Michelle Kosilek: Transgender inmate says state not doing enough for surgery

michelle kosilek transgender inmate boston sex change surgery robert kosilek
Robert Kosilek, who now goes by Michelle, stands trial in January 1993 for the 1990 murder of her wife.
Credit: AP Images

Lawyers for Michelle Kosilek, the transgender inmate who killed her wife in 1990, are urging a federal judge to assess the readiness of the state to provide Kosilek with a sex change, now that an appeals court has upheld the decision.

In documents filed on Monday, Kosilek’s lawyers asked the court to schedule a status conference so that the plan to provide the sex change operation can be discussed. Lawyers said they believe the state Department of Correction is not doing enough to prepare for the court-ordered, taxpayer-funded gender reassignment surgery.

“Such an assessment will show that defendant has violated the spirit, if not the terms, of the court’s orders. Sixteen months has passed since the court’s decision. Yet the Defendant is not close to being ready to provide Kosilek’s surgery due to a clear lack of urgency in taking the actions reasonably necessary to do so,” Kosilek’s lawyers wrote in their filing.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Correction said on Tuesday that the agency is still reviewing the appeals court ruling before it decides whether or not to seek a further appeal.

A federal appeals court judge decided earlier this month to uphold the lower court’s 2012 decision that the state provide Kosilek with the surgery. The surgery was put on hold while the state appealed the decision, but Judge Mark Wolf ordered that the state provide periodic updates on how it is preparing to provide the surgery should the appeals fail.

Kosilek, who was born Robert, sued the DOC in federal court for not providing her with a sex change and claimed it violated her Eighth Amendment rights. Wolf issued a divisive ruling in which he sided with Kosilek, saying she suffered from a “mental illness” that must be treated.

Kosilek is serving a life sentence after being convicted of killing her wife, Cheryl, in Mansfield in 1990.

In his updates to the court, DOC Commissioner Luis Spencer has said the agency has identified an out-of-state surgeon willing to do the surgery, but the physician must be licensed in Massachusetts.

Kosilek’s lawyers said there are other steps the agency can take.

“If the licensing mystery were truly this difficult to solve, the defendant had other options to consider. Most obviously, Kosilek could be transported out of state to where the surgeon is already licensed to undergo the surgery. After all, the defendant’s expertise is in ensuring prisoner safety and security, not in licensing out-of-state surgeons,” Kosilek’s lawyers wrote.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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