January 25, 2006

Druce found guilty of first-degree murder

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— A Worcester County jury has convicted Joseph L. Druce of first-degree murder in the 2003 prison slaying of defrocked pedophile priest John J. Geoghan.

The verdict, delivered in Superior Court about 1 p.m., followed more than seven hours of deliberations by the 12-member jury.

Mr. Druce, 40, had sought to have the jury find him not guilty by reason of insanity. He is serving a life sentence for the 1989 slaying of a man who allegedly made a sexual advance toward Mr. Druce after the man picked him up hitchhiking.

Mr. Goeghan killed the former priest on Aug., 23, 2003, after slipping into Mr. Geoghan’s cell. In court testimony, Mr. Druce said he killed Mr. Geoghan to prevent him from molesting other children.

With the verdict, of first-degree murder, the jury found that the killing was both premeditated and committed with extreme atrocity. Formal sentencing is scheduled for 3 p.m. today. The charge carries a life sentence.

John H. LaChance, Mr. Druce’s lawyer, said he was disappointed by the verdict and also said he would ask that Mr. Druce be transferred to a prison or a secure hospital outside Massachusetts.

Before the verdict, Mr. Druce appeared in court with a black eye. Mr. LaChance told reporters his client related to him that he was assaulted Tueday night at the state prison in Walpole, by “someone employed by the correction department.”

According to the lawyer, Mr. Druce said he was pushed, struck on the side of his head and punched in the eye by a man who accompanied him back to his cell in Walpole’s 10-block. The alleged assault took place soon after Mr. Druce made a telephone call to Mr. LaChance, according to the lawyer.

Mr. LaChance told reporters Mr. Druce said the assault was unprovoked and that the man who struck him was wearing a T-shirt rather than the traditional uniformed shirt with a name tag. Mr. LaChance said his client also reported that he returned to Walpole from court Tuesday night to find that a small television in his cell had been smashed, his watch stolen and that someone had spat on his bed.

Mr. LaChance said the assault and damage appeared to be “directly related” to testimony Mr. Druce gave of alleged mistreatment by correction officers and his work as a prison informant.

Posted by kshaw at January 25, 2006 12:58 PM