Archive for Tuesday, September 3, 2002

Sanity at last

September 3, 2002


A Boston judge has the good sense to deny a ridiculous effort by a deranged prisoner.

The scenario was so bizarre and the request so outlandish that with today's often-weird legal atmosphere, some might have expected a judge to go along with it. Thank heavens that didn't happen!

A federal judge this week rejected a bid by a male prison inmate to force the state of Massachusetts to pay for a sex change operation and hormone therapy that would allow him to live as a woman.

The judge in Boston did order the state to get a medical evaluation and recommendation for appropriate treatment for Michelle Kosilek, who legally changed his name from Robert Kosilek. That may be appropriate, but at least the judge didn't try to be so understanding and "open-minded" that he let the ridiculous effort play out.

Suppose the man was allowed an operation that physically changed his body. Would Kosilek then have declared that "as a woman" he should be shifted to a female prison rather than being left among the males? The prospects for spin and manipulation go on and on.

Kosilek was convicted in 1993 of strangling his wife. He claimed he was being denied adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. His lawsuit against the Massachusetts Department of Corrections was heard by a non-jury trial in February.

The judge has not ruled out counseling and proper medical treatment for the man, but he did not tumble for the ridiculous request for a sex change operation to be paid for by the citizenry. Prison legal finagling what it is, the man may try again. But precedent is against him.

Kosilek said he began asking the corrections department for treatment in 1990 after his arrest for the killing of his 36-year-old wife. He was convicted in 1993. Said a member of the corrections department, in quite an understatement: "We're pleased that the judgment is that we did not violate the Eighth Amendment."

But such cases are not laughable matters in this day and age of foolish legal activities. There doubtless are some judges who would have gone along with Kosilek. And that is truly a sad testimony to what has happened to our legal system in the past 50 years or so.

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