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What We Know About the Karen Read Murder Trial


Jury deliberations began on Tuesday in the murder trial of Karen Read, who is accused of intentionally backing her vehicle into her boyfriend, a Boston police officer, and then leaving him to die in the snow outside a house party. The case has drawn outsize attention, fueled by her lawyers’ accusations of a police cover-up.

It has also transfixed Boston, where a devoted band of supporters who believe Ms. Read was framed has galvanized a “Free Karen Read” movement. Dressed in pink, they have gathered outside Norfolk County Superior Court whenever her trial is in session, picking apart the evidence and the web of relationships involved. A Boston blogger known as Turtleboy, who also supports Ms. Read, has been charged with harassing and intimidating witnesses.

In January 2022, Ms. Read and her boyfriend, John O’Keefe, a 46-year-old Boston police officer, had been out drinking with friends in Canton, Mass., a town about 20 miles south of Boston. At a bar, they ran into another Boston police officer and were invited to a late-night party at his house.

Shortly after midnight, they drove to the house, where Officer O’Keefe got out of Ms. Read’s black Lexus S.U.V. Prosecutors say that the couple had been fighting and that Ms. Read accelerated in reverse, intentionally striking her boyfriend before leaving him in the snow.

He was found unresponsive later that morning by Ms. Read, who said she had frantically searched for him after waking up on his couch around 4 a.m. and realizing he had not come home. Officer O’Keefe, who had severe head injuries and hypothermia, was pronounced dead on Jan. 29, 2022.

Ms. Read was arrested three days later. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Ms. Read’s lawyers have accused law enforcement officials of a sweeping conspiracy to hide the truth about the murder.

They say that Ms. Read dropped Officer O’Keefe off at the house party in Canton, where someone inside fatally beat him and then dumped his body in the snow. Defense witnesses have testified that Officer O’Keefe’s injuries were not consistent with a car accident.

Ms. Read’s lawyers point to a Google search, including a misspelled word, that was recovered from the cellphone of a woman who was inside the home that night: “hos long to die in cold.” They say the query was made around 2:30 a.m., before Officer O’Keefe’s body was found around 6 a.m.

The defense has also highlighted a web of relationships that connected some of the people who were in the house that night to the law enforcement officers who investigated the case in order to bolster their argument that there was a cover-up. Ms. Read’s lawyers have also questioned the collection and the storage of crime-scene evidence, casting them as shoddy and unprofessional.

“The incontrovertible fact is, you have been lied to in this courtroom,” Alan Jackson, a lawyer for Ms. Read, told jurors during closing arguments. “One lie begets another, and it’s a malignancy that grows — and that, folks, is how a cover-up is born.”

Prosecutors say that Ms. Read and Officer O’Keefe had been fighting before she drove him to the house in Canton and that she intentionally backed into him after he got out of her S.U.V.

In court filings, prosecutors have described damage to the rear end of Ms. Read’s S.U.V., pieces of a red taillight found outside the house, enraged voice mail messages that she left on Officer O’Keefe’s phone that night and statements from witnesses that he had told her he wanted to end the relationship.

Some of the emergency workers called to the scene that morning have testified that they heard Ms. Read say repeatedly “I hit him.” Adam Lally, an assistant district attorney for Norfolk County, reminded jurors of those words during closing arguments.

“‘I hit him, I hit him, I hit him, I hit him,’” Mr. Lally said. “Those are the words of the defendant, and you heard testimony from four witnesses who overheard those statements.”

Ms. Read has suggested that in her shock and grief that morning, she uttered a panicked question — “Did I hit him?” — not a confession.

Regarding the Google search for the phrase “hos long to die in cold,” prosecutors say the query was made between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., at Ms. Read’s frantic request, just after she discovered her boyfriend unresponsive. An expert witness testified the phrase was typed into a search tab that had been left open since 2:30 a.m., resulting in a misleading time stamp.

The state’s case has been hurt by vulgar and misogynistic text messages sent by the lead investigator, State Trooper Michael Proctor. In texts sent to friends which Trooper Proctor read aloud in court, he joked about searching for nude photos on Ms. Read’s phone, mocked her health problems, critiqued her appearance and said he hoped she killed herself.

Earlier this month, Gov. Maura Healey of Massachusetts, a Democrat, said she was “disgusted” by the trooper’s text messages, which she called “terrible” and “completely unprofessional.”

“It does harm, frankly, to the dignity and the integrity of the work of men and women across the state police and law enforcement,” she told WCVB, a local television station.

Mr. Lally, the Norfolk County prosecutor, said in his closing arguments that the text messages were “distasteful and disrespectful and unprofessional.” But he said the evidence showed that Ms. Read killed Officer O’Keefe.

“There is no conspiracy,” Mr. Lally said. “There is no cover-up. There is no evidence for any of that, beyond speculation — rampant speculation and conjecture — on behalf of the defense.”

If convicted, Ms. Read, 44, faces five to 20 years in prison for manslaughter and life in prison for murder. The jury was still deliberating on Wednesday.


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