Prisoner convicted of murdering paedophile priest

The US prison inmate who strangled child-molesting priest John Geoghan was convicted of murder after failing to convince a jury he was delusional when he killed one of the central figures in the Boston Archdiocese sex scandal.

The US prison inmate who strangled child-molesting priest John Geoghan was convicted of murder after failing to convince a jury he was delusional when he killed one of the central figures in the Boston Archdiocese sex scandal.

Joseph Druce, 40, faces an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole.

After hearing the verdict, he looked at the jury that rejected his insanity defence and said: “It’s all right. Good job.”

As the jurors filed out of the Massachusetts courtroom, he said: “No hard feelings. Have a good night.”

Druce sneaked into Geoghan’s prison cell in August 2003, jammed the door shut with a book, then beat the 68-year-old Geoghan and strangled him with stretched-out socks before guards could step in.

Druce’s lawyer argued that he was insane at the time and believed God had chosen him to kill Geoghan and send a message to paedophiles around the world.

Prosecutors, however, argued that Druce was a conniving killer who planned the murder for weeks so he could be a “big shot” in prison.

The jury of five women and seven men deliberated for about seven hours over two days.

Afterward, Druce’s lawyer, John LaChance, acknowledged the long odds of succeeding with an insanity defence.

“With the killing of a person, and when the defendant admits he did it, I think juries are very reluctant to acquit on any basis,” he said, adding: “It appears obvious to me that there’s a mental illness there.”

At the time of the murder, Geoghan was serving up to 10 years in prison for fondling a 10-year-old boy, but was accused in lawsuits of molesting some 150 youngsters.

His case helped spark the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church after records released under court order revealed that the archdiocese transferred Geoghan from parish to parish despite the allegations against him.

In 2002, the archdiocese settled with 86 of Geoghan’s victims for £5.6m (€8.2m).

Druce took the stand and described a troubled childhood in which his father beat him. He said he was molested as a boy at a school for troubled children.

Druce said he killed Geoghan to avenge the innocent children the defrocked priest was accused of molesting.

He said he was driven to kill after hearing Geoghan advising other inmates how to molest children and describing how he planned to move to South America after being released so he could resume working with youngsters.

“I had seen myself as the designated individual who had to put a stop to the paedophilia in the church,” Druce said.

But prosecutor Lawrence Murphy pointed out that Druce spent two hours stretching socks into the rope used to strangle Geoghan, and made friendly visits to Geoghan’s cell so the defrocked priest would not suspect anything when he came to kill him.

“He was not a mentally ill person, raging out of control,” Murphy said in his closing argument. “He’s a calculating individual who waited for his opportunity.”

The prosecutor urged the jurors not to let Geoghan’s paedophilia influence their decision. “No one likes paedophiles, but we can’t go around grabbing paedophiles and killing them,” Murphy said.

“The law doesn’t give Mr Druce that right.”

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