January 24, 2006

Druce tells jury of inner torment

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— Joseph L. Druce told a jury yesterday he killed ex-priest John J. Geoghan to “make a statement” that child molesters would be held accountable, and to relieve the inner torment he was experiencing as a result of being sexually abused, himself, as a young boy.

“I couldn’t get the thoughts out of my mind about being molested, myself,” Mr. Druce testified in Worcester Superior Court, after acknowledging he beat and strangled the 68-year-old defrocked priest on the morning of Aug. 23, 2003, in Mr. Geoghan’s prison cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center.

“Was I going to be the savior of the kids? Yeah,” Mr. Druce said in response to questions posed by his lawyer, John H. LaChance, who has raised an insanity defense on his client’s behalf.

The defense contends Mr. Druce, now 40, was mentally ill at the time of the slaying and lacked criminal responsibility for his actions.

Assistant District Attorney Lawrence J. Murphy contends Mr. Druce was legally sane when he took the former priest’s life and should be found guilty of murder.

Mr. Druce’s fate is expected to be in the jury’s hands by this afternoon.

At the time of the killing, which occurred in a 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 North Shore man. Mr. Geoghan, accused in civil lawsuits of molesting more than 100 boys while a priest in Boston-area parishes, was serving a sentence of 9 to 10 years for sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy.

Testifying in his own defense yesterday, Mr. Druce said he was “freaked out” after overhearing Mr. Geoghan and other convicted sex offenders talking about child molestation.

He said he also overheard Mr. Geoghan on the telephone talking about going to South America once he was released from custody to work as a missionary with children.

Mr. Druce told the jury he saw himself as “the designated individual that had to put a stop to the pedophilia in the church.”

“I thought the pope would give me absolution for resolving the problem,” he testified.

Mr. Druce also alleged David Lonergan, a correction officer on duty in the protective custody unit on the day of the killing, had advance knowledge he planned to enter Mr. Geoghan’s cell and beat him, but did not know he was going to kill the ex-priest. Officer Lonergan vehemently denied that charge in his earlier testimony.

Under cross-examination by Mr. Murphy, Mr. Druce rejected the prosecutor’s suggestions the crime was carefully planned and carried out.

“There was no planning. It was contemplating. I had to stop him,” Mr. Druce said of his victim. “There was no planning. I was driven. I had to do what I had to do. He was a sick, degenerate pedophile who molested hundreds of kids,” he said.

Psychiatrist Martin Kelly testified as a rebuttal witness for the prosecution after Mr. LaChance rested his case yesterday.

Dr. Kelly, who was hired by the prosecution to evaluate Mr.Druce, told the jury the confessed killer was criminally responsible for the prison slaying.

Although he appears to suffer from an anti-social personality disorder, Mr. Druce had the “substantial capacity” to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct and to conform his behavior to the requirements of the law when he took Mr. Geoghan’s life, Dr. Kelly said.

Dr. Kelly’s testimony conflicted with that of Dr. Keith Ablow, an expert witness for the defense, who said Mr. Druce was suffering from multiple mental illnesses when he killed Mr. Geoghan, and lacked criminal responsibility.

Dr. Kelly testified for the prosecution in Mr. Druce’s 1989 murder trial, in which he raised an unsuccessful insanity defense to a charge of murdering a man who allegedly made a sexual advance toward him after picking up Mr. Druce, who was hitchhiking.

Posted by kshaw at January 24, 2006 07:18 AM