July 22nd, 2024

Jurors now must decide in the Karen Read trial: Was it deadly romance or police corruption?

By Michael Casey, The Associated Press on June 25, 2024.

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) – The fate of Karen Read was handed Tuesday to jurors who must decide whether the Massachusetts woman ended a rocky romance by angrily striking her boyfriend with her SUV and leaving him mortally injured in the snow, or the victim of police corruption, framed to cover up a fight at the home of a fellow Boston officer.

Jurors got to work after the two-month murder trial in the death of Boston police officer John O’Keefe in January 2022. The case has drawn a media storm, fanned by true crime bloggers and pink-shirted supporters.

Defense lawyer Alan Jackson described a cancer of lies that “spreads into a conspiracy,” and he told jurors they’re the “only thing standing between Karen Read and the tyranny of injustice.”

“You have been lied to in this courtroom. Your job is to make sure you don’t ever ever look the other away,” he said in closing.

But Assistant District Attorney Adam Lally told jurors “there is no conspiracy.” He began his closing argument with the words four witnesses reported hearing Read say after O’Keefe was discovered on the snowy lawn: “The defendant repeatedly said ‘I hit him. I hit him. Oh my God. I hit him.”

“Those were the words that came from the defendant’s mouth,” Lally said. He later played a voice message Read left for O’Keefe moments after data from her car shows she reversed at approximately 24 mph (39 kph) and then drove away.

Read, a former adjunct professor at Bentley College, is charged with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, along with manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol, and leaving a scene of personal injury and death. The manslaughter charge carries a penalty of five to 20 years in prison, and the other charge has a maximum penalty of 10 years.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) – A defense lawyer told jurors in Karen Read’s murder trial on Tuesday that she’s the innocent victim of a law enforcement frame-job, a “tall blue wall” built to protect the real killers of her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe. But a prosecutor used Read’s own words to portray her as “seething in rage” moments after ramming him with her SUV.

The two-month trial of Read, who’s accused of striking O’Keefe with her Lexus SUV and leaving him to die in the snow outside another officer’s house party in January 2022, has drawn a media storm, fanned by true crime bloggers and pink-shirted supporters who have rallied and waited for hours in line to witness the courtroom proceedings.

Her lawyers contend O’Keefe was dragged outside after he was beaten up in the basement and bitten by a dog at Boston officer Brian Albert’s home in Canton.

Defense lawyer Alan Jackson described a cancer of lies that “spreads into a conspiracy,” and he told jurors they’re the “only thing standing between Karen Read and the tyranny of injustice.”

“You have been lied to in this courtroom. Your job is to make sure you don’t ever ever look the other away,” he said.

“Ladies and gentlemen, there was a cover-up in this case, plain and simple,” he added.

Assistant District Attorney Adam Lally, who told jurors “There is no conspiracy,” began his closing statement with the words four witnesses reported hearing Read say after O’Keefe was discovered on the snowy lawn.

“The defendant repeatedly said ‘I hit him. I hit him. Oh my God. I hit him,” Lally said. “Those were the words that came from the defendant’s mouth.” He later played a voice message Read left for O’Keefe moments after data from her car shows she reversed at approximately 24 mph and then drove away.

“The defendant leaves that voicemail, seething in rage as she’s screaming, “˜John, I (expletive) hate you!'”

Read, a former adjunct professor at Bentley College, is charged with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, along with manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol, and leaving the scene of personal injury and death. The manslaughter charge carries a penalty of five to 20 years in prison, and the other charge has a maximum penalty of 10 years.

The defense said witnesses who claimed to have heard her say she hit O’Keefe had changed their story or couldn’t have heard the comments due to the chaotic scene. Jackson said investigators focused on Read because she was a “convenient outsider” who saved them from having to consider other suspects, including Albert and other law enforcement officers who were at the party. In particular, they highlighted connections between Albert and the state trooper leading the investigation.

“Michael Proctor didn’t draw a thin blue line, he erected a tall blue wall,” Jackson said. “A wall that you can’t scale, a wall that Karen Read certainly couldn’t get over. A wall between us and them. A place you folk are not invited. We protect our own.”

Jackson suggested Brian Higgins, a federal agent who had exchanged flirty texts with Read, lured O’Keefe to the house party, where the two got into a fight leading to punches and a fall.

“The panic sets in,” he said. “It wasn’t intended to go that far but what is done is done.”

Testimony began April 29 after several days of jury selection. Prosecutors spent most of the trial methodically presenting evidence from the scene. The defense called only a handful of witnesses but used its time in cross-examining prosecution witnesses to raise questions about the investigation, including what it described as conflicts of interest and sloppy police work. The defense was echoed by complaints from a chorus of supporters that often camp outside the courthouse.

The day before closing arguments, the defense used the final three witnesses to cast doubt on the prosecutors’ version of events.

Dr. Frank Sheridan, a retired forensic pathologist and former chief medical examiner for San Bernardino County in California, testified that O’Keefe should have had more bruising if he’d been struck by the SUV. He also suggested that scratch marks on O’Keefe’s arm could’ve come from a dog and that other injuries were consistent with an altercation.

Two witnesses from an independent consulting firm that conducts forensic engineering also suggested some of the evidence didn’t line up with the prosecution version of events. Describing their detailed reconstructions, the witnesses said they concluded that damage to Read’s SUV, including a broken taillight, didn’t match with O’Keefe’s injuries.

“You can’t deny the science and the physics,” Andrew Rentschler from the firm ARCCA said at one point, describing an analysis of the level of injuries associated with various speeds of a vehicle like Read’s. ARCCA was hired by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a federal investigation into state law enforcement’s handling of the Read case.

But they acknowledged they were unaware of some evidence that came later, like O’Keefe’s DNA discovered on pieces of broken glass found nearby and on human hair found on Read’s bumper, and of Read allegedly shouting “I hit him.”

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