Kentucky Man Accused of Killing Daughter of Former State Legislator Tries to Plead Guilty but Mentally Ill and Is Denied by the Court


Shannon Gilday appears in court

A Kentucky man who tried to legally accept culpability for killing the daughter of a former state legislator was not allowed to do so during a hearing on Monday—at least not in the exact way he wanted. That effort led to a dispute between the state and the defense. Ultimately, the judge had to step in for clarity’s sake.

Shannon Gilday, 23, stands accused of killing 32-year-old lawyer Jordan Morgan in late February. Police say he committed the crime as part of a plan to gain access to the Morgan family’s “doomsday bunker” inside their Richmond, Ky. mansion.

In fact, the defense doesn’t really dispute the charges.

As Law&Crime previously reported, Gilday initially pleaded not guilty after his arrest–but last week signaled to change his plea to guilty but mentally ill, an admission of guilt that aims to reduce a criminal’s eventual punishment. Such pleas, however, are not a guaranteed way of escaping harsh sentencing–especially for those who commit violent crimes, according to criminal law experts.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Smith was opposed to the plea change from the start–citing the prospect of not being able to extract a particularly harsh sentence out of the case. During Monday’s hearing in Madison County, the prosecution reiterated the state’s opposition to the guilty but mentally ill plea.

According to a report by Lexington, Ky.-based CBS/CW affiliate WKYT, prosecutors formally moved against having the new plea entered, saying they wouldn’t accept Gilday’s (or his attorney’s) word for it and requesting proof of the defendant’s alleged mental illness.

In the end, the judge entered a plea of not guilty.

“Well, the judge did the only thing she could do,” Gilday’s attorney Tom Griffiths told the TV station. “We were unable to go forward…


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