November 16, 2005

Trial date set in Geoghan slaying

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— Jury selection is scheduled to begin Nov. 28 in Worcester Superior Court for the trial of the man charged with the prison slaying of defrocked pedophile priest John J. Geoghan.

Joseph L. Druce is raising an insanity defense to a charge of murdering the ex-priest on Aug. 23, 2003, in Mr. Geoghan’s cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on the Lancaster-Shirley line.

The 68-year-old former priest, who was beaten and strangled, was serving a sentence of 9 to 10 years for sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy when he was killed. Mr. Druce was serving a life sentence for the murder of a man he believed was gay.

State Police Detective David Napolitano testified at a Sept. 16 suppression hearing in the case that Mr. Druce eagerly confessed to the killing after being advised of his Miranda rights. The detective said Mr. Druce told him he killed the defrocked priest because Mr. Geoghan was “talking about getting out and skinning other children and I just couldn’t let that happen.”

The detective testified that Mr. Druce told him he snuck into Mr. Geoghan’s cell, jammed the door with a book and other items to prevent anyone from intervening, knocked the ex-priest to the floor and strangled him with a pair of socks. At various points during the interview, Mr. Druce said he saw the killing as an “honorable” thing and that he viewed the ex-priest as a “prize,” according to Detective Napolitano.

The hearing was on a motion filed by Mr. Druce’s appointed lawyer, John H. LaChance, seeking the suppression of the reported confession. The motion, which was opposed by Assistant District Attorney Lawrence J. Murphy, remains under advisement.

Judge Timothy S. Hillman, who will preside over Mr. Druce’s trial, set the Nov. 28 date for the start of jury selection during a hearing yesterday.

At the outset of the hearing, Mr. Druce, who recently swallowed a piece of television cable in what prison officials said was an apparent suicide attempt, was asked by Judge Hillman how he was feeling.

“I’m not feeling too good. I got some stuff sticking out of my stomach,” Mr. Druce responded as he lifted his shirt to reveal scarring from his recent emergency surgery.

Mr. LaChance told the judge that his client said he swallowed the cable and later ingested a piece of his eyeglasses, so he could get off the “10 Block” at the state prison in Walpole, where he said he had been housed with a number of his “documented enemies.” Mr. LaChance said Mr. Druce had been threatened by other inmates and that urine and feces had been thrown at him.

“He’s terrified to be there,” the lawyer said.

Judge Hillman said he would consider Mr. LaChance’s request that Mr. Druce be remanded to the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction in West Boylston while his trial is pending.

Posted by kshaw at November 16, 2005 01:13 PM