January 26, 2006

Druce found guilty

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— Joseph L. Druce was found guilty of first-degree murder yesterday in the 2003 prison slaying of defrocked pedophile priest John J. Geoghan.

A Worcester Superior Court jury deliberated for about seven hours over two days before rejecting the confessed killer’s insanity defense.

The 12-member jury unanimously determined that the Aug. 23, 2003, murder of Mr. Geoghan, 68, in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center was premeditated and done with extreme atrocity or cruelty, the prosecution’s dual theories of first-degree murder in the case.

Mr. Druce, now 40, was already serving a life sentence for murder when he beat and strangled the ex-priest in a protective custody unit at the maximum-security prison on the Lancaster-Shirley line. He later confessed to the killing, telling prison officials and state police that he sneaked into Mr. Geoghan’s cell and killed the former priest and convicted child molester to prevent him from sexually abusing other children after his release from custody.

As he was about to be sentenced yesterday, Mr. Druce told the court, “Again, I’m going to stand by my statement previously that these pedophiles need to be stopped, and that’s why I did it.

“Just hold the pedophiles accountable, as well as myself,” he said to Judge Francis R. Fecteau.

Judge Fecteau sentenced Mr. Druce to a consecutive life term with no possibility of parole, the mandatory punishment for first-degree murder. Mr. Druce, who testified that he was sexually abused as a child, received his first life sentence in 1989, when he was convicted of murder for strangling a North Shore man who picked him up hitchhiking and allegedly made a sexual advance toward him.

“This state does not have capital punishment, and if they did, you would not be, as Mr. Murphy pointed out, the person who would carry it out,” Judge Fecteau told Mr. Druce before imposing the sentence yesterday.

In his closing argument, Assistant District Attorney Lawrence J. Murphy had said Mr. Druce’s feelings about pedophiles did not justify his actions.

“What makes him the executioner?” the prosecutor asked.

Defense lawyer John H. LaChance, who had urged the jury of seven men and five women to find his client not guilty by reason of mental illness, said he was disappointed, if not surprised, by the guilty verdict.

“This kind of defense is clearly not favored by the public,” said Mr. Druce’s appointed lawyer, who had maintained his client was mentally ill at the time of the killing and lacked criminal responsibility for his actions. Mr. LaChance filed a notice of appeal after the verdict was read.

Thomas Wiegand, the jury foreman, later told reporters that he and his fellow jurors believed Mr. Druce was mentally ill, but did not feel his mental illness was so severe that he lacked criminal responsibility.

“No hard feelings. You guys have a good night,” Mr. Druce said to the jurors as they were being led from the courtroom after returning their verdict.

Mr. LaChance said after the verdict that he intended to ask state correction officials to transfer Mr. Druce out of state to serve his time, preferably to a secure psychiatric hospital.

Mr. Druce appeared in court yesterday with a blackened left eye. According to Mr. LaChance, Mr. Druce said he was assaulted by a Department of Correction employee shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday at the state prison in Walpole, where he is being held.

Mr. Druce also said he returned to Walpole from court Tuesday to find that the TV in his cell had been smashed, his watch had been stolen and someone had spat on his bed, according to Mr. LaChance.

The defense lawyer said it appeared that the reported assault and damage were related to Mr. Druce’s testimony concerning his alleged mistreatment in prison and his work as a prison informant.

The Department of Correction said in a press release that Mr. Druce was seen by medical staff at his cell door at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday. He made no allegations of having been assaulted at that time and no injuries were noted by the medical personnel, according to the release.

“While the investigation is still ongoing, it certainly bears noting that Mr. Druce has a long history of self-injurious behavior,” the release states.

Posted by kshaw at January 26, 2006 08:33 AM