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COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

MIDDLESEX, SS.

NO.

IN THE MATTER OF NANCY MCGEOGHEAN

COMMUTATION PETITION
FOR
NANCY MCGEOGHEAN

JOHN H. CUNHA JR.


B.B.O. NO. 108580
ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER
CUNHA & HOLCOMB, P.C.
One State Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02109-3507
617-523-4300

March 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS
I.

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF COMMUTATION.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

II.

GUIDELINES FOR LIFE SENTENCE DECISIONS.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6


A.

SUFFICIENCY OF INCARCERATION LENGTH. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

B.

CRIMINAL CONDUCT AND HARM CAUSED. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6


1.
2.
3.

III.

REHABILITATION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
A.

DEGREE OF REMORSE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

B.

INSTITUTIONAL CONDUCT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
1.
2.
3.

IV.

Other Convictions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Other Criminal Conduct.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Nature of the Crime. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
The Months Immediately Preceding Sarah McGeogheans Death. . . . . . . 7
Summary of the Trial Evidence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
The Circumstances of the Morning of Sarah McGeogheans Death. . . . . . 9
Trial Proceedings. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Cause Of Death. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
On Culpability and Diminished Capacity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
On the Question of Motivation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Comparison with Similar Crimes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

Participation In The NEADS Puppy Program 2006 To Present. . . . . . . 28


Educational Achievement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Participation in Institutional Programs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

C.

SOCIAL AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM CERTIFICATIONS.. . . . . . . . . . 34

D.

INFORMATION PROVIDED TO INSTITUTIONAL SECURITY PERSONNEL. . . . . . . . . . 39

REASONS TO CONCLUDE THE INMATE WILL LIVE OUTSIDE


PRISON AS A SOBER, LAW ABIDING, EMPLOYED, PRODUCTIVE
PERSON WHO IS MAKING POSITIVE CONTRIBUTIONS
TO HER FAMILY AND COMMUNITY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
A.

RECIDIVISM RISK. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40

B.

LENGTH OF TIME REHABILITATED. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41


ii

C.

DEGREE OF SUPPORT FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42


1.
2.
3.

Affidavit of Terence McGeoghean (Father of the Victim)


in Support of Commutation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
Support from family.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Support from friends. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

D.

LIKELIHOOD OF EMPLOYMENT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

E.

SPECIFIC PLANS FOR IMMEDIATE AND LONG TERM HOUSING. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46


1.
2.

Plan for re-entry with recognition of factors


which contributed to the crime. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Receptiveness and commitment to observing general
and specific conditions of commutation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47

V.

Request for Commutation and a Hearing.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47

VI.

Exhibits. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.
F.
G.
H.
I.
J.
K.
L.
M.
N.
O.
P.
Q.
R.
S.
T.
U.

Letters In Support of the Petition


Memorandum of Decision And Order on Defendant's Motion to Reduce the
Verdict, Saris J.
Statement of Nancy McGeoghean
Spectrum Health System records
Letters regarding kidney donor request
Mount Auburn Hospital Family Health Service record
Letters sent to Ms. McGeoghean by Terrence McGeoghean
Metropolitan State Hospital records
Cambridge City Hospital records
Certificates from NEADS Puppies Program
Certificates of Social and Spiritual Development Programs completed
Letter of Judith McDonough, M.Ed., CCJS, LACD-1,
Executive Director of the Edwina Martin House
Letter of Superintendent Bissonette, dated May 21, 2013
Photographs of recipients of NEADS dogs trained by Nancy McGeoghean
Letter of Captain Paul Henderson, MCI Framingham
DOC Objective Classification - Reclassification Form, dated February 28, 2014
Evaluation of Dr. Kathryn Rapperport, M.D.
Bachelor of Liberal Studies Diploma, Boston University, dated January 25, 2013
GED Diploma, dated January 31, 1992
DOC Personalized Program Plan, dated February 14, 2011
Letter of Rev. T. J. Bland, recipient of Granite, a NEADS dog trained by Nancy
McGeoghean
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V.
W.
X.
Y.
Z.

Letter of Tina Gagnon, whose son was the recipient of Radar, a NEADS dog
trained by Nancy McGeoghean
Letter of Superintendent Bissonette, dated November 25, 2013
Letter of Sister Maureen Clark, CSJ, Catholic Chaplain, MCI Framingham
Letter of Paula M. Giardinella, Americas VetDogs, Veterans K-9 Corps
Letter of Jerry LNU, recipient of Blaze, a NEADS dog trained by Nancy
McGeoghean

iv

I.

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF COMMUTATION


Nancy McGeoghean, ne Surdam, petitions for commutation of a first-degree murder

conviction based upon 1) the exceptional strides in self-development and self-improvement she
has made and that if released she would be a law-abiding citizen, and 2) she has rendered
meritorious service to the government by cooperating in three distinct investigations for which
she has not already been rewarded by official action. Executive Clemency Guidelines, January
13, 2014, III.B.1.a & d.
On May 21, 1990, after seven days of testimony and four days of deliberation, the jury
convicted Nancy McGeoghean of first degree murder for the death of her two-year-old daughter,
Sarah on August 15, 1988. Tr. X/300; Tr. XI/4-5, 12, 23, 29, 31. The evidence established that
20 year old Nancy McGeoghean was intoxicated at the time of her daughters death, and at the
hospital where Sarah was taken by paramedics, all as detailed below.1 Post-trial, although the
trial court denied Nancy's motion for reduction of the jury's verdict, the judge acknowledged that
her compelling background supported leniency,2 and stated that whether to reduce her
conviction, was a close question.3 The sentence was affirmed. Commonwealth v.
McGeoghean, 412 Mass. 839; 593 N.E.2d 229 (1992). Prior to being convicted for the death of
her toddler daughter, Sarah, Nancy McGeoghean did not have a criminal record. She had no
history of violence.4

Ms. McGeoghean was born June 14, 1968; Sarah died August 15, 1988.

Ex. B, Memorandum of Decision and Order on Defendant's Motion to Reduce the Verdict, pp.
4-6.
3

Ex. B, Memorandum of Decision and Order on Defendants Motion to Reduce the Verdict, p.
11.
4

See Petitioners Six-Part Folder; Ex. A-15, Affidavit of Terrence McGeoghean, 8-10, 17.
Cites herein are as follows: to attached exhibits by number, e.g., Ex. 1; to the Grand Jury

Nancy McGeoghean was a teenage mother. At age eighteen, she gave birth to Sarah. As
the trial judge noted, the testimony of all the witnesses who saw the baby frequently, including
the childs paternal grandmother and Ms. McGeogheans friend Barbara Brennan who lived in
the household for two months beginning in May 1988, was that Ms. McGeoghean was a loving
mother.5 However, she attempted to raise and care for Sarah without support and in an isolated
environment which wholly lacked appropriate social cues for proper parenting, while abusing
drugs and alcohol. Nancy McGeoghean accepts responsibility for killing Sarah.
Ms. McGeoghean has limited memory of the critical events of August 14-15, 1988.6
When she returned home drunk, instead of properly putting her daughter to bed, Nancy left her
sleeping, bound in the car seat with very little ability to move. Her last memory of seeing Sarah
alive was when she placed her in the car seat on the floor next to the couch where Ms.
McGeoghean then passed out, drunk. In the morning, Sarah was dead:
Whenever I placed Sarah in the car seat, I twisted the straps twice to secure her,
as I always did. She had the tendency to climb out of it if I did not secure her in. .
. . Although I had less to drink than my normal case of beer, I was drunk. I just
wanted to pass out. . . . Sarah was still asleep in the car seat. Barbara or Bob took
the whole car seat out, handed me her. The last thing I believe I remember was
putting the car seat down next to the couch with her still sleeping. I have no
memory of what happened after that.
The next thing I remember is waking up, my head was pounding. I noticed Sarah

minutes by volume and page: GJT, volume/page; to pretrial hearings by date and page, e.g.,
Tr.12/8/89, 1; to the trial transcript by volume and page: Tr. volume/page; to the Statement of
Petitioner Nancy McGeoghean by page: NMcG/page; to letters of support by name and where
appropriate by page.
5

Ex. B, Memorandum of Decision And Order on Defendant's Motion to Reduce the Verdict, pp.
2-3. The trial court also summarized the trial evidence therein, pp. 9-12.
6

See Ex. C, Statement of Nancy McGeoghean and Ex. Q, Evaluation of Dr. Kathryn Rapperport,
M.D.
2

as not with me on the couch. I sat up and saw her still in the car seat. Her lips
were blue, her eyes were half open. I was screaming her name. I ran and took
her out of her car seat. Her body was limp. I did not know what to do. I tried to do
CPR, but I did not know what I was doing, I frantically breathed in her mouth and
saying her name I called Terrys mother and told her Sarah was not breathing. I
continued to cradle Sarah, screaming her name. I called his mother again I could
not wait anymore. I had to get help for Sarah. I opened the door and started
running.
There is no punishment that will ever take away the guilt and shame I have. I am
so sorry! I am fully responsible for the death of my daughter. For the last 25 years
I've had to face what I did. My actions and my behavior took an innocent life. Not
remembering doesn't make it any easier.
Statement of Nancy McGeoghean, p. 2.
Although the parent with sole custody and responsibility for Sarah, Nancy McGeoghean
was out of control. Abuse of alcohol and cocaine, and failure to provide essential parental
protection and care all contributed to Sarahs death, a knowledge, an indictment, and a reality
that Nancy McGeoghean faces and will face every morning she awakes and every day and night
for the rest of her life. She understands that she must have killed her daughter. Ex. Q, p. 5. No
apology suffices, but Nancy McGeoghean, apologizes to Sarahs family, particularly Sarahs
father, Terry McGeoghean, her uncles, aunts, grandparents, and society for the death of her
daughter. She wishes with all her heart that she could ask forgiveness of Sarah herself.7
When Nancy McGeoghean entered MCI, Framingham on May 21, 1990, she was
severely depressed and immediately prescribed anti-depressants and sleeping pills, while seeing
a psychiatrist weekly.8 She had been raised in a home environment that was destroyed by two

Ex. C, Statement of Nancy McGeoghean, p. 4-5; Ex. A-3, Letter of Jack Butler, S.J., Ms.
McGeogheans spiritual advisor; Ex. X, Letter of Sr. Maureen Clark, CSJ, Catholic Chaplain..
8

See Ms. McGeogheans Six-Part Folder.


3

severely and chronically alcoholic parents; she had run away at age 14 and spent the rest of her
time prior to incarceration with an abusive drug dealer. While in prison, she had the opportunity
to take control of her life for the first time:
The rehabilitative strides Nancy has made are concrete. . . . I have been in the
unique position for 15 years to walk with Nancy as she has grown into adulthood.
. . [S]he has worked extremely hard on trying to participate in and take advantage
of every opportunity to turn her life around. She is not the girl I met 20 years ago
frightened and unmotivated. I know Nancy to be strong in her faith and in her
desire to live life responsibly. She speaks clearly of taking responsibility for her
reckless behavior that resulted in the death of her child . . . and of her deep regrets
for having taken the life of someone so young. The hope she speaks of is to have
a second chance to live life responsibly.
Ex. X, Letter of Sr. Maureen Clark, CSJ, Catholic Chaplain, MCI Framingham, dated December
22, 2010. During the twenty-four years that she has been an inmate at MCI, Framingham, Nancy
McGeoghean has taken numerous courses and seminars aimed at eradicating substance abuse as
a way of life. She has completed courses in self-esteem, non-violence, trauma and healing as
well as spiritual development.9 In 2009, she successfully completed the six-month Correctional
Recovery Academy, which has four phases: Substance Abuse; Relapse Prevention and Criminal
Thinking; Anger Management; and, Maintenance. Consistently throughout the program, Ms.
McGeoghean received the highest ratings in all areas Motivation/Effort, Performance, and
Attitude, with the counselor noting that Inmate McGeoghean projects a positive attitude on the
unit and throughout the institution.10
Ms. McGeoghean has learned to act for others. She works tirelessly to train aid dogs for
handicapped individuals, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and walking for Project Bread/

See infra, Sections III. B, pp. 26-34 and III. C, pp. 34-39.

10

Ex. D, Spectrum Health System records, Periodic Review, 11/5/09.


4

The Walk For Hunger. Her concerted effort to donate a kidney to an ailing Correction Officer
was unsuccessful:
Another story that exemplifies Nancys nature is the story of how Nancy offered
her kidney to a correctional officer at MCI. This particular officer was a long
time employee for MCI, that was in need of a transplant to save his life. Nancy
was not able to give him her kidney, but the fact that she was willing speaks
volumes to her character and growth.11
She has also furthered her education by obtaining her GED and obtained a bachelors degree
from Boston University, after starting with courses offered by Wachusett Community College.12
As the Rev. Bryan Hehir, Secretary for Health and Social Services, Archdiocese of
Boston, puts it, there is nothing I can envision or ascertain which would indicate [Nancy
McGeoghean] would be a threat to society if her sentence was commuted. On the contrary, I
believe she has the potential to be a very productive citizen. Much has changed in her life.
Prison in this case has been a source of rehabilitation. I respectfully request you consider
commutation. I deeply believe your action will be validated by her life.13
Nancy McGeoghean accepts full responsibility for her daughter Sarahs death. Nancy
McGeoghean is shamed and deeply regretful that she killed Sarah, acting with selfish, inebriated
behavior. Regardless of the number of years that pass and the actions that she takes to improve

11

Ex. A-8, Letter of Shari Johnson, Volunteer, Aftercare Program, MCI, Framingham. Upon
learning that 19-year-veteran Corrections Officer had advanced kidney disease and was in need
of a transplant, Ms. McGeoghean contacted Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, to learn of her
own suitability. Discovering she was a match, she offered to donate one of her kidneys; Ex. E,
Letter of Nancy McGeoghean to Superintendent Bissonnette offering to donate her kidney and
reply Letter of Superintendent Bissonnette.
12

Ex. K. See also infra, Section III. B. 2., p. 32.

13

Ex. A-7, Letter of Rev. Bryan Hehir.


5

herself, heal her addictions or assist those around her, Nancy McGeoghean will always feel the
guilt, extreme shame and tremendous sadness for killing Sarah:
Nancy is well aware of her culpability in the death of her child. She knows that
her inattentiveness, selfishness and indifference as a young mother led to the
death, to the taking of an innocent life.14
Nancy McGeoghean does not ask for forgiveness, but does petition this Advisory Board
and his Excellency, the Governor, for mercy in the form of executive clemency.
II.

GUIDELINES FOR LIFE SENTENCE DECISIONS


Nancy McGeoghean seeks to be released from prison. Therefore, it is appropriate in this

commutation petition to address the parole factors set out in the Guidelines for Life Decisions.15
A.

SUFFICIENCY OF INCARCERATION LENGTH

Nancy McGeoghean has spent 24 years in prison, more than half of her life; in
determining whether this is sufficient, four broad objectives must be considered: (a) punishment;
(b) deterrence; (c) incapacitation to protect the public from further harm; and (d) rehabilitation.
See Commonwealth v. Goodwin, 414 Mass. 88 (1993); Cepulonis v. Commonwealth, 384 Mass.
495, 499 (1981) (four basic purposes served by criminal punishment: (1) deterrence, (2) isolation
and incapacitation, (3) retribution and moral reinforcement, and (4) reformation). The specific
facts of the crime and length of incarceration must be addressed. Greenman v. Massachusetts
Parole Board, 405 Mass. 384 (1989).

14

Ex. A-11, Letter of Rev. Keith A. Maczkiewicz, nS.J.

15

www.mass.gov/eopss/agencies/parole-board/guidelines-for-life-sentence-decisions.html.
6

B.

CRIMINAL CONDUCT AND HARM CAUSED


1.

Other Convictions

Ms. McGeoghean has no other criminal record.


2.

Other Criminal Conduct

While not in itself a crime, Ms. McGeoghean abused alcohol. She also used (and abused)
controlled substances, particularly cocaine, and carried on her husbands drug sales during his
incarceration (as noted below), which are crimes.
3.

Nature of the Crime

The Months Immediately Preceding Sarah McGeogheans Death


For the several months prior to Sarahs death, Nancy McGeoghean, then a nineteen-year
-old girl, had been her daughters sole custodial parent while her husband Terry McGeoghean
was incarcerated at the Billerica House of Corrections for carrying a firearm. During her
husbands incarceration, Ms. McGeoghean increased her alcohol consumption to the point where
she would drink a case of beer and pass out. The police were able to confirm she was using
cocaine as early as April 1988, four to five months before the death of Sarah McGeoghean.
Nancy McGeoghean admitted to consuming cocaine on the evening of August 13-14, 1988, two
nights before her daughter's death. She was abusing drugs and alcohol while being the sole
person responsible for Sarah McGeogheans care, feeding and safety.
The abuse of drugs and alcohol, a cycle begun by Ms. McGeogheans parents and
perpetuated by her, resulted in neglect of Sarah. While Nancy loved Sarah and always kept
Sarah with her, she was intoxicated most of the time and did not provide Sarah with a clean and
safe environment. She did not keep either Sarah, herself or the home in which they resided
7

clean. The home had three pit bulls belonging to Terry, two cats, and was flea infested. A dirty
home, dirty clothes and flea bites were a common feature of Ms. McGeoghean and Sarahs
existence.
Summary of the Trial Evidence
In December 1988, after a four-month investigation, the Grand Jury returned a murder
indictment against Nancy McGeoghean. The Commonwealth established the following, first
before the Grand Jury,16 and then at trial:
Barbara Brennan and her young son met Ms. McGeoghean and her daughter Sarah at the
McGeoghean residence in the early afternoon of August 14, 1988, the day prior to Sarahs death.
GJT-I/77. Barbara Brennan remained at the McGeoghean residence for that entire afternoon.
GJT-II/78. While she was home that afternoon, Ms. Brennan observed Nancy McGeoghean
drink four to five (4-5) beers. GJT-I/87. Around 5:00 p.m., Barbara Brennan, Nancy
McGeoghean and their children left the McGeoghean residence and went to Revere Beach
Parkway where they met Ms. Brennans husband. GJT-I/78-79. Thereafter, they returned to
Nancy McGeogheans home before going to Barbara Brennans residence for a cookout. GJTI/81, 82. Between the time they left and returned to the McGeoghean home, Nancy
McGeoghean had consumed another two (2) beers, which brought her total alcohol consumption
to a minimum of six or seven beers as of that point. GJT-I/82, 87.
Upon returning to the McGeoghean residence and before going to the Brennans for the
cookout, Nancy McGeoghean retrieved a six-pack of beer, which she took with her to the

16

This recitation relates trial evidence and grand jury testimony, in part because crucial volumes
of petitioners copy of the trial transcript were lost by a prior counsel.
8

Brennan home. GJT-I/87, 88. Thereafter, Barbara Brennan observed Ms. McGeoghean drink
three (3) beers from the six-pack, which when added to her prior consumption that day, brought
the total number of beers that Ms. McGeoghean consumed when in the presence of Barbara
Brennan to nine or ten. GJT-I/82, 87, 88.
On the last night of Sarah McGeogheans life, she had been brought home alive and well.
The Brennans drove Ms. McGeoghean and Sarah home late. On arrival, they observed Wayne
Batchelder asleep or passed out in his car, which had been parked in front of the McGeoghean
home. The Brennans observed Ms. McGeoghean wake Batchelder and lead him into the house.
Batchelder that night, for the first time, slept in the McGeoghean home with Nancy and Sarah.
Although Batchelder had a criminal record, he was not implicated in Sarahs death.
The Circumstances of the Morning of Sarah McGeogheans Death
Shortly before 5:30 a.m. on August 15, 1988, Nancy McGeoghean called her husband's
parents for help because twenty-three-month-old Sarah was not breathing. Tr.III/12-13. The
McGeogheans arrived within minutes, Tr.III/12-16, followed by Cambridge firefighters and the
rescue squad. Tr. III/l4, 19. Ms. McGeoghean was intoxicated when she called for help. She
was highly agitated during attempts to resuscitate, transport, and treat Sarah. Tr.III/19, 20-21,
23-24, 52, 89-90, 117, 125-27, 129, 134-35, 144-46.
Lieutenant Comerford of the Cambridge Fire Department had received the dispatch call
to 91 Sherman Street, Cambridge, the McGeoghean home. GJT-I/35. He encountered Nancy
McGeoghean, who had come out into the street to flag down the firefighters, about a block and a
half from their home. GJT-I/36, 40. GJT-I/40. As she did so, Sarahs grandmother, also named
Sarah, appeared with baby Sarah in her arms. GJT-I/37.

As Lieutenant Comerford began administering CPR to Sarah, he noted she was supple,
appeared limp and had a wet back. GJT-I/42. Sarah did not display any signs of rigor mortis.
GJT-I/37, 42. Ms. McGeoghean repeatedly asked whether her daughter Sarah was breathing.
GJT-I/37, 41. In accordance with departmental policy, the firefighters did not respond to these
inquiries. GJT-I/37. Instead, he asked Ms. McGeoghean to tell him what had transpired. GJTI/37. She responded that she could not as she did not know what had happened. GJT-I/37. She
explained to the firefighters that she had been sleeping with Sarah, and when she woke up, she
found her not breathing. GJT-I/37, 43.
The Rescue Unit transported Sarah and Nancy McGeoghean to Mount Auburn Hospital,
arriving around 5:30 a.m., where physicians pronounced Sarah dead at approximately 6:00 a.m.
Tr.III/80-82, 92, 109-112, 140-42. Only Nancy McGeoghean and Wayne Bachelder were in the
house when Sarah died. Tr.IV/149-53.
After Sarah had been pronounced dead, Nurse Carolyn Seaboyer washed Sarah to
examine her more closely. GJT-I/49, 52. Before washing the child, Seaboyer observed that she
was dirty and unkempt. GJT-I/51. After washing Sarah, Seaboyer and Dr. Khan examined
Sarahs body carefully. GJT-I/52, 53. Carolyn Seaboyer observed purplish marks on the
victims neck during the course of this examination, but no other evidence of trauma. GJT-I/5254.
Dr. Khan spoke with Nancy McGeoghean in the Emergency Room. GJT-I/31. He asked
what she understood had happened to her daughter. GJT-I/31. Dr. Khan testified that Ms.
McGeoghean told him that she had found Sarah not breathing that morning. GJT-I/31. Dr.
Khan told the Grand Jury that Nancy stated she had not noticed any abnormality or problems

10

with Sarah on the preceding day. GJT-I/31.


There was evidence that Nancy McGeoghean was dependent upon alcohol, Tr.III/158-65,
and under the influence when Sarah was killed. Tr.III/23-24, 126, 145-46; Tr.X/199-200.
Donna Bates, a Mount Auburn Hospital security guard, testified that on the morning of Sarah
McGeogheans death she observed Nancy McGeoghean in an agitated and intoxicated state.
GJT-I/56-58. Ms. Bates saw Ms. McGeoghean arrive at the hospital she was loudly swearing
and yelling at the rescue squad. Nancy told Bates that since Bates did not have any children she
could not know what she was going through. GJT-I/56.
Security Guard Bates testified that Nancy McGeoghean was agitated and needed to be
calmed down, GJT-I/56-57, and that she had the appearance of someone who had been drinking
all night. GJT-I/58. She smelled strongly of alcohol. GJT-I/58. Her eyes were dilated. She
was unsteady on her feet, and her clothes were wrinkly and dirty, as if she had slept in them all
night. GJT-I/59. Significantly, the prosecutor argued to the jury that the defendant's actions
were influenced by alcohol.
Trial Proceedings
Nancy McGeoghean pled not guilty. Prior to trial, Assistant District Attorney Thomas
Hoopes offered her a plea bargain to manslaughter with a single digits sentence. Tr.12/8/89,
123, 126.17 Ms. McGeoghean went to trial. She did not yet possess the self-knowledge and
courage to accept responsibility for killing Sarah.18

17

See also Ex. B, Memorandum of Decision and Order on Defendants Motion to Reduce the
Verdict, p. 4, n. 1.
18

See Ex. C, Statement of Nancy McGeoghean, p. 3 ((. . . when they offered me a plea with the
sentence of single digits, I was still unable to accept the fact of what I had done.).
11

Although Sarah could not yet speak, it was the prosecutor's theory that Ms. McGeoghean
killed Sarah out of fear that she would tell Terry about Nancys affair with Mr. Bachelder.
Tr.X/218-21. The Commonwealth's case was based upon circumstantial evidence and Ms.
McGeoghean's inconsistent statements to the police. Tr.VIII/36-39, 86-87, 95-99, 114, 123-24,
127; Tr./IX/45, 52-62; Tr.X/119.
While there was overwhelming evidence that Nancy McGeoghean had been intoxicated
prior to and at the time of Sarahs death, defense counsel did not argue lack of capacity or the
inability to form the specific intent to commit the crime, an element of first degree murder, as
defenses to these charges. Instead, counsel focused on the lack of direct evidence that Ms.
McGeoghean had killed her daughter, that there were no witnesses to the death, no physical
evidence linking Ms. McGeoghean to the alleged murder weapon, and no rational motive for
murdering her daughter. Counsel also sought to cast suspicion on Bachelder. Tr.II/69-71;
Tr.VI/51-58; Tr.V/31, 151-70; Tr.VII/41-42, 47, 51-52; Tr.X/39-40. However, Terrys pit pull,
Bandit, who slept downstairs, was in the house; Bachelder, who had gone to sleep upstairs, was
afraid of Bandit, Tr.V/87-89, 116-117; Tr.V/30-31, and there was testimony from a neutral
witness that Mr. Bachelder reacted with stunned disbelief when he learned that Sarah was dead.
Tr.VIII/26-30. Nancy McGeoghean did not testify.
Cause Of Death
In addition to the evidence related above, Dr. Stanton Kessler, the Medical Examiner,
concluded that Sarah died of asphyxiation caused by compression of her neck. Tr.V/157-162,
172, 177-181. The Commonwealth argued that Ms. McGeoghean pressed a stereo speaker cord
against Sarahs neck. The Commonwealth argued that at the time of Sarahs death, Ms.

12

McGeoghean was acting while in mortal fear of her husband.


Aggravating and Mitigating Factors
The obvious aggravating factor is serious the victim was a defenseless child, who died
over a period of minutes from suffocation. In that regard, Nancy McGeogheans state of mind at
the time of Sarahs death is a consideration with regard to commutation.
While the medical examiner, Dr. Stanton Kessler, could not conclusively testify to any
evidence of trauma to Sarah McGeoghean which pre-dated the circumstances surrounding her
death, he testified to three scars on Sarahs chest, which he saw under a microscope.19 This
testimony was at first excluded, since causation of the scars could not be determined, but later
admitted in evidence to show neglect, since the child had not been taken to the pediatrician for
treatment of whatever caused the scars. However, the opinion evidence that the marks were
consistent with, amongst other things, cigarette burns, was certainly one of the most significant
determinants of the outcome of the case. Non-accidental burns are a serious form of child abuse
because of the accompanying pain, anxiety and morbidity, as well as the intentionality of the act.
Hobbs, Archives of Diseases in Childhood. (1986). There was no expert witness for the defense.
Despite her substance abuse and physical neglect of the child, the uncontradicted evidence at
trial, accepted by the trial judge, was that she loved Sarah very much.20
19

Dr. Kessler observed three marks on Sarahs chest wall under a microscope. He
acknowledged that this finding was inconclusive as the three marks were consistent with
abscesses, chicken pox, small pox or cigarette burns. GJT-I/25. All of these possibilities had to
be ruled out, which he had not done. GJT-I/25, 26. The childs father, Terry McGeoghean, has
recently sworn under oath that he witnessed the injury which could have caused the marks
Sarah ran into a chair while visiting him in jail. Ex. A-15, Affidavit of Terrence McGeoghean,
, 8-10, 15-17. It is more likely they resulted from flea bites, as set out below.
20

Ex. B, Memorandum of Decision and Order on Defendants Motion to Reduce the Verdict, pp.
2-3.
13

Nancy McGeoghean is adamant that she did not burn her daughter,21 but understands why
such an accusation could make such a difference in her case. In this regard, it is worth noting
that the jury was inadequately informed. The jury was not apprised of research, then available,
indicating that the lack of repeated injury over time and a pattern of the scars, did not support the
medical examiners opinion. The jury was not informed that the site of injury from cigarette
burn abuse is typically on the hand, especially back and wrist, buttocks and feet and legs, not
on the chest. Hobbs. Archives of Diseases in Childhood. (1986). More importantly, it is
difficult to distinguish [healed cigarette burns] from healed chicken pox or excoriated, infected
bug bites. Helfer. The Battered Child. University of Chicago Press. (1997). In a home with
dogs and contaminated with fleas, this Board and his Excellency are urged to consider the earlier
research, along with more recent work, that includes flea bites in particular as lesions that are
mistaken for cigarette burns. As stated in the early research, the distribution of the lesions is
used to distinguish between flea bites and cigarette burns and Sarahs scar pattern is more
consistent with the former. Zitelli and Davis. Atlas of Pediatric Physical Diagnosis. (2012).
The medical examiner found no other possible evidence of prior abuse and there was no
testimony at trial indicating anything other than a loving relationship between mother and
daughter. There were three dogs and two cats in the apartment and Nancy used flea bombs from
time to time to clear the space of fleas. She and Sarah were frequently bitten by fleas and with
her case-per-day beer and drug habit, not an observant mother.22 Despite her limitations as a

21

See Ex. C, Statement of Nancy McGeoghean, p.2 (I loved Sarah. She was a good girl. She
deserved a better life-style than what I gave her. I was never abusive to her. She was always with
me, but shamefully, most of the time, I was intoxicated.).
22

See Ex. C, Statement of Nancy McGeoghean, p. 2 (I am ashamed to say our home was
disgusting. Cleaning was not a priority. Living with us were also three dogs and two cats. It was
14

mother, Nancy McGeoghean did take her daughter to regular doctors appointments, including a
visit to a physician two weeks before Sarahs death, who made no mention of the marks. No
doctor she had taken Sarah to in the course of regular well child visits had ever reported her for
abuse or neglect.
The similarity between flea bites and cigarette burn scars is now so widely known that it
is used in contemporary fiction:
Their first case had involved a five year old, who had what appeared to be
five cigarette burns evenly placed around one of her anklesThe parents,
adamant they had not hurt their little girl, could not offer good explanations for
the little, round infected areas Neither the attorneys nor the judge bought the
testimony from the medical expert but no other explanation had been
proffered.
After some serious research and investigation and a little luck, Bob found
an article about flea bites and how the fleas get under elastic and leave a row of
bites which are often in a perfect line. With some help from a couple of
medical professionals, he determined fleas had been the most likely cause of the
infected area, not cigarette burns. The little girl had scratched them to the point
of infection.
Teresa Burrell. The Advocate. Silent Thunder Publishing. (3rd ed. 2012).23 In Burrells fictional
case, the legal system helped uncover the truth. In this case, the marks on Sarah were of a
similar size and shape, but it would be hard to distinguish a flea bite, which were an aspect of

not uncommon for Sarah and I to have flea bites. I did not bathe Sarah everyday.).
23

See http://www.amazon.com/Teresa-Burrell/e/B002J6B0VQ/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1:
Teresa Burrell has dedicated her life to helping children and their families in
both the courtroom and the classroom.
As an attorney in San Diego, Burrell maintained a private law practice for twelve
years, which specialized in domestic, criminal, and civil cases. Her work in
juvenile court focused on representing abused minors and juvenile delinquents.
Burrell has received several awards and special recognition from the San Diego
Volunteer Lawyers for her countless hours of pro bono work with children and
their families.
15

life in the McGeoghean household.


On Culpability and Diminished Capacity24
Nancy McGeoghean is one of six children born to parents who were severe alcoholics.
Throughout her childhood, Nancys parents drank to excess most week nights and every
weekend. The drinking often led to verbal and physical fights between the parents. On many
occasions the parents drank to such excess that they would pass out, leaving Nancy and her
siblings to care for themselves.25
By age 12, she began abusing alcohol and experimenting with drugs. Also at 12 years
old, Nancy had her first sexual relations she was under the influence of alcohol and drugs. At
13, Nancy met Sarahs father, 17 year old Terry McGeoghean (Terry), and sought to find with
him the love she had been denied at home. It did not work out that way. At 14, she ran away,
dropped out of school in the first few weeks of the 9th grade, and began to live with Terry in a
house owned by his parents, Tr.III/55; Tr.VI/29-30:
Her boyfriends parents obviously were not concerned about the fact that their
18 year old son was living and sleeping with a 13 year old girl. Other than the
obvious statutory rape this relationship was very abusive, both physically and
mentally. This man would beat her physically and verbally. He would lock her
in his parents house whenever he went out. She was virtually a slave to him
physically, sexually and emotionally. My parents never went looking for her.26
Ms. McGeoghean became isolated from her own family after Terry McGeoghean cut off contact

24

For this section, see generally Ex. Q, evaluation of Nancy McGeoghean, Dr. Kathryn
Rapperport, M.D.
25

Ex. A-9, Letters of Robyn Knych, Ms. McGeogheans sister; Ex., A-22, Letter of David
Surdam, Ms. McGeogheans brother; Ex. A-18, Letter of Natalie OBrien, long-time family
friend.
26

Ex. A-22, Letter of David Surdam, Ms. McGeogheans brother.


16

with them and demanded she comply. Tr.IV/31; Tr.X/61-62. Nancys parents severed all
contact with her and forbade other family members from communicating with her. Isolated from
her siblings and without any parental guidance or support,27 Nancy McGeoghean, continued the
cycle of substance abuse learned from her parents. Ms. McGeoghean began to chronically abuse
alcohol and drugs on a daily basis, as psychiatric records document.28
At age 15, Ms. McGeoghean became pregnant by Terry McGeoghean. She miscarried
and was hospitalized due to complications.29 Nancy and Terry married when at seventeen years
old she again became pregnant. Tr.III/6-7, 154-55. On September 14, 1986, age eighteen, she
gave birth to Sarah.30 Unlike her first pregnancy, Ms. McGeoghean was happy and stopped
drinking and abusing drugs for almost a year after Sarahs birth. Thereafter, Ms. McGeoghean
fell again into substance abuse.
From the time she left home until Sarahs birth, Nancy McGeoghean had no contact with

27

Ex. F, Mount Auburn Hospital Family Health Service record, dated 9/5/86 (documenting that
17 year old Ms. McGeoghean was Pregnant without family support; Smoking more than 1
pack of cigarettes per day; and had Significant social problems.).
28

Ex. H, Metropolitan State Hospital records.

29

See Ex. C, Statement of Nancy McGeoghean (I was 15 years old at the time, drinking daily
and using cocaine. I had a miscarriage and had complications. I was hospitalized for a few days
and had to have blood transfusions.).
30

While on release pending trial, she had a second child, a boy, on 3/1/1990, whom she placed
for adoption. She maintains contact with her son by sending to him and receiving from him
holiday and birthday cards, and photographs. See Ex. C, Statement of Nancy McGeoghean, p. 3
(When out on bail I continued with my reckless lifestyle, with one difference. I wanted to get
pregnant. I foolishly thought having a baby, I would some how handle the loss of Sarah easier. I
did in fact get pregnant. By whom, I really do not know. I wasn't looking for a husband I was
looking for my baby back. I gave birth to a little boy. I put him up for adoption when I got found
guilty for the death of my daughter. I knew my son, Matthew deserved better than me. Giving
him up for adoption was the only good decision I have made.).
17

her parents or any of her siblings. Her primary source of guidance throughout the crucial years
of adolescence was Terry McGeoghean. Two weeks before Sarah's birth, Terry was arrested for
serious charges, including carrying a firearm. In August 1987, when the baby was fourteen
months old, Terry plea bargained to carrying a firearm and sent to prison to serve a mandatory
minimum one year sentence. Tr.III/7, 156. At that point, Nancy McGeoghean had her first
confrontation with responsibility. Without financial support, friends or a husband, Nancy was
left to take care of baby Sarah alone. Terry maintained control by sending letters from prison
instructing her how to maintain his drug selling business.31
Ms. McGeoghean and Terrys relationship was fraught with emotional and physical
abuse.32 At trial, Terry testified that he smacked Nancys head against the wall of the prison
visiting room because he smelled alcohol when she visited with Sarah. Tr.III/164. During the
six weeks before Sarah's death, dozens of visits at jail between Ms. McGeoghean and Terry
degenerated into argument. Tr.III/165-168; Tr.IV/39-40.
Barbara Brennan testified that Nancy was always upset after telephone conversations
with Terry. Tr.IV/113-14. Ms. Brennan witnessed Terry assault Ms. McGeoghean in the prison
visiting room. According to Ms. Brennan, Terry abused Ms. McGeoghean at other visits as well.
For example, he was abusive when Ms. McGeoghean refused to smuggle a balloon filled with
marijuana into the prison. Tr.IV/17; Tr.V/9-11. Rev. Jack Butler, S.J., who has known Ms.
McGeoghean for more than 20 years says that [o]f all the women I have seen over the years,
Nancy is truly one of the most extreme victims of child neglect I have ever encountered.

31

Ex. G, letters sent to Ms. McGeoghean by Terry McGeoghean from jail.

32

See Exs. A-9, A-18, A-22,, and Ex. C.


18

Between alcoholic parents, her practically living in the streets, and an incredibly abusive
relationship with a man, she has endured much trauma and violence.33
Ms. Brennan and Wayne Bachelder each testified that Ms. McGeoghean was afraid of
Terry and talked about fleeing the area as his release date approached. Tr.IV/116-18, 123-24;
Tr.V/93-95, 101. Ms. McGeoghean talked to both Brennan and to Bachelder about assisting her
in fleeing, and she talked to two other men about similar assistance. Tr.IV/124-32, 139;
Tr.V/95-98. The chief basis for this fear was her concern that Terry would discover Nancy's
relationship with Bachelder. Tr.IV/118-23; Tr.V/79-80,101. Other testimony corroborated that
Terry abused Ms. McGeoghean both verbally and physically. Tr.III/156, 163-65; Tr.IV/113-14;
Tr.V/9-11. The prosecutor argued that Ms. McGeoghean was preoccupied and obsessed with
escaping from her husband. Tr.II/53.
In a twenty year-old chronic alcoholic, who also abuses cocaine, the dosing of each
substance as it effected cognitive functioning is hard to determine.34 Each substance creates
unique difficulties. Too much alcohol and the person is intoxicated, too little and she
experiences symptoms of withdrawal. The same volatility is associated with cocaine use, but
while alcohol acts as a depressant, cocaine is a stimulant. The combination of the two often
results in wild mood swings, confused thinking and poor judgment. Individuals caught in this
cycle spend much of their energy chasing the optimal high. Clarity of thought is not a goal of an
adolescent poly-substance abuser.
Nancy McGeoghean entered the world of substance use at an early age. According to
33

Ex. A-3, Letter of Jack Butler, S.J., Ms. McGeogheans spiritual advisor; see also Exs. A-9, A18, A-22,, and Ex. C.
34

See Ex. Q, Evaluation of Dr. Katheryn Rapperport, M.D.


19

reports from her sisters, by the time she first ran away from home at age twelve, she had already
turned to substances for comfort, escape and a good time. Nancy McGeoghean reported to Dr.
Rapperport that she abstained during the time that she knew she was pregnant with Sarah, but
she had already engaged in years of serious substance use. The drugs had clouded her mind so
significantly that a clinical assessment after Sarahs death indicated that she was of low
intelligence, an assessment we now know is inaccurate, given her recent graduation from Boston
University. As Dr. Rapperport remarked, It is hard to imagine the poorly socialized, reactive
twenty-year-old raging in the emergency room, when sitting with the quiet, middle-aged woman
whose dog [she now trains for the disabled] rests quietly at her feet. Although there were
somewhat differing accounts of Nancy McGeogheans level of intoxication on the night of
Sarahs death, the medical professionals who testified that she smelled of alcohol and appeared
to have been drinking all night. Nancy could only recall that she had less to drink over the
previous twenty-four hours than her usual case of beer per day. No witness addressed the level
of cocaine in her system. Nancy McGeoghean reported to Dr. Rapperport that she was coming
down from a period of cocaine use. The mix of substances may help to explain why she does not
remember the details of her daughters death. It also raises the question of diminished capacity
at the time of Sarahs demise.
On the Question of Motivation
The prosecution argued that Nancy was motivated to keep her husband from finding out
that she had been having intercourse with another man while her husband was in prison. While
Nancy recalls joking that Sarah might rat her out for sleeping with someone else, in fact Sarah
had very few words and could not speak in sentences. Ms. McGeoghean was inebriated and

20

there was no evidence of planning. While Nancy did report that Sarah had called Wayne
Batchelder dada once, Nancy did not consider him part of their lives. Batchelder had a
girlfriend and was for Nancy little more than a sexual partner. While Nancy had been having a
sexual relationship with him for a few months, her daughter had little interaction with him. On
the night of Sarahs death, when Nancy found Batchelder passed out in her car in the driveway,
she had her companions get him upstairs to sleep it off. This was the only time he spent the
night.
Comparison with Similar Crimes
Determination of whether a sentence is sufficient requires a comparison to other
sentences for similar crimes. According to a review article, most women arent incarcerated for
infanticide. Of those who are even convicted, about two thirds avoid prison, and the rest receive
an average sentence [in the U.S.] of 7 years. Defendants in offspring murders were the most
likely to have had voluntary or non-negligent manslaughter as the most serious arrest charge and
were less likely to be charged with first degree murder. Yarwood. Child Homicide Review of
Statistics and Studies. Dewar Research, June 2004, p. 21. While Nancy was offered a lesser
charge with a sentence of at most 8-9 years, she did not take it (. . . when they offered me a plea
with the sentence of single digits, I was still unable to accept the fact of what I had done. Ex. C,
Statement of Nancy McGeoghean, p. 3). However, the fact that the Commonwealth at the time
gave her the chance at a more typical sentence seems relevant when considering whether her 24
year incarceration is sufficient for the crime she committed.

21

III.

REHABILITATION
A.

DEGREE OF REMORSE

Ms. McGeoghean was grief-stricken and sleepless during the weeks following Sarah's
death. Tr.VIII/80; Tr.IV/172-73, 177, 180-82; Tr.V/70-72. Ms. McGeoghean's mother-in-law
testified that she pushed Ms. McGeoghean to try to remember how Sarah died for weeks
following the killing. Tr.III/75. Terry called her every hour, day and night, until the telephone
had been shut off. Tr.11/10/89, 47-50. There was trial testimony that he called her from jail
more than fifteen times a day. Tr.III/58-59; Tr.IX/174, 182-83.
Dr. Christopher Perry, a psychiatrist, treated Ms. McGeoghean at the Cambridge Hospital
Emergency Room on August 16, 1988, the day after Sarah died. Tr.2/8/89, 4-6. Ms.
McGeoghean suffered from sleeplessness, was tearful and mute, limiting herself to one or
two-word answers, and unable to answer questions at all. She was disheveled, and had a very
drawn facial expression that didn't vary through the course of the interview. She sat rigidly
and unnaturally and was intermittently crying. Tr.VII/57-68; Tr.12/8/89, 7. Dr. Perry testified
that Nancy McGeoghean had been unable to sleep since Sarah's death. He prescribed Haldol, an
antipsychotic medication.35 Tr.12/8/89, 8. Dr. Perry diagnosed McGeoghean as suffering from
acute grief reaction which is an Axis I diagnosis, i.e., a major psychiatric syndrome.
Tr.12/8/89, 9. Ms. McGeoghean requested hypnosis or Amytol to see if she was forgetting
anything about the night Sarah died. Her replies to the psychiatrist were somewhat tangential
and he had to put the order in which things occurred together by his questions.36
35

http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsand
Providers/ucm216907.htm
36

Ex. I, Cambridge City Hospital records.


22

Dr. Perry treated Ms. McGeoghean again on August 19, 1988. She was tearful, with a
drawn facial expression and appeared downcast. Her posture was poor, her speech was terse and
limited. Tr.12/8/89, 10-11. Dr. Perry concluded that Ms. McGeoghean's judgment was fairly
impaired at this point. She was unable to sleep and unable to keep in a conversation. The
Halidol was not very ineffective. Tr.12/8/89, 11-12). Dr. Perry testified that Ms.
McGeoghean could not believe her daughter was dead, and did not know or remember how
Sarah died. Tr.VII/68-69, 71, 136. At trial, an expert also testified that Ms. McGeoghean had no
memory of how Sarah was killed. Tr.IX/160-61.
Dr. Perry noted that Ms. McGeoghean did not have any schooling beyond the eighth
grade and concluded she was of low-average intelligence. She had difficulty making
generalizations Tr,12/8/89, 20-21. She returned to the emergency room on August 23, 1988; she
was still disheveled, confused feeling she might be blocking something out.37 Ms.
McGeoghean's judgment was beginning to return to normal for her next interview on August 26,
1998. Tr.12/8/89, 24).
On August 30, 1988, Ms. McGeoghean was involuntarily committed from Cambridge
Hospital to a locked section of Metropolitan State Hospital, after she cut both wrists.
Tr.11/10/89, 32-33; Tr.12/8/89, 25-26; Tr.IV/16-19, 64; Tr.X/82). She reported feeling so bad
that my baby was dead and I wasnt. She was discharged on September 10, 1988.38 Tr.12/8/89,
26.
When asked by Dr. Rapperport to try to imagine killing her daughter and how it might

37

Ex. I, Cambridge City Hospital records.

38

Ex. I, Cambridge City Hospital records; Ex. H, Metropolitan State Hospital records.
23

have happened, Nancy had great difficulty even imagining her daughters death. When pressed
she said that it was possible that she just snapped. Ex. Q, pp. 5-6. Numerous factors
contributed to her psychological vulnerability. She had a severe alcohol and cocaine habit. Her
abusive husband was getting out of prison and was not particularly pleased with the way she had
managed his business. He was also likely to find out that she had been having sex with another
man. She had little education and few marketable skills and was dependent on her abusive
husbands good will for housing and support, because she had been estranged and isolated from
her family of origin. Ex. O. During her twenty-four years in prison, Nancy has had the
opportunity to look at all of these issues and address them with the help of trained staff.39
As Dr. Rapperports evaluation notes, while she may not fully recall the details of the
event, she clearly knows that she is responsible.40 She suffers significantly from a sense of guilt
and sorrow. She is also willing to take responsibility for dishonesty to the police. She wants to
set the record straight regarding several facts of the case:
1.

She feels particularly guilty for misleading the court regarding Wayne
Batchelders possible involvement in Sarahs death.41

2.

She misled the police about how she found her daughter. When interrogated,
Nancy said that Sarah was sleeping next to her, though she actually left Sarah
strapped in her car seat. Nancy does not know why she misled the police, but it
troubles her conscience. She reports an intrusive recollection of finding her
daughter in her car seat, her head wet with sweat.

Nancy fully understands that she would increase her likelihood of commutation if she

39

See section II. D for more details.

40

The remainder of this section is based on Ex. Q, Evaluation of Dr. Kathryn Rapperport, M.D.

41

See Ex. Q, pp. 11-12. While Ms. McGeogheans sentiments are understandable and laudatory,
it must be noted that trial tactics were determined by her trial counsel, not by her.
24

would admit to the details of killing her daughter. If she were operating under the same ethical
framework that she used when her daughter died, she would today fabricate a story to further her
cause. While her rejection of the easier path makes for a more complicated presentation to the
Governor and this Advisory board, it is a positive sign with regard to her actual rehabilitation
and the depth of a positive change in her character.
It is the opinion of Dr. Rapperport, Ex. Q, p. 8, that there are sufficient reasons to explain
why Nancy is unable to recall the details related to her daughters death, basing her opinion on:
1.

Nancys eagerness to submit to a lie detector, hypnosis or truth serum to uncover


the truth of the case.

2.

Nancys strong desire to correct the record regarding the details she does
remember.

3.

Nancys commitment to presenting the awkward truth (as she understands it),
rather than presenting a more self-serving story to the parole board.

4.

Nancys distress regarding her incomplete recollection regarding her part in her
daughters death.

What mechanisms may have contributed to this lack of recall of the details of Sarahs
death? The possibilities, as quoted from Dr. Rapperports evaluation, Ex. Q, pp. 8-10, are:
1.

Black out (alcohol induced memory deficit). McGeoghean's recall of the events
just prior to Sarah's death is fragmented and she has difficulty distinguishing
between what she actually remembered (as distinguished from what she has heard
from others). When she related this to me, she wondered if I could even
understand what she was talking about. The experience she describes sounds like
"cued recollection" which is common in memory deficits related to intoxication.
McGeoghean view of the situation is that she must have killed her daughter and is
unable to recall this because she drank to much. I cannot give an opinion about
what actually happened to Sarah, but McGeoghan's pattern of recollection is
consistent with the sort of fragmented memories associated with alcohol
intoxication.
In support of this possibility, reports indicate that McGeoghean was drinking
heavily just prior to Sara's death and appeared intoxicated (even the following
25

morning). McGeoghean also reports blacking out on at least five other occasions
(three of those in the period just prior to Sarah's death and two soon after). Her
family history of alcohol abuse (including possible pre-natal exposure), her habit
of habitually bingeing on alcohol, and her diagnosis of PTSD put McGeoghean at
increased risk for blackouts.
2.

Cognitive impairment related to other substance use prior to the incident.


McGeoghean reports that she was coming down from a period of heavy cocaine
use which ended on the previous day. Symptoms of acute cocaine withdrawal
include agitation, paranoia, panic attacks, extreme lethargy and cognitive deficits.
It is possible that an exhausted, agitated parent might respond inappropriately to a
crying daughter in the middle of the night. Lethargy might have increased the
likelihood of a thoughtlessness or carelessness response, but the withdrawal alone
would not have been sufficient to prevent encoding of the events related to
Sarah's death. The combination of alcohol use and cocaine withdrawal is more
likely to result in memory deficits.

3.

Cognitive impairment related to substances taken after the incident. McGeoghean


reports that after her daughter's death she took large doses of prescribed and street
drugs to deal with her distress. The heavy use of these drugs, particularly alcohol
and benzodiazepines, may have contributed to her long-term memory impairment
of events that occurred around this time.

4.

Dissociation. The violence in McGeoghean's family of origin and the trauma of


Sarah's death meet the severity requirement for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD). Her intrusive recollections of traumatic events, severe anxiety, and
avoidance are sufficient to qualify for a diagnosis of PTSD. Adults with this
diagnosis who have experienced trauma from an early age are particularly likely
to experience dissociative symptoms, which may result in difficulty recalling
stressful events. It is also fairly common for people with PTSD to react violently
when in a dream state and to wake with little recollection of what transpired
during the night. The use of alcohol and other substances increases the likelihood
of poor recollection of these events.

5.

Other biological factors. There was no evidence that McGeoghean suffered from
other medical issues at the time of her daughter's death. While she had suffered
from some head trauma and may have had some cognitive deficits as a direct
result of the substance use, McGeoghean reported no history of loss of
consciousness or seizures.

6.

Psychological denial. The death of a child at the hands of her mother is a major
violation of the natural order of human relations. Just as society has difficulty
conceiving of this sort of action on the part of a mother, the individual who
26

commits such an act, particularly when in some sort of altered state, can have
difficulty integrating this act into her view of herself. Psychological immaturity, a
history of early trauma and substance use increase the likelihood that a person
will use primitive defense mechanisms, such as psychological denial, to deal with
an intolerable act. (Note: Psychological denial is distinguished from the conscious
act of denying what one knows to be true, because the person who is in
psychological denial is unable to access the truth of the situation.)
While it is not completely clear which factors are most likely to account for
McGeoghean's inability to remember what happened on the night of her daughter's death,
there are sufficient reasons to explain the deficits. Because this lack of recall is most
likely beyond her control, it seems unfair to use this deficit as a primary reason to deny
commutation.
In summary, while there is a natural desire for clear confession that specifies the
particulars that occurred on the night of Sarahs death, the most honest statement in this case
appears to be that while she is deeply remorseful and understands that her daughter died at her
hand, Nancy McGeoghean cannot honestly provide a detailed description of what happened.
B.

INSTITUTIONAL CONDUCT

Nancy McGeoghean has an exemplary prison record. She has but nine disciplinary
reports over the course of 24 years of incarceration:42
01/08/1990 Possession of a compact mirror. This was a violation of the prison rule of
no glass in prison housing.
04/29/1991 Refused to report to work. She was enrolled in school at the time.
12/02/1993 In bed when prison count being conducted; she got up immediately when
asked.
03/30/1994 Possessed hoop earrings, five Bic pens and 2 yellow highlighters (received
in connection with her education).
10/05/1994 Given a warning for lying to a staff member
12/18/1994 In possession of two white cotton blankets in her laundry bag
12/25/1994 Physical contact between inmates
12/06/1997 Possessed tweezers
04/07/1998 Left her unit before being released for lunch. She was standing in front of
the Health Service Building conversing with another inmate.
42

See Ms. McGeogheans Six-Part Folder.


27

As can be readily discerned, the violations were overwhelmingly minor and committed during
the early years of institutional adjustment. Ms. McGeoghean has not had a disciplinary report
for sixteen years.
Ms. McGeoghean has been commended by the warden for good conduct. As recognition
for her behavior, she has been chosen to be a peer counselor to other women in the institution.
She received a letter of support for this petition from the Superintendent Bissonette of MCI,
Framingham, commending her exemplary behavior and contributions to others:
I have known inmate Nancy McGeoghean F33329 since my tenure began as
Superintendent pf MCI-Framingham in 2003. Nancy has taken advantage of a
number of education, treatment and program activities. Theses include, but are
not limited to, earning her GED, earning her Bachelor of Science degree from the
Boston University Program, attendance at AA meetings, and Participation in the
NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dogs) Program.
When MCI-Framingham began the NEADS program in 2004, Nancy was one of
the initial participants. She was selected after a vigorous review process due to
her positive institutional adjustment. To date Nancy has raised nine (9) puppies
for NEADS to place with a disabled person in the community. Several staff from
NEADS, who train the trainers of the puppies, has shared with me how
committed Nancy is to the program. I frequently ask Nancy to speak when I tour
various groups through the facility. I have observed her confidence and pride
increase dramatically over the years. She also coaches new inmate trainers in the
program.
I have also observed Nancy and the positive way she carries herself in the facility.
She serves as a role model to her peers.
Ex. M, Letter of Lynn Bissonette, Superintendent, dated May 21, 2013. Nancys last Objective
Classification, February 28, 2011, recommended her for minimum custody, for which of course
she was ineligible as a first-degree lifer. Ex. P.
Nancy McGeoghean has spent her time imprisoned working to improve herself, her
community and those less fortunate. For herself, Ms. McGeoghean has participated in programs
28

aimed at healing her substance abuse problems and providing her with the means for dealing
with the problems that addiction presents. She has also sought spiritual guidance and support to
assist her efforts to deal with her substance addiction honestly and to eliminate it as a way of life.
For the MCI, Framingham prison community, Ms. McGeoghean has acted to protect the dignity
of its members and sought to foster an environment free of abuse and violence. She completed
successfully programs with these goals and acted to eliminate abuse in the prison environment.43
Most recently, Ms. McGeoghean started a group which meets in the Mental Health Unit, and to
which she brings her current NEADS dog, Tango, to help other inmates, as peer supporters,
with the healing process.44
1.

Participation In The NEADS Puppy Program 2006 To Present

The NEADS Puppy Program involves inmates training hearing and services dogs to
assist the deaf and partially disabled. Nancy McGeoghean was the first female inmate in
Massachusetts to be accepted to participate in this program, receiving her first puppy in 2004.
Her achievement was heralded in the local newspaper:

43

See supra Sections III. B, pp. 26-34, and infra Sections III. C, pp. 34-39, and III. D., pp. 39-40.

44

Ex. W, Letter of Supt. Lynn Bissonette, approving Ms. McGeogheans request, and thanking
her for the great idea.
29

The efforts of the NEADS trainers are instrumental in accomplishing the goals of the NEADS
Program to allow the physically disabled members of society to have freedom, independence,
security, love and relief from social isolation which frees them from their own personal prisons.
Her last dog, Recon, is a TAG (Trauma Alert Dog), which was placed with a vet through the
Canines for Combat Veterans. Many of the people who have received the dogs she has trained,
have come to MCI, Framingham to thank Nancy and have their picture taken with her and the
dog. See Ex. N.
In performing these valuable and altruistic services, which make an palpable difference
in the lives of disadvantaged people, Ms. McGeoghean has successfully trained nine dogs and is
30

currently training her tenth. After training her first dog, Ms. McGeoghean received a thank you
note:
Blaze goes everywhere with me ... hes the best dog in the world. In fact, Blaze
has traveled with me on the plane from Boston to Phoenix . . . He is so well
behaved. . . Im so glad the NEADS program is going strong at Framingham . . . I
know how important this program is on several levels. . . I hope your holidays
were as great as mine.45
Another recipient, Rev. T. J. Bland, wrote Ms. McGeoghean through the NEADS Program, to
express the delight he takes in the company of his dog, Granite. Ex. U. Ms. McGeogheans
talented, dedicated, selfless efforts in training, caring for and loving these animals has brought
about a change in the lives of societys less fortunate:
I marvel the most at her commitment and enthusiasm over training the NEADS
dogs. While raising and training each puppy, Nancy always focuses on the
person whose quality of life the dog will sustain. She worries about doing the
best job possible in training each dog. With each new puppy, Nancy sends me
series of photos capturing the dogs growth and progress. She asks me to send
back several copies for the special albums she creates from recycled paper and
then sends to the dogs final owners. With Nancys creativity and caring
emotions for the dog and future owners, these albums become priceless keepsakes
cherished by someone for a lifetime.46
The level of commitment to and empathy for the eventual recipient guides Nancy to go above
and beyond the Programs stringent requirements:
We feel extremely fortunate for being on the receiving end of Nancys loyalty,
dedication and commitment she provided in order to train my sons service dog,
Radar. Due to Nancys constant commitment with Radars training, he has

45

Ex. Z, letter of Jerry LNU, recipient of Blaze, a NEADS dog trained by Nancy McGeoghean;
see also Ex. J, Certificates from NEADS Puppy Program, newspaper articles relating the
difference it makes for those who benefit from the devotion of those who train the dogs, and
pictures of some of the dogs trained by Nancy Mcgeoghean.
46

Ex. A-5, Letter of Julia Goldberg, MCSIC, MCJ, member of Partakers, a faith-based
organization which facilitates sponsorship of prisoners by area congregations.
31

provided my son the independence, companionship as well as a sense of security


he greatly needs and deserves (he has been confined to a wheelchair since the age
of 10).
Nancy went beyond the standard requirements (which are exremely high already)
for over a year with Radars training. Not only did she train him to open/close
doors, turn lights on/off and retrieve dropped objects, just to name a few, she adds
her personal touch by teaching him special tricks. Sneeze, sit pretty and kisses
are just a few that amuse my son constantly. We are also extremely appreciative
of the personal aspect she provided, clearly seen in the several photo albums she
made for us. Until having a service dog for my son, I had no idea what a
difference they can make in someones life. It takes a very unique individual to
dedicate so much time and effort all for the benefit of a complete stranger.
The impact Nancy has had indirectly through Radar in our life is immeasurable,
and to think she has done this for numerous other people (8 others, I believe)
besides my son. Some of us have never had or taken the opportunity to make
such a difference in one persons life. Thanks to Nancys choice to take the
opportunity, we are very thankful.
Ex. V, Letter of Tina Gagnon. A hallmark of Nancys work as a NEADS trainer is her
dedication and unrelenting will to succeed, as attested to by a NEADS coordinator and trainer,
who worked with her for six years:
Last year Nancy was matched with a puppy named Brent, a sweet black lab.
Almost immediately Brent started having problems with severe separation
anxiety. Week after week Nancy worked on getting him over this since she knew
he would be released if it continued. Most handlers would have given up on the
dog but Nancy did not. Brent was an extremely frustrating dog but Nancys love
and dedication to Brent motivated her to keep working with him and slowly over
time Brent improved. This year Brent was placed as a service dog with a disabled
person. I strongly feel that if Brent had been with anyone else he would not have
made it in the program.
Ex. Y, Letter of Paula M. Giardinella, Americas VetDogs, Veterans K-9 Corps, bearing a
photograph of Brent with the recipient and family.47 Nancys strength of character is manifested

47

See also Ex. J, 10/17/13 Certificate of Appreciation for contribution to the NEADs Puppy
Program , evaluation for dog Al (Nancy worked very hard on Als stair issue with on and off
success. She tried many different methods and dedicated a lot of time on it. . .).
32

in her leadership and willingness to help other handlers:


Nancy is a mentor to other handlers in the program and doesnt hesitate to offer
her advice when handlers are having problems with their dogs. She never lets
personal issues stand in the way of helping out. The service dogs Nancy has
raised and continues to this day, is a testament to her dedication to the NEADS
program and a greater desire to help others.
Ex. Y, Letter of Paula M. Giardinella.48 Nancy has received certifications, attached as Exhibit J,
for her unceasing efforts, attesting to her successful training of dogs in the NEADS Program.
2.

Educational Achievement

Ms. McGeoghean received her GED in prison on January 31, 1992,49 then, through years
of arduous work, received a Bachelors of Liberal Studies in Interdisciplinary Studies from
Boston University on June 12, 2012. Ex. R. In addition to the strength of character required for
any inmate, let alone for a 9th grade dropout, to persevere, to struggle and to finally achieve a
college degree, many studies reveal that there is also a profound implication for reducing the
possibility of recidivism.50
3.

Participation in Institutional Programs

48

See also Ex. J, 10/17/13 Certificate of Appreciation for contribution to the NEADs Puppy
Program, evaluation of Radar (Nancy is a very good dog handler and mentor for other
handlers in the NEADS program. Radar had strengths and weaknesses but Nancy knew them
all.).
49

Ex. S, Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Education High School Education


Equivalency Diploma.
50

See Lois M. Davis, Robert Bozick, Jennifer L. Steele, Jessica Saunders, Jeremy N. V. Miles,
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs That
Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults (examining 50 studies of correctional education
programs spanning 32 years of research). ISBN: 978-0-8330-8108-7, available at
https://www.bja.gov/Publications/RAND_Correctional-Education-Meta-Analysis.pdf.
Sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
33

Nancy McGeoghean has completed and continues to participate in many ongoing


programs; a complete list is attached as Exhibit K. Perhaps the most important program
successfully completed is the Womens Correctional Recovery Academy, a six-month residential
treatment program, from June 1, 2009 through November 5, 2009. Ex. K; see also Letter of
Superintendent Bissonette, Ex. M (Nancy has taken advantage of a number of education,
treatment and program activities).
Ms. McGeoghean has impressed many with whom she has had contact over her 24 years
at MCI, Framingham. Moved by her tireless efforts toward self-improvement, her dedication to
helping others, spiritual development and her overall rehabilitation,24 individuals who have
known Nancy McGeoghean during various stages of her life, both before and during her
incarceration, have prepared letters requesting the commutation of Nancy McGeogheans life
sentence.51 While each request provides different insight into the life and rehabilitation of Ms.
McGeoghean, they all share the opinion that if given a second chance, she will make a
productive and responsible member of society. Reference to a few of the letters illustrates the
extraordinary growth, the reform of character, and spirit to which all the letters attest.
Kathleen Bouchard, while working as a reintegration counselor in prison, had the unique
experience of first observing Ms. McGeoghean,52 since Bouchard was not her counselor, then
receiving permission from Superintendent Bissonette to visit Nancy after she left that post, and
51

Ex. A: twenty-four letters of recommendation, plus the Affidavit of Terence McGeoghean, the
victims father, submitted in support of the Petition for Commutation.
52

While working at the prison for two years, I observed Ms. McGeoghean on a weekly basis. I
noticed that she was someone who was respected by the other inmates and the officers. She
stayed out of trouble, worked daily, attended Boston University classes, participated in the
Catholic Chaplaincy programs, and trained puppies for people with disabilities. Ex. A-2, Letter
of Kathleen Bouchard, dated May 9, 2009.
34

then coming to know her very well over the course of 7 years, states Over the past seven years,
I have witnessed Nancy continue to maintain her exemplary behavior and have shared many
conversations about her time in prison, her painful regret for choices she made as a young
woman, and her hope to one day have a chance to help others on the outside. Please, Governor
Patrick, take the time to consider this womans future. She will suffer remorse for the death of
her daughter for the rest of her life; she has spent the past 24 years participating in rehabilitation
and vocational programs at MCI Framingham; and she is not a threat to society. I ask you to
commute her natural life sentence and allow her to become a contributing member of society.53
Emily Berheide writes that Ms. McGeoghean is always so excited about the latest thing
she taught her dog to do like turn on a light switch or bring a newspaper, knowing that this dog
will eventually be doing these things for someone who cant do them for themselves. When
told of cerebral palsy victims with whom Ms. Berheide works, Ms. McGeoghean demanded to
be of assistance. At Ms. Berheides suggestion, Ms. McGeoghean is now a pen-pal weekly with
a 40 year-old cerebral palsy sufferer.54
C.

SOCIAL AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM CERTIFICATIONS

Ms. McGeoghean returned to the faith she had lost in the tumultuous years of her
adolescence. On June 17, 1991, she received the Sacrament of Confirmation from St. Stephens
Roman Catholic Church, Framingham, and thereafter continued her religious revival:
Perhaps most importantly, she has engaged in the Catholic Chaplaincy Program to

53

Ex. A-2, Letter of Kathleen Bouchard, former Reintegration Counselor, Spectrum Health
Systems, dated April 11, 2013.
54

Ex. A-1, Letter of Emily Berheide, Leader, Prison Education Project, First Parish Church,
Cambridge MA.
35

its fullest extent. She has sought help, education and counseling, and I believe
she has grown into a responsible and mature adult. Its hard for any of us to
negotiate the journey into adulthood. It is particularly difficult in prison. It is
within the confines of prison that Nancy has had to look honestly at herself, her
traumatic past, poor relationships, and alcoholic background. She has come to
terms with her own alcohol use, and profoundly felt the remorse of losing her
children, but most particularly, Sarah.55
Ms. McGeoghean also sought guidance from the rehabilitative programs offered at MCI,
Framingham. As a member of Partakers, a faith-based organization which facilitates
sponsorship of prisoners by area congregations, put it, Ms. McGeoghean is committed to
personal growth, educational advancement and helping others. She has completed every selfhelp, volunteer and instructional program available to her.56 Her spiritual and worldly growth
has wrought extraordinary changes:
In doing programs such as Fully Alive at the prison, I have had the chance to get
to know Nancy over the years. She has changed and has become a woman of
dignity and honor. She has grown up and has participated in many programs and
had many hours of counseling. Nothing will change the past, but I do believe
there is a future for Nancy. I think that given the opportunity, she will live a
useful and productive life. I pray that she will be given a chance to be free.57
The programs Ms. McGeoghean has completed, which are numerous and have served as vehicles
for her growth, include:58
Certificate of Completion of Workshop for Training In Nonviolence Alternatives to
Violence Projects

55

Ex. A-3, Letter of Rev. Jack Butler, S.J., Jesuit priest, therapist, and spiritual counselor at
MCI, Framingham to Ms. McGeoghean.
56

Ex. A-5, Letter of Julia Goldberg, MCSIC, MCJ.

57

Ex. A-16, Letter of Karen A. Murray.

58

Ex. J, copies of the NEADS Certificates.


36

Confirmation Certificate from the Roman Catholic Church


June 17, 1991
Fully Alive program, September 1-30, 1991
ABE Program59
Certificate of Achievement Project Bread Walk for Hunger Participant
May 3, 1992
Non-Violent Conflict Resolution60
Achievement Certificate for Participation in the Catholic Chaplaincy Christmas Retreat
December 1999
Certificate of Completion of Healthy Relationships Program
March 21, 2002
Achievement Certificate for Participation in the Catholic Chaplaincy Christmas Retreat
December 2002
Certificate of Completion Phase II of the Trauma and Recovery Group61
Certificate of Completion Phase III of the Trauma and Recovery Group62
Certificate of Participation for Completion of a Ten (10) Session Domestic Violence
Program
April 2, 2003
Achievement Certificate for Successful Participation in the Catholic Chaplaincy
Teachers Assistance Program, June 2003 June 2004
Awarded June 2004

59

See Ms. McGeogheans Six-Part Folder.

60

See Ms. McGeogheans Six-Part Folder.

61

See Ms. McGeogheans Six-Part Folder.

62

See Ms. McGeogheans Six-Part Folder.


37

Certificate of Participation in Habitat for Humanity


June 8, 2004
Certificate of Participation for Completion of a Ten (10) Session Domestic Violence
Program
October 27, 2004
Achievement Certificate for Participation in the Catholic Chaplaincy, Discovery Hope
While Experiencing Brokenness Program
May 15, 2005
Achievement Certificate for Participation in the Catholic Chaplaincy, H.O.W.
Recovery Retreat, Honesty, Openness and Willingness
May 21, 2005
Achievement Certificate for Participation in the Catholic Chaplaincy New BeginningsEncountering Jesus, You, Jesus and New Life Retreat
June 5, 2005
Certificate of Recognition for Participation in House of Healing Emotional Awareness
Program
June 2005 September 2005
Certificate of Participation for Completion of the four (4) Session Eight (8) Hour Self
Esteem Program at MCI Framingham
December 21, 2005
Achievement Certificate for Participation in the Catholic Chaplaincy Recovery Retreat
April 1, 2006
Achievement Certificate in the Catholic Chaplaincy, Special Day Prayer
May 9, 2009
Achievement Certificate in the Catholic Chaplaincy, Discovering Hope While
Experiencing Brokenness Program
June 7, 2009
Certificate of Completion for Phase I of Healing From the Past
June 22, 2009

38

Certificate of Participation for Completion of the Self Esteem Program


July 22, 2009
Certificate of Completion for Phase II of Healing From the Past
August 24, 2009
Certificate of Completion for Successfully Completing Healing From the Past
October 5, 2009
Correctional Recovery Academy graduate
11/5/2009, a 6 month in-house program which addresses drug and behavioral issues
Achievement Certificate for Successfully Participating in the Catholic Chaplaincy
Christmas Retreat
December 4 & 5, 2009
Achievement Certificate for Participation in the Catholic Chaplaincy Transfiguration
Retreat
October 15-16, 2010
Achievement Certificate for Successfully Participating in the Catholic Chaplaincy
Christmas Retreat
December 10 & 11, 2010
Certificate of Completion of the Peer Support Program training, Engaging Women in
Peer Support
March 29, 2011
Achievement Certificate for Successfully Participating in the Catholic Chaplaincy
Recovery Retreat
September 16, 17 & 18, 2011
Achievement Certificate for Successfully Participating in the Catholic Chaplaincy
Christmas Retreat
December 10 & 11, 2011
Certificate from the Peer Support Program, For being invested, consistently attending
weekly groups, and devoting her time to others!
August 1, 2012

39

Achievement Certificate for Successfully Completed the Catholic Chaplaincy Fully Alive
Series Focus on Peace (part 1), The Virtue of Peacemaking
September 9, 2012
Achievement Certificate for Successfully Completed the Catholic Chaplaincy The
Virtue of Reconciliation Theology Course
December 2, 2012
Achievement Certificate for Successfully Participating in the Catholic Chaplaincy
Christmas Retreat
December 7 & 8, 2012
Certificate from the Peer Support Program, For being invested, consistently attending
weekly groups, and devoting her time to others!
April 10, 2013
Achievement Certificate for Successfully Participating in the Catholic Chaplaincy
Christmas Retreat
December 6 & 7, 2013
D.

INFORMATION PROVIDED TO INSTITUTIONAL SECURITY PERSONNEL

Deputy Superintendent Daniel Calis and Captain Henderson (who has known Ms.
McGeoghean for over 20 years, and who provided a letter, Ex. O, describing the matters set out
below), both at MCI, Framingham, have repeatedly advised Ms. McGeoghean that they can only
appear at a hearing by summons, and if they were to be summonsed they would relate the
following:
1.

In approximately 2006, Nancy McGeoghean provided information to Captain Henderson


regarding Recreation Officer Joyce Morante. After investigation, Officer Morante was
fired for receiving an automobile from an inmate.

2.

In 2007, Ms. McGeoghean provided information that her cellmate, Rachel Brewster was
having sexual relations with a maintenance supervisor, Mark E. Packard, in the

40

Maintenance Shop. As a consequence, Ms. Brewster contracted a sexually transmitted


disease and got very sick. He was providing her candy in recompense for the sex. After
investigation, he was indicted for rape.
3.

Ms. McGeoghean also provided information that a storeroom employee, Mark Pasquale,
was putting money in inmate accounts in return for sexual favors. Apparently, the sex
quid pro quo was not proven and no criminal charges were filed. However, he was fired
for putting money in Inmate Lisa Planskys account.

Ms. McGeoghean has not been rewarded by any official action for the assistance she provided to
law enforcement. Executive Clemency Guidelines, January 13, 2014, p. 8, III.B.1.d.
The Board is urged to also consider this information in evaluating the extraordinary
extent of Ms. McGeogheans rehabilitation. Having the courage to step forward in order to
expose exploitation, and now revealing her cooperation publically, knowing that her role might
be exposed to fellow prisoners, manifests, in Capt. Hendersons words, the strong moral fiber
and character that may have been lacking earlier in her life. Ex. O.
IV.

REASONS TO CONCLUDE THE INMATE WILL LIVE OUTSIDE PRISON AS


A SOBER, LAW ABIDING, EMPLOYED, PRODUCTIVE PERSON WHO IS
MAKING POSITIVE CONTRIBUTIONS TO HIS FAMILY AND COMMUNITY.
A.

RECIDIVISM RISK

When faced with the issue of commutation, the possibility of reoffending is always a
concern. A statistical analysis of the demographic data predicting recidivism shows that Nancy
McGeoghan is at very low risk of reoffending, particularly of committing the sort of violent
crime that she was convicted for. Her lack of previous arrests also decreases the likelihood of
recidivism. That fact that she will be over 45 at the time of release also significantly decreases

41

the likelihood of reoffending. See Ex. P, DOC Objective Classification-Reclassification Form,


conducted on February 28, 2014, scoring Nancy McGeoghean -2 because of her age. The latest
DOC Personalized Program Plan, Ex. T, Risk Assessment, assesses Risk of Violence as Low and
Risk of Recidivism as Low. As to each category in the Recommendations section, the Board
noted, she was Not Considered a need area for this offender, no recommendation required.63
The programs she has taken in prison; her positive mind set; significant supports; skills;
reestablishment of positive familial ties; good behavior while incarcerated; and college education
all increase the likelihood that she will make a positive contribution to society rather than return
to prison. See Ex. Q, pp. 10-11, Evaluation of Dr. Rapperport.
B.

LENGTH OF TIME REHABILITATED

Nancy McGeoghean has been incarcerated since May 21, 1990, almost 24 years.
Although she had some early adjustment issues, all of her disciplinary reports were minor and
the last one was on April 7, 1998, 16 years ago. She began her rehabilitation almost
immediately upon incarceration, including being Confirmed in the Roman Catholic faith on June
17, 1991, and earning an educational Certificate of Achievement in June 1991, then a GED on
January 31, 1992. It is difficult to precisely measure full rehabilitation, but certainly altruistic
behavior is a good measure, including entry into the NEADS Program in 2003, in which she
continues, having trained dogs to date, as well as becoming a pen-pal for a cerebral palsy
patient, and offering a kidney for a corrections officer.64 Her full rehabilitation can also be seen

63

The areas noted were Anger/Hostility, Criminal Thinking Observation, Low Risk Alternative, MA Sex Offender, Parental Involvement, Relationship Dysfunction, and Substance
Abuse. Ex. T.
64

See Ex. A-1, Ex. E, and Ex. J.


42

in the assistance to law enforcement, at potential risk to herself from other inmates,65 in 2006 and
2007. Perhaps the best testament to Ms. McGeogheans rehabilitation prior to 2003 is found in
Ex, M, the letter of Superintendent Bissonette quoted above, which notes that Nancy is a role
model to other prisoners.
C.

DEGREE OF SUPPORT FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS


1.

Affidavit of Terence McGeoghean (Father of the Victim) in Support


of Commutation66

After 20 years, Terence McGeoghean, father of Sarah McGeoghean, provided an


Affidavit in Support of Commutation. Mr. McGeoghean, a key prosecution witness,
acknowledges that at the time of trial he hated his wife Nancy and actively sought to ensure that
she was punished for the rest of her life for Sarahs death. To accomplish this goal, Mr.
McGeoghean withheld information helpful to the defense of his wife Nancy McGeoghean and
worked to ensure her conviction.
Specifically, Mr. McGeoghean withheld critical information about her loving relationship
with Sarah. Terry McGeoghean, knew and lived with Nancy for four or five years before
Sarahs death. For the first nine months of Sarahs life, Terry, Nancy, and Sarah lived together
as a family. During that time-frame, Terry McGeoghean always observed Nancys interaction
with Sarah as loving. He never observed her mistreat, abuse or physically harm Sarah. Mr.

65

See letter of Cpt. Paul Henderson, Ex. O (Nancys character and moral compass has been
invaluable while at MCI Framingham. For example, she has provided valuable information to
the investigations community, which resulted in three staff members being terminated for
inappropriate conduct with other inmates. In each case, Nancy put herself at risk, and provided
the information without receiving any benefits.
66

Ex. A-15, Affidavit of Terence McGeoghean.


43

McGeoghean failed to disclose his belief as to the cause of the marks on Sarahs chest, i.e., he
observed Sarah run into a chair and suffer minor injury to her chest during a prison visit. Terry
McGeogheans withheld testimony contradicts prosecutorial trial arguments portraying Ms.
McGeoghean as a potentially abusive parent.
Even after he went to the Billerica House of Correction, Terry McGeoghean observed
Nancy continue to love their daughter, when they visited him on a weekly or biweekly basis. He
never observed any signs that Nancy McGeoghean had maltreated or abused Sarah. Nor did he
observe her violently or physically harm their daughter. He believes that Nancy would never
have intentionally harmed our daughter or knowingly permitted her to be harmed.67
2.

Support from family.

Her two older sisters, Robin Knych and Diane Surdam, her older brother David Surdam,
and her nephew, Thomas Knych, are responsible members of society and plan to help Nancy to
adjust after release:
For the first time in her life she has established positive personal relationships
including reestablishing relationships with family members. She has realized the
mistakes of her past and has worked very hard to educate and better herself.
Given the opportunity I believe Nancy can become a productive member of
society and my family and I will continue to support her.
Ex. A-9, Letter of Robin Knych.68 Robin Knych is a teacher and Diane Surdam is a nurse.
Nancy McGeogheans ability to forge strong, meaningful relationships with her family from

67

Ex. A-15, Affidavit of Terence McGeoghean, 17.

68

See also Ex., A-22, Letter of David Surdam, Ms. McGeogheans brother; Ex. A-18; Ex. A10, Letter of Thomas Knych, Ms. McGeogheans nephew; Letter of Natalie OBrien, long-time
family friend.
44

prison is noteworthy:
I am twenty-one years old and [my Aunt] Nancy has been a part of my life for as
long as I can remember.
I have always viewed Nancy as a positive role model. From when I was younger
to the present day, Nancy has helped me grow tremendously as a person. I once
heard the quote the difference between a successful person and others is not a
lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will. Nancy
embodies this quote to me because it has been her always present will that I have
admired. Using her own experience, Nancy has always taught me the importance
of bettering yourself. She has led me to believe in myself and demonstrated,
through her own experience, the importance of getting an education in growing
as a human being. From helping me with homework to simply discussing dayto-day life, Nancy and I developed a relationship that I have come to cherish.
Furthermore, her work with the NEADS program has inspired me to volunteer
and help in my own community. Nancy's positive actions and involvement in tbe
many support, educational, and recreational programs offered to her speaks
volumes to her character. She has truly become someone to look up to.
I hope when I graduate from Northeastern University in the next year Nancy will
be able to attend. She has helped me become the person I am today and I can say
with a 100% confidence that given the opportunity, Nancy will not only be a
productive member of society but a model citizen.
Ex. A-10, Letter of Thomas Knych, Nancy McGeogheans nephew. Although cognizant of what
she did, her family is unanimous in their hope that she will be released, and their promise of
support to her:
Unfortunately, Nancy was still a child herself was now solely responsible for
caring for Sarah. Instead she continued to do what she knew how to do and that
was drink and do drugs. This behavior lead to her continuing to make bad
decisions and eventually whether indirectly or directly to Sarahs death.
Since being in MCI Framingham things have changed for Nancy. . . . She has
taken full advantage of the programs offered to her. . . . She has also reestablished
relationships with her family.
Nancy was just a kid when she entered prison. She is now an adult that has been
given the support, guidance and tools to be a productive person outside of prison.
Please give my sister the opportunity to become that person.
45

Ex. A-22, Statement of David Surdam (Nancy McGeogheans brother), pp. 1-2.
.

3.

Support from friends.

David Magnani, who is Assistant Vice Chancellor for Corporate and Foundation
Relations at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, has been working with Nancy for the past
four and a half years and plans to continue working with her in the Aftercare Ministry postrelease. Nancy also developed a positive relationship with Paul McDevitt, a Licensed Mental
Health Counselor, who is a member of the Board of the Edwina Martin House, the recovery
house fully licensed by the Commonwealth in which she will stay after release. Nancy also
plans to obtain support from the local AA, NA and church community in the Brockton area
where she plans to relocate. As Dr. Rapperport noted: I expect that she will have success
making friends as she possesses the skills and character required to sustain friendships. (Nancy
gets occasional reports about how her ex-husband and his family and friends are doing, but she
does not maintain contact with these former associates. This is a positive sign that reflects the
increase in discernment she shows with regard to relationships.) See Ex. Q.
D.

LIKELIHOOD OF EMPLOYMENT

Although Nancy McGeoghean has the opportunity to work as a cleaner through the Job
Clearing Program, room and board are provided free of charge at Edwina Martin House until a
job which will not interfere with sobriety is found. Further, Paul McDevitt, through his business,
Modern Assistance Programs, Inc., will provide any job placement assistance deemed
appropriate by the professional staff at Edwina Martin House. She has also been told that
eventually she may be able to begin counseling other women who have struggled with addiction.
She has obtained a college degree while incarcerated and gained skills working with animals.

46

Ultimately, she would like to use these assets in developing a career. She would love to continue
her work training dogs to assist the disabled, but has accepted the advice that this would
probably not pay well enough for her to support herself. Her commitment to educating herself
and acquiring job-related skills is also seen in specific institutional courses she has taken:
Award of Distinction for Effort, Attendance and Achievement in Beginning Keyboarding
Course
January 11, 1996
Achievement Award for Completion of a Beginning Course in Microsoft Office 97
January 11, 2001
Achievement Award for Completion of an Advanced Course in Microsoft Office 2000
September 8, 2003
E.

SPECIFIC PLANS FOR IMMEDIATE AND LONG TERM HOUSING

The Edwina Martin House is a twelve month 21-bed residential program exclusively for
women. It is a non-profit organization that had originally been founded by the Catholic
Charitable Bureau. In 2002, the Edwina Martin House became an independent organization.
The program aims to enable all residents to return to society with renewed self-esteem,
sober and addiction free, to reconnect with the community and family and to be economically
self-sustaining. The Edwina Martin House provides counseling and employment training for all
of its residents. It has committed to providing Nancy McGeoghean with a bed for twelve months
should she be granted a commutation.
The Edwina Martin program will provide Nancy McGeoghean with the support and skills
that she will need in order to reintegrate into society. The program will help ensure that Nancy

47

McGeoghean does not return to a life influenced or controlled by drugs or alcohol.69


1.

Plan for re-entry with recognition of factors which


contributed to the crime

Nancys previous criminal behaviors were mostly related to substance use and she has
been clean and sober for over twenty years. She continues to value the support of recovery
programs and plans to continue with AA (and NA) after release. Prior to incarceration, Nancy
failed to establish herself as a productive member of a healthy community. While incarcerated
she has done the work required to develop the interpersonal skills and judgment that she had
lacked. In the past, Nancy was completely dependent on others for support. Since then, she has
earned a GED and graduated from college. She has also learned to work and developed the
emotional fortitude required for productive and independent living.
2.

Receptiveness and commitment to observing general


and specific conditions of commutation.

Nancy is receptive to observing all general and specific conditions of commutation that
may be presented. She has already committed to intensive support services and is eager to
comply with any other reasonable stipulations that might increase the likelihood that she will be
successful after her release.
V.

REQUEST FOR COMMUTATION AND A HEARING


Prison has provided Nancy McGeoghean a place for reflection, a time to acquire the pain

of self-knowledge, for rehabilitation, to accept what she did to Sarah. She has achieved all four
major goals of the criminal justice system, i.e., rehabilitation, isolation, deterrence and
69

Ex. K, Letter of Judith McDonough, M.Ed., CCJS, LACD-1, Executive Director of the Edwina
Martin House, accepting Ms. McGeoghean for acceptance in the program upon release from
prison.
48

punishment.70 As poignantly expressed by Sarahs father, Terry McGeoghean:71


[T]he time served seems to be sufficient punishment for a death which it is not
clear to me resulted from any intentional conduct on the part of Nancy
McGeoghean. It is my opinion that there is no purpose to be served by having
Nancy remain in prison for the rest of her life... I feel that justice has been served
and I forgive Nancy McGeoghean for whatever role she may have played in the
death of my daughter, Sarah. I believe Nancy McGeoghean has suffered enough
and should be released from the balance of her term and given a chance to live the
remainder of her life outside of prison.
While incarcerated, Ms. McGeoghean lost both of her parents, her mother in September 1995,
and her father in March 1996.72
Nancy McGeogheans record of extraordinary achievement, the supportive Affidavit of
Terence McGeoghean, father of the victim, and the numerous letters of recommendation
submitted with this Petition attest to her rehabilitation and militate in favor of granting the
requested relief that Nancy McGeoghean, an adolescent when she had Sarah and barely 20 at
the time of Sarahs death, be given a second chance.
Nancy McGeoghean respectfully requests the Governor and the Advisory Board of
Commutations and Pardons grant a hearing to provide live testimonial support to support her
Petition that she be given her a second chance to live as a law abiding member of society. Ms.
McGeoghean recognizes the damage that results from a life of self-indulgence and addiction.
She experienced it as a child of two alcoholic parents and as the mother of a child who died in

70

See supra, Section VIII, pp. 27-29.

71

Ex. A-15, Affidavit of Terrence McGeoghean, 20-23.

72

See Ms. McGeogheans Six-Part Folder (she was furloghed 9/11/1995, 3:30-6:00, for a 5
minute private viewing of her mother, and 3/29/1996, and again 11:00-1:30, for a 15 minute
private viewing of her father. She could not grieve with family members either time).
49

part due to her addiction. Nancy McGeoghean is resolved to not relapse into substance abuse.
Nancys life experiences, as well as the education and spiritual guidance that she has received
while incarcerated, have developed in her a keen awareness of the harm caused by substance
abuse, a respect for the sanctity of life and a deep rooted understanding of the importance of
living a sober life which assumes responsibility for the well being of others.
The evidence is both clear and convincing that Nancy McGeoghean is rehabilitated, and
if released, she will commit herself to leading a sober and respectful life dedicated to being a
productive and law abiding member of society. Further, if this petition is allowed and Ms.
McGeoghean is paroled, she will be under the guidance of the Parole Board for life. Nancy
McGeoghean petitions this Board and the Governor for the opportunity to take the next step in
her redemption.
Respectfully submitted on behalf of
Nancy McGeoghean,

John H. Cunha Jr.


B.B.O. NO. 108580
CUNHA & HOLCOMB, P.C.
One State Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02109-3507
617-523-4300

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VI.

EXHIBITS

Exhibit A Letters of Support for the Petition


1.
Letter of Emily Berheide, Leader, Prison Education Project, First Parish Church,
Cambridge MA
2.
Letters of Kathleen Bouchard, former Reintegration Counselor, Spectrum Health
Systems, MCI, Framingham, dated May 9, 2009 and April 11, 2013
3.
Letter of Jack Butler, S.J., Jesuit priest, therapist, and counselor to Ms. McGeoghean
4.
Letter of Jean M. Fielding, Esq., former attorney for Ms. McGeoghean
5.
Letter of Julia Goldberg, MCSIC, MCJ, member of Partakers, a faith-based organization
6.
Letter of Susan P. Harris, long-time family friend
7.
Letter of Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, Secretary for Health and Social Services, Archdiocese of
Boston
8.
Letter of Shari Johnson, Volunteer with the Aftercare Program, MCI Framingham
9.
Letters of Robin Knych, Ms. McGeogheans sister
10.
Letters of Thomas J. Knych, Ms. McGeogheans nephew
11.
Letter of Keith A. Maczkiewicz, S.J., Jesuit priest, worked in Catholic Chaplaincy
12.
Letter of David P. Magnani, Volunteer at MCI, Framingham, and former State
Representative and State Senator
13.
Letter of Paul F. McDevitt, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Licensed Rehabilitation
Counselor and Certified Alcoholism Counselor
14.
Letter of Sheila McGeoghean, Ms. McGeogheans former sister-in-law
15.
Affidavit of Terrence McGeoghean, ex-husband of Ms. McGeoghean
16.
Letter of Karen Murray, Coordinator of the Volunteer Program- Aftercare
17.
Letter of Kristen Nerich, long-time family friend
18.
Letter of Natalie OBrien, long-time family friend
19.
Letter of Prof. Cristina Paul, family friend and correspondent with Ms. McGeoghean
20.
Letter of Carolyn Rodrigues, Director, Fitzgerald Neighborhood Council & Community
School
21.
Letter of Charles Stephenson, Esq., former attorney for Ms. McGeoghean
22.
Letter of David Surdam, Ms. McGeogheans brother
23.
Letter of John C. Wronski, SJ, Jesuit priest, and Ms. McGeogheans spiritual advisor
since 1995
24.
Letter of Craig Yearwood, long-time family friend
Exhibit B
Memorandum of Decision And Order on Defendant's Motion to Reduce the Verdict

51

Exhibit C
Statement of Nancy McGeoghean
Exhibt D
Spectrum Health System records
Exhibit E
Letters regarding kidney donor request
Exhibit F
Mount Auburn Hospital Family Health Service record
Exhibit G
Letters sent to Ms. McGeoghean by Terrence McGeoghean
Exhibit H
Metropolitan State Hospital records
Exhibit I
Cambridge City Hospital records
Exhibit J
Certificates from the NEADS Puppies Program:
Certificate of Appreciation for Contribution to the NEADS Puppy Program
February 1, 2006
Certificate of Appreciation for Contribution to the NEADS Puppy Program
October 12, 2006
Certificate of Participation NEADS Puppy Handler
April 5, 2007
Certificate of Recognition for Participation in NEADs Puppy Program
June 24, 2008
Certificate of Recognition for Participation in NEADs Puppy Program
June 30, 2009

52

Certificate of Achievement for Contribution and Success in NEADs Puppy Program


June 10, 2010
Certificate of Achievement for Contribution and Success in NEADs Puppy Program
June 21, 2012
Certificate of Appreciation for invaluable contribution to the NEADs puppy program
July 31, 2012
Certificate of Achievement for Contribution and Success in NEADs Puppy Program
June 19, 2013
Certificate of Appreciation for contribution to the NEADs Puppy Program (dog Al)
October 17, 2013
Certificate of Appreciation for contribution to the NEADs Puppy Program (dog Radar)
October 17, 2013
Exhibit K
Certificates of Social and Spiritual Development Programs
Exhibit L
Letter of Judith McDonough, M.Ed., CCJS, LACD-1, Executive Director of the Edwina Martin
House
Exhibit M
Letter of Superintendent Bissonette, dated May 21, 2013
Exhibit N
Photographs of recipients of NEADS dogs trained by Nancy McGeoghean
Exhibit O
Letter of Captain Paul Henderson, MCI Framingham
Exhibit P
DOC Objective Classification - Reclassification Form, dated February 28, 2014
Exhibit Q
Evaluation of Dr. Kathryn Rapperport, M.D.
53

Exhibit R
Diploma, Boston University, dated January 25, 2013
Exhibit S
GED Diploma, dated January 31, 1992
Exhibit T
DOC Personalized Program Plan, dated February 14, 2011
Exhibit U
Letter of Rev. T. J. Bland, recipient of Granite, a NEADS dog trained by Nancy McGeoghean
Exhibit V
Letter of Tina Gagnon, whose son was the recipient of Radar, a NEADS dog trained by Nancy
McGeoghean
Exhibit W
Letter of Superintendent Bissonette, dated November 25, 2013
Exhibit X
Letter of Sister Maureen Clark, CSJ, Catholic Chaplain, MCI Framingham
Exhibit Y
Letter of Paula M. Giardinella, Americas VetDogs, Veterans K-9 Corps
Exhibit Z
Letter of Jerry LNU, recipient of Blaze, a NEADS dog trained by Nancy McGeoghean

54