Kuykendall case back in Monroe County court

Illinois Department of Corrections photo of Jordan Kuykendall, who now goes by the name Sora Kuykendall.

A status hearing was held Wednesday morning in the Monroe County Courthouse regarding Jordan Kuykendall, who is serving a 40-year sentence at Menard Correctional Center in Chester for the 2013 stabbing death of former girlfriend and Columbia High School student Erin Schneider.

In November 2014, Kuykendall pleaded guilty but mentally ill to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 40 years in prison with the assurance he will receive mental health care while incarcerated.

Today, however, that very plea is being questioned as Kuykendall’s attorneys argue he was given a “substantial denial” of rights under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects against “cruel and unusual punishment.” At the crux of the argument is that Kuykendall, who is transgender and now identifies as female, was not in a mental state to fully understand the consequences of the plea, due to the emotional stress of being transgender and also suffering from major depression and personality disorder.

Kuykendall’s attorneys seek a reduction of this 40-year negotiated sentence.

The state made a motion to dismiss the case, claiming Kuykendall fails to make a substantial showing of a constitutional violation and also failed to appeal the sentence within the required 30 days.

Kuykendall, who now goes by the first name Sora, has until May 2 to enter a response to that motion.

Kuykendall’s gender identity is also at the center of another legal action, being one of six Illinois inmates who are part of a class action suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Illinois Department of Corrections, Gov. Bruce Rauner and more, for “gross inadequacies in the medical treatment provided to prisoners with gender dysphoria,” according to a statement by ACLU Illinois.

For an ACLU news release on that filing, click here.

Read next week’s Republic-Times for more information.

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