September 5, 2012 / 2:25 PM / 7 years ago

Federal judge orders Massachusetts to pay for killer's sex change

BOSTON (Reuters) - A federal judge has ordered Massachusetts officials to pay for a convicted murderer’s sex change operation, ruling that the state had violated the inmate’s constitutional rights in denying the procedure.

In a 126-page order issued in Boston, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf found in favor of Michelle Kosilek, who sued the Massachusetts Department of Correction 12 years ago to force it to provide him the surgery while imprisoned.

Wolf said senior corrections officials engaged in patterns of “pretense, pretext and prevarication” to deny Kosilek the treatment he was entitled to and which had been recommended by department medical staff. The court had previously ruled in 2002 that Kosilek should at least be evaluated for the surgery.

Although Kosilek legally changed his name — he was formerly Robert Kosilek — and has been taking hormones that have caused his breasts to grow, the judge used male pronouns throughout the order. He is incarcerated in a state prison for male inmates.

Kosilek, according to court records, has suffered from gender identity disorder since he was a small child. He married a counselor he met while in drug rehabilitation, but murdered her in 1990 after she caught him wearing her clothes.

He was convicted in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“In this case Kosilek has proven that he still has a severe gender identity disorder. Although female hormones have helped somewhat, he continues to suffer intense mental anguish because of his sincere and enduring belief that he is a female trapped in a male body,” Wolf wrote, citing the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishments.

Wolf noted that the corrections department had fired a doctor who recommended that Kosilek receive the surgery and had hired a social worker who was known to consistently recommend that inmates did not have the procedure.

Wolf did not explicitly set a timetable for Kosilek’s surgery, saying it was up to the state to determine who should perform the operation and in which facility.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Correction said it was reviewing the decision and exploring the possibility of an appeal.

The case is Kosilek vs. Spencer, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, No. 00-12455.

Reporting By Ben Berkowitz; Editing by Paul Simao

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