Jury Selection under Way in Priest Slaying
By Adam Gorlick
Associated Press, carried in Ledger-Enquirer [Massachusetts]
January 9, 2006
BOSTON - Jury selection got under way Monday for the trial of a prison inmate accused of killing convicted pedophile priest John Geoghan, with some prospects expressing doubts they could be impartial in the highly publicized case.
The trial of Joseph Druce will be less about whether he beat and strangled the former Roman Catholic priest in his prison cell in August 2003 than about whether he should be held criminally responsible.
Druce's lawyer, John LaChance, has said he plans to use an insanity defense, arguing during pretrial hearings that Druce was suffering from a "major mental illness" when he killed Geoghan, one of the men at the center of the clergy sex abuse scandal.
Nine jurors - four men and five woman - were seated by the end of Monday's session. About 40 were dismissed from a potential jury pool of about 60 people, most for schedule conflicts.
All the would-be jurors said they'd seen some media coverage about the case, and one prospect was dismissed after she told lawyers she found it "a little hard to believe" that Druce was insane. Others were let go after conceding they could not impartially decide a case involving the slaying of a convicted child molester.
Druce, wearing a shirt and tie, sat quietly in leg irons through most of the day's proceedings, scribbling notes to reporters and consulting with his attorney on whether to keep or dismiss a juror.
Prison officials said they found Druce inside Geoghan's cell at the maximum-security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center with the door jammed shut so no one else could enter. They said Druce bragged openly about killing "the child molester" and told investigators he did it to "save the children."
Geoghan's case sparked the clergy sex abuse scandal that erupted in Boston in 2002 when records were released showing that church higher-ups had shuffled him and dozens of other priests from parish to parish despite allegations they were sexually abusing children.
At the time of his death, Geoghan, 68, was serving a nine- to 10-year sentence for groping a 10-year-old boy. He also was accused in civil lawsuits of molesting nearly 150 boys over three decades.
Druce, 40, a convicted murderer who already is serving a life sentence, unsuccessfully used an insanity defense during his 1989 trial for the killing of a man who allegedly made a sexual advance toward him after picking him up hitchhiking.
According to psychiatric testimony at that trial, Druce was a troubled child with violent fantasies who was given the anti-psychotic drug Thorazine and the hyperactivity treatment Ritalin. Druce claimed he had been sexually abused when he was a child.
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