Sora Kuykendall, formerly Jordan Kuykendall, was in a Monroe County courtroom Wednesday morning to appear in front of Judge Heinz Rudolf regarding a petition for post-conviction relief filed in March.
“I argued the state’s motion to dismiss Jordan (Sora) Kuykendall’s petition for post-conviction relief this morning before Judge Heinz Rudolf, and the motion was granted, putting at least a temporary end to the matter,” Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann said following the hearing.
Kuykendall is serving a 40-year sentence at Menard Correctional Center in Chester for the June 27, 2013, stabbing death of former girlfriend and Columbia High School student Erin Schneider. Members of Schneider’s family were in the courtroom during Wednesday’s hearing.
Kuykendall’s attorneys argue there was 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 a female named Sora, was not in a mental state to fully understand the consequences of her negotiated plea of “guilty but mentally ill” due to the emotional stress of being transgender as well as suffering from major depression and personality disorder.
“I would expect opposing counsel to appeal the decision to dismiss the petition to the Fifth District Court of Appeals,” Hitzemann added. “Opposing counsel and I will be working through a final order to be submitted to Judge Rudolf and signed within the next couple days.”
Kuykendall is also part of a class action lawsuit lodged by the American Civil Liberties Union. She is one of six Illinois Department of Corrections transgender inmates who are part of the suit against the Illinois Department of Corrections, Gov. Bruce Rauner and others, for “gross inadequacies in the medical treatment provided to prisoners with gender dysphoria,” according to a statement by ACLU Illinois.
Among the allegations in the suit are that Kuykendall has been denied evaluation for gender reassignment surgery and social transitioning and was not given gender affirming clothing and grooming supplies.