March 09, 2005

Inmate asks dismissal in Geoghan slaying

Telegram & Gazette

By Gary V. Murray Telegram & Gazette Staff

WORCESTER— Joseph L. Druce, the inmate accused of murdering defrocked pedophile priest John J. Geoghan, is asking that the case against him be dismissed because of what he and his lawyer describe as interference with Mr. Druce’s right to a fair trial by the state Department of Correction.

In a motion to dismiss filed yesterday in Worcester Superior Court, Mr. Druce’s lawyer, John L. LaChance, accused correction officials of engaging in “a pattern of misconduct and coercion” designed to force his client to plead guilty and avoid a trial “in which evidence contrary to the interests of the Department of Correction and a certain number of employees” could come out, to alienate Mr. Druce from his appointed counsel and to hinder Mr. Druce’s trial preparation by interfering with his ability to obtain witnesses.

In an affidavit in support of the motion, Mr. Druce alleged that in May 2004, while at the state prison in Walpole, an unnamed captain approached him and “contrary to my attorney’s advice told me to take a plea bargain in my case and transfer out of state.” In order to “harass and punish” him for not taking the captain’s advice, Mr. Druce alleged in the affidavit, an inmate who was a “known enemy” of his was relocated to his tier.

On Aug. 9, the inmate made a “spear-type object,” smeared it with feces and stabbed Mr. Druce’s foot with it as he passed by the inmate’s cell, according to the affidavit. Mr. Druce further alleged that correction officers took legal materials from his cell during a Nov. 22 “shakedown” and never returned them.

Mr. LaChance charges in the motion that the alleged interference with his client’s right to a fair trial “has in fact caused an attorney-client rift in this case and has served to turn the Defendant’s attention away from trial issues and to focus solely on what he considers to be the abuse and interference of the Department of Correction.”

Mr. Druce allegedly killed Mr. Geoghan on Aug. 23, 2003, at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on the Lancaster/Shirley line. At the time of the slaying, Mr. Geoghan was serving time for fondling a 10-year-old boy and Mr. Druce was doing a life sentence for the 1998 murder of a man he believed to be gay.

Assistant District Attorney Lawrence J. Murphy told Judge Timothy S. Hillman yesterday he would contact correction officials to allow them to respond to Mr. Druce’s allegations.

Judge Hillman tentatively scheduled an April 25 evidentiary hearing on the motion to dismiss. Mr. LaChance said he expected the hearing to take two to three days.

Diane Wiffin of the Department of Correction’s public affairs unit said correction officials could not comment on the allegations raised by Mr. Druce because of the pending case against him.

Posted by kshaw at March 9, 2005 05:51 AM