updated 1/24/2006 7:38:04 PM ET 2006-01-25T00:38:04

A jury began deliberating Tuesday in the murder case against an inmate who claimed he was insane when he strangled child-molesting priest John Geoghan in the clergyman’s prison cell.

The jury got the case after prosecutors argued that Joseph Druce, 40, was a conniving killer who planned the slaying for weeks so he could be a “big shot” in prison.

But Druce’s lawyer said the inmate was severely mentally ill and under the delusion that God had chosen him to kill Geoghan — a central figure in the scandal that engulfed the Boston Archdiocese — and send a message to pedophiles around the world.

If convicted, Druce would receive a sentence of life in prison without parole.

The jury deliberated more than three hours before adjourning until Wednesday.

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

Geoghan was serving time for groping a 10-year-old boy and had been accused in lawsuits of molesting 150 other children.

Calculation alleged
Prosecutor Lawrence Murphy focused on the planning he said Druce put 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 would not 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.”

Druce’s lawyer, John LaChance, recapped Druce’s troubled childhood, saying he would repeatedly bang his head against windows as a toddler and was molested as a boy at a school for troubled youths.

His mind started racing’
LaChance said that when Druce killed Geoghan, it was the culmination of a rage that had built up inside him because of his own sexual abuse. He said Druce had heard Geoghan discussing with other inmates about how to molest young boys.

“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.”

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

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