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 Latest coverage

October 25
Victims could now collect

October 2
Geoghan's sister hits guards

October 1
Geoghan's sister to speak

September 27
Conviction erasure protested
Druce is hospitalized again
Guard ad seeks understanding

September 24
Inquiry: Druce beaten as child

September 20
Druce pleads not guilty in slay
Geoghan claims guard assault

September 14
Report says Druce in a rage

September 13
Letter: Druce abused as a boy

September 12
Geoghan bore guards' abuse
Lawyer: Mail deluges accused

September 11
Expanded panel is sought

September 8
Druce is returned from hospital

September 5
Geoghan consultant ties eyed

September 4
Conflict raised on consultant

September 3
Bias concerns raised in probe

September 2
No new panel members seen

August 31
Geoghan panel to expand

Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

Victims challenge voiding Geoghan record

By Brendan McCarthy, Globe Correspondent, 8/28/2003


Maryetta Dussourd, seen in a 2001 photo, called the idea that Geoghan's conviction could be wiped clean a slap in the face. (AP Photo / Salem News)

 Related stories
Geoghan killed
10/2/2003
Geoghan's sister criticizes guards

10/1/2003
Geoghan's sister to speak

9/27/2003
Victims protest conviction erasure
Druce is hospitalized again
Guards' ad seeks understanding

9/24/2003
Inquiry: Druce beaten as a child

9/20/2003
Druce pleads not guilty to killing
Geoghan claimed guard assault

9/14/2003
Report describes Druce in a rage

9/13/2003
Letter says Druce abused as boy

9/12/2003
Inmate: Geoghan bore abuse
Lawyer: Mail deluging accused

9/11/2003
Expanded Geoghan panel sought

9/8/2003
Druce is returned from hospital

9/7/2003
McNamara: A back-page death

9/5/2003
Geoghan consultant's ties eyed
McGrory: Romney can do better

9/4/2003
Conflict issue raised on consultant

9/3/2003
Bias concerns are raised in probe

9/2/2003
No new members seen for panel

8/31/2003
Geoghan panel will be expanded

8/29/2003
Group assails prison guards
Geoghan is buried in Brookline
Op-Ed: Geoghan's 'innocence'

8/28/2003
Priest in 'aggressive' case unit
Records show Druce as deviant
Voiding of record is challenged

8/27/2003
Bid to keep Geoghan at Concord
Geoghan's death voids conviction
Prison units see volatile mixes
US attorney won't rush decision

8/26/2003
Monthlong plot to kill Geoghan
Alleged killer led troubled life

8/25/2003
Geoghan was tied and beaten
Death doesn't end victim suffering
Similiarities in suspect's '88 crime
Priest seen as a prison target

8/24/2003
Geoghan is strangled in prison
A troubled life exploiting vocation

 Documents
Geoghan case letters, documents
Law deposition in Geoghan case

 From the archives
Key stories in the Geoghan case

1/6/2003
Church allowed abuse for years

1/19/2002
Geoghan found guilty of sex abuse

2/22/2002
Geoghan receives 9-10 years

5/9/2002
Law recalls little on Geoghan case

9/19/2002
Geoghan victims settle for $10m

 Complete coverage
The John Geoghan case

Maryetta Dussourd was still reeling from the news that former priest and convicted child molester John J. Geoghan had been killed when she received an even bigger shock: Geoghan's conviction could be erased because he died while it was being appealed.

"How dare our government try to sweep clean such a dirty slate," said Dussourd, a Jamaica Plain mother whose three sons and four nephews were allegedly molested by Geoghan. "Such a dirty slate of a person -- that was a child molester."

Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney's office said that Geoghan's lone conviction of molesting a 10-year-old boy could be overturned under a little-known Supreme Judicial Court ruling.

Yesterday Dussourd, seated behind a large desk at a news conference in her lawyer's office, called that prospect a slap in the face.

"It was a shock to me that he was dead. But he lived a life of a criminal and he died as a criminal at the hands of a criminal," Dussourd said. "How can they put aside for one second what John Geoghan has done?"

To invalidate Geoghan's conviction, his lawyer must file a death certificate with the appeals court, and a judge will sign an order to have the Middlesex Superior Court rescind not only Geoghan's conviction, but also his indictment, said Supreme Judicial Court spokeswoman Charlotte Whiting.

So far, the SJC has not been contacted by Geoghan's public defender, Whiting said. Calls to Geoghan's lawyers were not returned yesterday.

Once the paperwork is filed, the conviction is automatically erased as a matter of legal housekeeping, said Rosanna Cavallaro, a Suffolk University Law School professor who has examined the law closely.

"It is automatic because it is an established rule of procedure," Cavallaro said. "Nobody has to decide anything. There is no discretion."

Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating, who sponsored legislation in 1997 to prevent the invalidation of convictions for prisoners who die while their appeals are pending -- known as abatement -- said he hopes the current Legislature takes up the matter again in the wake of the Geoghan case.

"I hope for the future that legislation is reintroduced and passed," said Keating, a former state senator. "It was an outrage then and it's an outrage now."

Though Keating's legislation, which had the support of then-Governor William F. Weld, passed the Senate unanimously, it disappeared in the House. He said he could not recall if it even came up for a vote.

Keating's bill was prompted by the case of John C. Salvi III, a man who killed two women at Brookline abortion clinics in 1994. Salvi committed suicide in prison in 1997 while his appeal was pending. The vacation of his convictions led to a public uproar.

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who represents 147 of Geoghan's alleged victims, including Dussourd's family, said he doesn't see any alternative to the state case law.

"Hopefully the law can be changed," Garabedian said. "But the victims need to remain strong."

Garabedian said the invalidation of Geoghan's conviction will not affect the 26 civil cases Garabedian has pending.

Garabedian added that many of his clients have found it difficult to cope with the news. "The invalidation of the guilty verdict will not help in the healing process of many victims," he said.

Globe staff writer Yvonne Abraham contributed to this report.


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