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Inmate getting sex change needs facial hair removed, lawyer says

Robert Kosilek, also known as Michelle Kosilek, in a New Bedford court in 1993.

AP File/1991

Robert Kosilek, also known as Michelle Kosilek, in a New Bedford court in 1993.

Convicted killer Michelle Kosilek’s facial hair was the subject of a lengthy hearing in US District Court today where a federal judge has already ordered the state to pay for Kosilek’s sex-reassignment surgery.

The attorneys for Kosilek argued before Chief US District Court Judge Mark Wolf that her electrolysis treatments, part of her gender transformation from male to female that includes a sexual reassignment surgery, should continue despite resistance from the Department of Correction.

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It was not clear whether Wolf would decide today whether to compel the department to continue with the beard removal treatment that stopped after six weeks. According to Kosilek’s attorney, Fran Cohen, the removal was incomplete when it came to a halt.

Robert Dierner, a medical expert who met twice with Kosilek and determined that the electrolysis wasn’t necessary, testified that Kosilek appeared to exaggerate the growth of her facial hair.

For example, Dierner testified, during one evaluation, Kosilek said going several days without shaving would result in a full beard.

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“I didn’t think that was possible,” Dierner testified on behalf of the state Department of Correction.

Kosilek strangled his wife, Cheryl, in Mansfield in 1990 and dumped her body in a car at the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleborough. Kosilek then fled to New York State before being arrested.

Kosilek, who was convicted as Robert Kosilek but appeared at trial dressed like a woman, legally changed her name to Michelle in 1993 and has been living as a woman in an all-male prison in Norfolk since his conviction.

In September, Wolf issued a landmark ruling that taxpayers must pay for Kosilek to undergo sex-reassignment surgery for a transsexual prison inmate because the surgery is the only adequate care for his serious mental illness, gender identity disorder.

Kosilek first sued the Department of Correction in 2000, arguing that its refusal to pay for a sex-change violates her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. The department has consistently opposed Kosilek’s request.

Wolf ruled that the department has violated the Eighth Amendment.

The Patrick administration has appealed Wolf’s decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Today’s hearing focused on one of the lingering issues from the long-running litigation, specifically Kosilek’s facial hair.

Brian Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com
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