The U.S. Supreme Court.Reuters/Molly Riley

Lawyers have asked the highest court in the land to hear an appeal on behalf of a transgender murderer who is seeking sex reassignment surgery while imprisoned in Massachusetts.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) this week asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case, saying the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) has denied Michelle Kosilek the surgery for decades “despite the fact that experts have deemed it medically necessary.”

Back in 1990, Kosilek -- then known as Robert – killed spouse Cheryl, strangling her to death with a wire and nearly decapitating her in the process. Kosilek was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

While in prison, Kosilek began living as a woman “to the extent possible.”


Kosilek would launch a lengthy legal battle against the DOC, arguing that agency should pay for sexual reassignment surgery because she suffers from gender identity disorder.

Denying Kosilek that treatment should be considered cruel and unusual punishment, something that violates the Eighth Amendment, her lawyers argue.

The petition states the First Circuit Court of Appeals erred in a December 2014 ruling that effectively prevented Kosilek from getting the surgery.

“This is a quintessentially fact-intensive case,” said GLAD attorney Joseph Sulman in a statement. “The First Circuit found no legal error or clear factual error in Judge Wolf’s decision, which is what it must do to overturn his decision. The way the court ran roughshod over the most basic of legal principles erodes the credibility of the judiciary. It should be alarming to every single lawyer, litigant and defendant in a civil case.”

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