January 12, 2006

Trial Opens in Prison Slaying of Ex-Priest

The New York Times

Published: January 12, 2006
WORCESTER, Mass., Jan. 11 - The murder of John J. Geoghan, a defrocked priest, in 2003 by an inmate in state prison was a shocking and almost surreal dénouement to one of the darkest chapters of the sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church.

Mr. Geoghan's violent death in the most secure prison in Massachusetts was to some an appalling failure of the state to protect one of its most despised inmates. To others it was a horrible but justified retribution against Mr. Geoghan, one of the most reviled priests named in the abuse scandal, accused of molesting some 150 children in several parishes over three decades.

Now, the man who admits he killed Mr. Geoghan, Joseph L. Druce, is having his day in court, and for anyone watching the trial, it is hard to figure out where to put one's sympathies - with the murder victim or the man who killed him.

Mr. Druce, 40, is pleading not guilty by reason of mental illness. His lawyer, John LaChance, does not dispute the details of the case. Prosecutors say Mr. Druce followed Mr. Geoghan into his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on Aug. 23, 2003, and jammed the cell door shut with a nail clipper and a ripped-up copy of "The Cross and the Switchblade," a book about a minister who transformed the lives of teenage gang members by introducing them to Christianity.

Posted by kshaw at January 12, 2006 07:31 AM