Closing Arguments in Trial of Geoghan's Alleged Killer

By Denise Lavoie
The Associated Press, carried in
January 24, 2006

WORCESTER, Mass. --Jurors began deliberations Tuesday in the murder trial of a prison inmate accused of killing pedophile priest John Geoghan in his cell.

After more than two weeks of testimony that centered largely on whether Joseph Druce was insane when he beat and strangled Geoghan, a central figure in the clergy sex abuse scandal that started in Boston, the jury began considering the case in the afternoon.

The jury of five women and seven men deliberated for more than three hours before adjourning for the day. They were set to resume on Wednesday.

The prosecutor said in his closing argument earlier Tuesday that Druce was a calculating and conniving killer who planned the murder for weeks so he could be a "big shot" in prison.

But Druce's lawyer said he was severely mentally ill and under the delusion that God had chosen him to kill Geoghan and send a message to pedophiles around the world.

Druce admits sneaking into Geoghan's cell at the Souza-Baranowski prison in Shirley in August 2003. He jammed the door shut with a book, then beat and strangled the 68-year-old Geoghan before the guards could stop him.

Prosecutor Lawrence Murphy focused his closing on the planning that he said went into Geoghan's killing. Druce told investigators he spent two hours stretching socks into the rope he used to strangle Geoghan, Murphy said, and he made friendly visits to Geoghan's cell so the defrocked priest wouldn't suspect anything when he came to kill him.

"He was not a mentally ill person, raging out of control," Murphy said. "He's a calculating individual who waited for his opportunity."

As Murphy described the gruesome details of the killing, Druce repeatedly nodded his head, looked around the room and smiled.

Druce's lawyer, John LaChance, recapped testimony about Druce's troubled childhood, starting with the crib-rocking and head-banging his mother said he did as a toddler.

Druce testified that he was sexually assaulted by two staff members at a residential school he attended as a preteen, and said he was also raped by an older friend when he was a teenager.

"This is a kid who never had a chance," LaChance said.

LaChance said when Druce, 40, killed Geoghan, it was the culmination of a rage that had built up inside him because of his own sexual abuse. He said that several weeks earlier, Druce had heard Geoghan discussing with other inmates how to molest young boys. He claimed he also heard Geoghan describe plans to work with children again once he got out of prison.

"His mind started racing," LaChance said. "His memories of all the sexual abuse he had incurred over his entire life came flooding back over him. He believed that what he was doing was right, that he had been ordained to do this."

Murphy urged the jury not to let Geoghan's notoriety as a pedophile influence their decision.

"No one likes pedophiles, but we can't go around grabbing pedophiles and killing them," he said. "The law doesn't give Mr. Druce that right."

Druce is already serving a life sentence for killing a man who allegedly made a sexual pass at him after picking Druce up hitchhiking. He unsuccessfully used an insanity defense during that 1989 trial.

If convicted of Geoghan's murder, Druce would receive another life sentence without the possibility of parole.

His lawyer reminded jurors that because of his earlier life sentence, Druce will never be released from state custody, even if they find him not guilty by reason of insanity.

"Hopefully, your verdict will result in (a state hospital) analyzing his mental health and realizing he needs inpatient psychological treatment for his illness," LaChance said.

Judge Francis Fecteau told jurors that in order to find Druce guilty of murder, the state must prove Druce was criminally responsible for his conduct. To find him not guilty by reason of insanity, they must conclude that Druce, because of a mental disease, lacked the capacity to appreciate that his conduct was wrong or to conform his conduct to the law.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.