April 26, 2005

DOC official denies coercing Druce

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— A prison official yesterday denied telling Joseph L. Druce, the inmate accused of murdering defrocked pedophile priest John J. Geoghan, that he should plead guilty in the killing and get transferred to a penal institution outside Massachusetts.

Mr. Druce is awaiting trial in Worcester Superior Court on a charge of first-degree murder in the Aug. 23, 2003, slaying of Mr. Geoghan in a special housing unit at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on the Lancaster-Shirley line.

In a motion to dismiss the charge against him, Mr. Druce alleges he was subjected to “misconduct and coercion” by the state Department of Correction after he rejected a prison captain’s suggestion that he plead guilty and avoid a trial that could produce evidence “contrary to the interests” of the department.

Mr. Druce’s appointed lawyer, John H. LaChance, alleges that correction department officials have interfered with his client’s right to a fair trial and created an “attorney-client rift” in the case, warranting dismissal of the murder charge.

At a hearing yesterday, Capt. William J. Grossi of the Inner Perimeter Security team at the state prison in Walpole, where Mr. Druce now is being held, denied telling Mr. Druce he should seek a plea bargain in the case. Under questioning by Mr. LaChance, Capt. Grossi also denied cautioning Mr. Druce against raising the issue of “sensory deprivation.”

In an affidavit accompanying his motion, Mr. Druce said that in spring 2004, he and his lawyer began investigating conditions at the Departmental Disciplinary Unit at the Walpole prison, where Mr. Druce was held before being transferred to Souza-Baranowski, to determine if those conditions constituted sensory deprivation “and, if so, whether those conditions made my mental condition worse.”

Mr. LaChance has indicated he plans to raise a psychiatric defense on Mr. Druce’s behalf.

At the time of the killing, Mr. Druce was serving a life sentence for the 1998 murder of a man he believed was gay. Mr. Geoghan, 68, a key figure in the clergy sex-abuse scandal that rocked the Boston Archdiocese, was doing time for fondling a 10-year-old boy.

Posted by kshaw at April 26, 2005 07:17 AM