Wednesday, August 27, 2003

From combined dispatches

BOSTON — The inmate accused of killing defrocked priest John Geoghan told his defense attorney yesterday that he wanted to avenge the more than 100 children who said Geoghan molested them, the lawyer’s spokeswoman said.

Defense attorney John LaChance also is expected to explore an insanity defense for Joseph Druce, a convicted killer who is accused of strangling and stomping Geoghan to death in his Massachusetts prison cell Saturday, a spokeswoman for Mr. LaChance told Reuters news agency.

Geoghan, 68, was a central figure in the clergy sex-abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church last year. The Catholic Church paid $10 million last year to settle lawsuits filed by 86 of the estimated 130 people who accused Geoghan of molesting them.

Mr. LaChance met with Druce, 37, for the first time yesterday. During the meeting, Druce said he was upset with Geoghan for his abusing children and wanted it to stop.

“The impression that I got from him was that his beef with Geoghan was based on his serial mistreatment of little kids,” Mr. LaChance told the Associated Press.

“All I can tell you is I believe there’s a history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and I know that he had been on some medication,” Mr. LaChance said. “There may very well be other mental health issues.”

Druce had taken anti-psychotic drugs in the past and officials were trying to determine whether he was on them at the time of the attack, an investigator said yesterday.

One state investigator, who requested anonymity, told Reuters that Druce’s history of psychiatric medication also was being looked at closely. Prison officials can be held criminally negligent if they are reckless in not preventing an attack by a mentally ill prisoner on another inmate, the investigator said.

Inmates have the right to refuse medication. Prison officials are required to keep detailed records of an inmate’s psychiatric treatment, including whether they refuse to take prescribed drugs, according to department of correction guidelines.

Corrections officials declined to answer questions about Druce.

James Pingeon, a lawyer with the inmate aid group Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, said many mentally ill prisoners feared that drugs might slow them down. “Some even refuse to take their medications,” Mr. Pingeon said.

More than a decade ago, Druce said in a jailhouse interview that he was taking the anti-psychotic drug Thorazine as he awaited trial in the 1988 beating and choking death of a bus driver he believed was a homosexual. Druce was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole for that killing.

The drug is used to treat disorganized and psychotic thinking and to blunt hallucinations or delusions. Side effects include lethargy and weight gain.

Druce unsuccessfully used an insanity defense during his trial.

At trial, a mental health professional testified that Druce had a mental disease characterized by hyperactive behavior and the inability to focus his attention or to control his impulses, state court records show.

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