Slain Priest To Get Clean Slate

Dead or alive, John Geoghan is still creating headlines and heartache.

For 30 years, the Catholic Church covered up his crimes. Now days after his death, comes word the court system may go one step further and erase his conviction.

It's a legal loophole that's left a long line of victims feeling victimized all over again, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts.

"How dare the power of our government try to sweep clean such a dirty record," said Maryetta Dussourd, a victim's relative.

Nonetheless, it is the law in Massachusetts and at least four other states – Alaska, Arizona, Maine and Rhode Island – a legal technicality dating back to English Common Law.

Because Geoghan died before the appeals process was complete, his conviction must be dismissed.

Prosecutor Martha Coakley says her hands are tied.

"Although he was convicted, the process was not completed, so the court says that we go back to square one and the indictment will be dismissed," says Coakley.

The Massachusetts state legislature tried changing the law after a convicted murderer committed suicide and had his record cleared.

That too was a high-profile case, but the measure never passed.

As for the convicted killer who admits he killed Geoghan in his prison cell, Joseph L Druce now says, according to his lawyer, that he beat and strangled Geophan to avenge all the children the defrocked priest allegedly molested.

However most of those victims never wanted revenge, just justice.

"I am sorry that John Geoghan died that way, but he is not a martyr and he is not free of guilt of crimes. He is a criminal," says Dussourd.

But not in the eyes of the law: In criminal court, John Geoghan is a dead man who will go to his grave with a clean record.

Geoghan, 68, was serving a nine- to 10-year sentence for groping a 10-year-old boy and was accused of molesting nearly 150 boys over three decades. His case triggered the sex scandal that has rocked the nation's Roman Catholic Church.

Attorney John LaChance said he expects to pursue an insanity defense for Druce.

LaChance, who met with Druce in prison for the first time Wednesday, said Druce "was upset what had happened to all those children."

"The impression that I got from him was that his beef with Geoghan was based on his serial mistreatment of little kids, and that he really wanted Geoghan to leave the kids alone,'' LaChance told The Associated Press.

Druce, 37, was serving a life sentence for the 1988 murder of a gay man. Authorities have said that he hates homosexuals, Jews, blacks and other minorities.