Robert Kosilek in the Bristol County Superior Court, 1993.

Credit: Lisa Bul / AP

Kosilek Case: The Definition of Cruel and Unusual

November 20, 2012

This morning Federal court Judge Mark Wolf made two new rulings in the strange case of convicted murderer Robert Kosilek, who successfully sued the Department of Correction for the right to a sex change operation earlier this year.

Today, Judge Wolf stayed his own ruling, saying the state has a right to have its appeal first. Wolf also turned down Kosilek’s request for electrolysis treatment saying that would have to be part of a whole new case. Since his ruling in September, Wolf has endured a barrage of criticism and ridicule — a ruling he says was “misunderstood.” A refusal to grant Kosilek the sex change, he says, would have been a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment because he suffers a serious mental illness.

Still, the idea that taxpayers are going to pay for a multi-thousand dollar operation, his $800,000 legal fees and an extended hospital stay doesn’t sit well with most people. Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi, who has been undergoing rigorous treatments for tongue and neck cancer, has been kept in a prison hospital with no family bedside visits. Now that’s cruel and unusual. 

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