January 21, 2006

Druce testifies about abused past

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— Taking the witness stand in his own defense yesterday, Joseph L. Druce told a Worcester Superior Court jury about being sexually abused as a child, a violent home life when he was growing up and an early introduction to alcohol and drugs.

Charged with murder in the 2003 prison slaying of defrocked pedophile priest John J. Geoghan, Mr. Druce testified in a packed courtroom that he was sexually assaulted by staff at a residential school he attended for several years as a child and also by an older male who befriended him when he was about 11 years old.

He said he was 13 and had been smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol the first time the older male “took advantage of me.

“I didn’t let it happen; I couldn’t stop it,” Mr. Druce testified. When asked by his lawyer, John H. LaChance, if the sexual assaults continued, Mr. Druce responded, “Yeah, twice, another couple times.

“And why I stayed his friend for another five years, I don’t know,” he said, adding, “So what am I, gay now? That’s what I’ve been fighting with my whole life.”

Now 40, Mr. Druce stands accused of beating and strangling the 68-year-old Mr. Geoghan in the ex-priest’s cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on the Lancaster-Shirley line. The killing occurred on the morning of Aug. 23, 2003. Mr. LaChance has raised an insanity defense on his client’s behalf.

At the time of the slaying, Mr. Druce was serving a life sentence for the 1988 murder of a North Shore man who allegedly made a sexual advance toward him after picking him up hitchhiking. Mr. Geoghan, accused in civil lawsuits of sexually assaulting more than 100 boys, was serving a prison term for fondling a 10-year-old.

Prison officials and police said Mr. Druce confessed to the killing, telling them he did it to prevent Mr. Geoghan from assaulting other children once he was out of custody. Mr. Druce also claimed he had overheard Mr. Geoghan and other sex offenders talking about the digital penetration of young boys.

Mr. Druce mentioned that reported conversation in his only reference to the killing during yesterday’s testimony. “And that’s what triggered it,” he said after telling the jury that the abuse he was subjected to at the residential school included digital penetration.

Mr. Druce, who was born Darrin E. Smiledge and legally changed his name in 1999, corroborated his mother’s earlier testimony that his father was physically abusive toward her and him when he was growing up. He also accused his father, Dana Smiledge, of introducing him to alcohol when he was a young boy and to cocaine when he was a teen.

Mr. Smiledge, who testified earlier in the day, denied that he ever struck his ex-wife, Donna Gauthier, or that he ever gave his son cocaine. Mr. Smiledge, who was accompanied to court by a lawyer, said his two sons might have been given “a little beer or wine” on Christmas or New Year’s Eve, but disputed Mr. Druce’s claims that his father bought him drinks in restaurant bars when he was underage.

Mr. Druce’s testimony was suspended late yesterday afternoon, shortly after he acknowledged that he receives a dose of Ritalin every morning for attention-deficit disorder and that the effects of the drug, which he said helps him stay focused, seemed to be wearing off. He is scheduled to return to the witness stand when the trial resumes Monday morning.

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist called as an expert witness for the defense, testified earlier in the day that Mr. Geoghan’s presence in the protective custody unit at Souza-Baranowski triggered painful memories of being sexually abused as a child for Mr. Druce and caused him to become emotionally “unglued.”

Dr. Ablow, board-certified in both adult and forensic psychiatry, told the jury that Mr. Druce was suffering from multiple mental illnesses when he killed Mr. Geoghan and that he lacked criminal responsibility for his actions.

“Joseph Druce was and is suffering from an extremely severe form of mental illness, so much so that I would say I have not met a more ill patient in my career,” said Dr. Ablow, who is also a writer and occasional television personality. He told the jury that Mr. Druce’s mental diseases included attention-deficit disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, disassociative disorder, a personality disorder and inactive polysubstance dependence.

The psychiatrist testified Mr. Druce’s mental state left him with “no core identity” and an inability to control his impulses and “underlying rage” after he had assumed “the persona of avenger or savior of the kids.”

At the time of the killing, Mr. Druce was not only unable to distinguish right from wrong but was also incapable of conforming his behavior to the requirements of the law, according to Dr. Ablow. Under cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Lawrence J. Murphy, Dr. Ablow denied delaying the submission of his written evaluation of Mr. Druce until yesterday as a trial “tactic.”

He said his schedule did not permit him to forward the report to the lawyers in the case sooner.

Posted by kshaw at January 21, 2006 08:26 AM