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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)

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Victims protest conviction erasure
Druce is hospitalized again
Guards' ad seeks understanding

Inquiry: Druce beaten as a child

Druce pleads not guilty to killing
Geoghan claimed guard assault

Report describes Druce in a rage

Letter says Druce abused as boy

Inmate: Geoghan bore abuse
Lawyer: Mail deluging accused

Expanded Geoghan panel sought

Druce is returned from hospital

McNamara: A back-page death

Geoghan consultant's ties eyed
McGrory: Romney can do better

Conflict issue raised on consultant

Bias concerns are raised in probe

No new members seen for panel

Geoghan panel will be expanded

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

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Voiding of record is challenged

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

Monthlong plot to kill Geoghan
Alleged killer led troubled life

Geoghan was tied and beaten
Death doesn't end victim suffering
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Geoghan is strangled in prison
A troubled life exploiting vocation

Geoghan case letters, documents
Law deposition in Geoghan case

 From the archives
Key stories in the Geoghan case

Church allowed abuse for years

Geoghan found guilty of sex abuse

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 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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