April 28, 2005

Druce: Prison workers urged firing lawyer

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— On more than one occasion, Department of Correction employees at the state prison in Walpole recommended to Joseph L. Druce that he fire John H. LaChance, the lawyer appointed to represent him on a murder charge in the prison slaying of defrocked pedophile priest John J. Geoghan, Mr. Druce told a judge yesterday.

Testifying at a Worcester Superior Court hearing on a defense motion to dismiss the murder indictment, Mr. Druce said the comments were accompanied by suggestions that Mr. LaChance wasn’t doing enough for him and contributed to a rift that developed between him and his lawyer.

Mr. Druce is awaiting trial in the Aug. 23, 2003, strangulation and beating death of the 68-year-old Mr. Geoghan in the former priest’s cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. At the time of the killing in the protective custody unit at the maximum-security prison on the Lancaster-Shirley line, Mr. Druce was serving a life sentence for the 1988 murder of a man he believed was gay. Mr. Geoghan, a central figure in the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese, had been imprisoned for fondling a young boy.

Mr. Druce, 38, allegedly told investigators he killed Mr. Geoghan “to save the children.” Mr. LaChance has said he intends to raise an insanity defense on Mr. Druce’s behalf.

In October 2003, Mr. Druce was transferred from Souza-Baranowski to the Departmental Disciplinary Unit at the state prison in Walpole. From 1999 until April 2003, when he was sent to Souza-Baranowski, Mr. Druce was confined at the disciplinary unit in Walpole for sending a hoax letter bomb to a federal judge Mr. Druce believed had not acted quickly enough on one of his appeals.

The motion to dismiss is based on a claim that state Department of Correction officials have interfered with Mr. Druce’s right to a fair trial through what Mr. LaChance has described as “a pattern of misconduct and coercion.” Mr. Druce alleges that prison officials have placed unreasonable restrictions on his communications with his legal team, taken legal materials from his cell and failed to return them and threatened to cause problems for him and his loved ones if he did not plead guilty and seek a transfer to an out-of-state prison.

At one point during yesterday’s proceedings, Judge Timothy S. Hillman prohibited Assistant District Attorney Lawrence J. Murphy from questioning Mr. Druce about whether he had any assistance from correction officers on the day of the slaying.

“Isn’t it fair to say you had no help from any guards on Aug. 23, 2003?” the prosecutor asked. Mr. LaChance objected and Judge Hillman sustained the objection.

Mr. Murphy then asked if any guard helped him gain access to Mr. Geoghan’s cell the day the defrocked priest was slain. Again, Mr. LaChance objected and again, Judge Hillman sustained the objection.

The hearing is scheduled to resume Wednesday afternoon.

Posted by kshaw at April 28, 2005 12:05 PM