hearing featured testimony from Judge Nancy Parrish, the presiding judge in the 2012 murder case where Dana Chandler was accused of murdering her ex-husband and his girlfriend.
Spradling allegedly presented false evidence, made an improper comment to gain sympathy, and disregarded the judge’s order not to reference people during trial.
Questioned by LJ Leatherman, Jacqie Spradling’s attorney, Parrish revealed valuable statements about the PFA (protection from abuse) order in question.
Overall, Leatherman said he was trying to understand the difference between error and misconduct as well as the difference between a protective order and a PFA order.
The PFA order in question was tied to the Chandler case, in which the defendant was found guilty of murdering her ex-husband and his fiancée. It was alleged that the PFA order was never actually signed or issued and that Spradling had falsified its existence in order to win the case.
In regard to a PFA order and all other types of restraining orders, “they get lumped together,” according to Parrish.
“If someone violates a protective order then it’s one charge. From the criminal side we may look at those orders similarly. Now if you are doing a DV case, there are differences. As far as a violation, they are similar,” she said.
The distinction between these two orders is key in understanding Spradling’s misconduct.
Leatherman questioned Parrish’s opinion on whether Spradling was intentionally trying to mislead anyone by calling the order a PFA rather than a restraining order.
“At the time, no. And today, I don’t think so.” Parrish stated.
In fact, she also stated that she “takes responsibility for a part of that because when looking back through my decision on the other order, I looked at what Jacqie had written in her motion…..she referred to this motion that had been filed by [the victim] as an immediate restraining order.”
“As I was writing my decision I made two errors. I jumped from motion to order and I referred to it as a PFA rather than a restraining order,” she continued.
Judge Parrish also revealed that Spradling had possibly shown the victim sympathy during the initial jury trial.
“Spradling asked the victim to stand and she made comments about them. I was concerned during the Chandler trial about any kind of repeat of that technique and tactics basically. I didn’t want any sympathy shown to either side. I wanted a fair trial,” Parrish said.
Leatherman also asked about the stress and emotional toll of serious jury trials, such as the Chandler trial.
Parrish said, “It’s high emotion…my role is trying to make sure we are having a fair proceeding…trying to keep order and keep the train on time. [The counsel] has the most difficult job in my opinion.”
She believed that Spradling was trying to make sure everything was right during this high-stress moment, but certainly could have made an error.
“I think it was inadvertent that she said that and certainly a technical violation….did not rise to the level of a mistrial,” she said.
She also claimed that “over time, memory does fade” and that this often happens during jury trials.
By the end of her questioning from both parties and the courtroom panel, Judge Parrish was able to confirm that it was “fair to say that at the time of the order” there was “no indication” that the PFA order had not been issued and no one from the State came to her to confirm the status of the alleged order.
Witness Kevin Rigsby claimed to be a long-term friend and coworker of the victim in the Chandler murders.
“We were like family, we spent most of our time together,” Rigsby claimed, adding Rigsby “was the one who told him [the victim] he needed a restraining order on her [Chandler] because she was doing some bad stuff to him.”
The witness went on to reveal that the victim had gone to get a restraining order and the two men read over it together, explaining, “He [the victim] felt he would be safe by it [the order]…he feared for his life every day…”
The victim even told Rigsby that “if I don’t show up to work in the morning come looking for me. I can remember him calling the police department and asking them ‘what do I got to do before you can help me because this woman is gonna kill me,’” Rigsby said.
Matt Vogelsburg questioned the integrity of the restraining order to which Rigsby claimed, “It was a legit restraining order” even though he could not confirm if it was signed by a judge.
The panel in the courtroom, including Bill Jeter, was able to confirm that the restraining order was issued before the victim’s divorce with Chandler, sometime after 1998.
The next witness called to testify was Mark Malick, an interrogation analysis expert, and colleague of Spradling. He was asked to assist with the Chandler case.
In this case, Dana Lynn Chandler was suspected of murdering Mike Sisco, 47, and Karen Harkness, 53. Sisco was the ex-husband of Chandler, and Harkness was Cisco’s fiancée.
Malick was part of the team that traveled to Oklahoma, during which time he interviewed the defendant and the defendant’s sister, Shirley Regal.
At the time of Malick’s interview with Regal, it had been discerned that Mike Sisco had a phone call with Chandler prior to his death. A primary goal of interviewing Regal was to discover the content of this phone call and establish a motive.
“[Regal] learned from Dana, the phone call did in fact exist, and that through that she learned that [Sisco] was engaged,” Malick said. This information clarified a narrative for prosecution, where Chandler’s discovery of the engagement acted as the “trigger” to motivate violence against the couple.
Spradling’s use of the phone call as a trigger when presenting evidence during the Chandler trial is among her actions called into question as misconduct. Malick’s testimony of the pertinence of this phone call and interview are particularly important to the current investigation into Spradling’s alleged misconduct.
Malick surmised that the evidence was reasonable, stating, “Looking at this case, after all the times of stalking, there was even an allegation of her jumping on the trampoline in the middle of the night by Sisco… the only thing that triggered this… she lives in Denver, him in Topeka, so what would cause her to get in the car?… The phone call was in very close proximity to their deaths.”
Malick also attested to the legitimacy of Spradling’s claims that there were incriminating searches found on Chandler’s computer. The computer showed several searches about crime, but most poignant was research on Robert Blake, whose case involved shooting an ex-wife and her current spouse.
Malick seemed to believe strongly that Spradling was not out of line to use both the phone call and the computer search history in court.
Malick was also involved in the second case in question for Spradling: Jacob Ewing, who was accused of multiple rapes.
Malick reviewed Ewing’s computer and cell phone. The cell phone showed consistent viewing of pornography websites, as well as photographs and social media that could also be considered pornographic.
The pornography was pivotal to Spradling’s argument, as it indicated a link between the defendant’s pornographic preferences and the victim’s descriptions of their assaults. One particular video entitled “autism abuse” closely paralleled the experience of a victim.
The victim was not diagnosed with a disability, but Malick attested that she came across as intellectually low-functioning. Malick took a moment to describe that he is not an expert on disabilities but was on the special Olympics board for nine years. His concern for the victim’s condition was apparent and genuine, saying, “I hate to use the word ‘intellectual disabilities’ but it comes very close to using that term.”
With only layman observations of a disability, however, Spradling’s initial claim in trial that the victim was low-functioning was met with contention.
This, in combination with alleged misconduct with the Ewing family and misrepresentation of evidence, led the Kansas Court of Appeals to overturn the guilty verdicts in 2019.
Malick expressed exhaustion with the conduct of Ewing’s supporters during the trial.
“There were family members of the Ewings taking photographs of victims leaving the courtroom, there were conversations about myself made to my face in the hallway. The sheriff put many measures in place [to protect us] that were generally not helpful due to the amount of problems,” he added.
The alleged misconduct of Spradling was her confronting a family member in the audience of the courtroom.
The final witness of the day was William “Bill” Fitzpatrick, who has a long credible history with Onondaga County’s District Attorney’s Office. Among his many accolades is his involvement with the National District Attorney Association (NDAA) as representative for New York and subsequent president.
Fitzpatrick spoke with Spradling several times briefly in her role as a lecturer for the NDAA. He said she has made so many presentations that he “tried to get the number of presentations and actually stopped counting around 20.”
Fitzpatrick described how he would view Spradling’s behavior if he had been involved, beginning with the Chandler case and moving to the Ewing case.
Regarding the Chandler case, he noted the accusation that Spradling had been too emotional in her statements to the jury, pointing out, “Her comment about ‘don’t let the defendant get the better of you’ I might not phrase it that way, but I don’t know any case where a prosecutor doesn’t say anything to the jury like ‘be smart.’”
Another questionable comment from Spalding was her “appealing to the sympathy of the jury by saying the defendant left their children without a father.” Fitzpatrick mused on this: “Isn’t that kind of obvious prosecuting a murder? That they left their children without a father?”
As for the Ewing case, Fitzpatrick addressed the low-functioning observation about the victim. “I think Jacqie [Spradling] was making a point that any prosecutor would make in a rape case, that Ewing was very careful about the sort of victim he selects.”
Another major contention was in Spradling’s reference to DNA in the victim’s underwear. Fitzpatrick was critical of this point as well, saying, “The DNA evidence tended to very strongly corroborate the victim’s testimony.”
As for arguments about Spradling’s closing statements being too emotional, Fitzpatrick blamed the judge for not reviewing the pornography DVD (compiled by earlier witness Malick) that would be shown in court beforehand.
“A number of comments Jacqie made were reference to the pornography, and the error actually fell on the judge according to the appellate court,” he said.
The Spradling hearing recessed after Fitzpatrick testimony and is expected to continue for the rest of the week.
Alana Bleimann is a junior at the University of San Francisco majoring in Sociology with a minor in Criminal Justice Studies. She is from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Koda is a junior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Rhetoric. He is from Ventura, CA.
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