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A Kentucky man accused of forcing his way into a former state legislator’s home and killing his 32-year-old daughter attempted to plead guilty but mentally ill to the charges against him in court Monday, but a judge didn’t allow the change to his plea.
Shannon Gilday stands accused of breaking into the home of former state lawmaker C. Wesley Morgan’s home in February, then shooting Morgan’s daughter, Jordan Morgan to death in her bed, according to a press release from the Kentucky State Police.
He had allegedly been seeking access to the Richmond mansion’s doomsday bunker, according to local station WKYT.
While Gilday’s attorney Tom Griffiths had been hoping to enter a plea of guilty but mentally ill at a hearing Monday morning, prosecutors objected to the move, arguing that they’d need independent proof of Gilday’s mental state first.
The judge in the case then entered a not guilty plea on Gilday’s behalf.
“Well, the judge did the only thing she could do. We were unable to go forward with our plea of guilty but mentally ill, which is what we hoped to do last week and still hoped to do this morning,” Griffiths said. “But, since we were unable to go forward the rules are clear that the court needs to carry the case forward.”
A plea of guilty but mentally ill admits to guilt but could carry a reduced sentence, although that’s not always the case, according to Law & Crime.
Prosecutors gave notice to Gilday’s defense team last week that they intend to seek enhanced penalties in the case, which could include life without parole or the death penalty.
According to Griffiths, the move, in part, complicated his plans to enter the guilty but mentally ill plea. He told the Lexington Herald-Leader the prosecutors' decision to seek the enhancements “does tie my hands as counsel somewhat” because it wasn’t clear whether prosecutors intended to seek the death penalty.
“If the death penalty was a possible punishment in this case, then I would not be able to proceed with a plea of guilty but mentally ill as the court and commonwealth know the ADA standards have a requirement for cases to have a full defense team to be put together. Everything changes,” he said.
Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Jennifer Smith said however that Griffiths wasn’t able to enter the plea on behalf of his client because of a state statute that requires the court to make a finding that Gilday was in fact mentally ill before it could accept a plea of guilty but mentally ill on his behalf.
In another unusual twist in the case, Griffiths is not seeking any “discovery” because he said his defense team is already aware of everything that Gilday did in the case.
A pre-trial hearing has been set for July 22.
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