John Geoghan’s conviction for molesting a 10-year-old boy will be erased becuase the former priest died while appealing the case, the Boston Globe reports.
Case law dictates that the court where Geoghan was tried will be ordered to invalidate his 2002 conviction, said Emily LaGrassa, spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney’s office.
“The Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that if a defendant dies while his appeal is pending, the indictments are to be remanded to the trial court with an order that they be dismissed,” she said.
Geoghan, 68, was murdered Saturday in his cell at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, allegedly by Joseph L. Druce, a fellow inmate who told investigators he had plotted the killing for at least a month.
When he was found guilty in the 1992 indecent assault and battery case, Geoghan’s conviction was seen as an enormous victory for victims of clergy sex abuse, and a vindication of claims that went unheard for decades. It was his lone conviction, although he had been accused of molesting nearly 150 children during his decades as a priest. He was awaiting trial in another child abuse case.
“The guilty verdict is a symbol which allowed many clients to regain some sort of self-esteem, dignity, and freedom from unnecessary guilt,” said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who represents abuse victims. “The victims of John J. Geoghan will be extremely disappointed by the conviction being invalidated. It is another strange twist to a very strange and eerie saga.”
Robert Sherman, a lawyer who also represents clergy abuse victims, added: “I think that the technical quirk in the law only serves to revictimize the victims. The satisfaction they received in knowing their complaints were vindicated by a jury now gets ified by a technicality, and that does no justice to anybody.”
Neither Geoghan’s death, nor the ification of his conviction, will have an effect on the civil cases against the church stemming from clergy sexual abuse, said Sherman, but erasing the conviction will be a step back for some victims. The jury’s guilty verdict was a first hopeful sign that the legal system was behind the victims of alleged abuse, said William Gately, one of the New England coordinators of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests.