Things to know about the Karen Read murder case, which could be retried | KLRT
Things to know about the Karen Read murder case, which could be retried | KLRT

MICHAEL CASEY, Associated Press

2 days ago

Massachusetts State Trooper Michael Proctor testifies during the trial of Karen Read in Norfolk Super Court in Dedham, Massachusetts, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Greg Derr/The Patriot Ledger via AP, Pool)

Massachusetts State Trooper Michael Proctor testifies during the trial of Karen Read in Norfolk Super Court in Dedham, Massachusetts, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Greg Derr/The Patriot Ledger via AP, Pool)

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — Prosecutors in Massachusetts want to retry Karen Read in the death of her boyfriend, a Boston police officer, on charges she hit him with her SUV and left him to die in a snowstorm. The judge declared the trial void after jurors said they could not reach a consensus.

Karen Read was charged with first-degree murder and two other felonies for allegedly hitting John O’Keefe with her SUV and then fleeing the scene after dropping him off at a co-worker’s house following a night of drinking.

Both sides will appear in court on July 22 to discuss next steps. Many questions remain unanswered. A federal investigation into how law enforcement handled O’Keefe’s death is ongoing, and Read’s defense plans to question the jury. Her attorneys said three of the 12 jurors said the jury agreed to acquit Read of the most serious charge, so retrying him for murder would be unconstitutional double jeopardy.

A motion to dismiss

Prosecutors have not yet responded to the defense’s motion to drop the charges of first-degree murder and leaving the scene of an accident causing death. Defense attorneys said they were contacted by one juror and two acquaintances of jurors. They said all three jurors stated the jury unanimously concluded that Read was not guilty on those counts, and they could only disagree on the remaining manslaughter charge.

Partial verdicts are possible in Massachusetts, but the defense’s motion says Judge Beverly Cannone abruptly declared the trial void in open court without first asking the jury about their position on each count or giving the prosecution and defense a chance to ask questions.

If the court needs more information on the defense’s motion filed Monday, Read’s defense team is requesting a “post-verdict hearing” in which they would be allowed to “request additional evidence from the jury” regarding their unanimous verdicts on the two charges.

What should a judge do?

Some veterans of Massachusetts court cases defended the judge’s response to the deliberations.

Brad Bailey, a former state and federal prosecutor and longtime criminal defense attorney, said Cannone threw out all the charges because that’s what she heard from the jury: The jury repeatedly said they were deadlocked but never indicated they had already made a decision on any of the charges.

Jurors are regularly told “that any communication with the judge must not reveal what is actually going on in the jury room as to the nature and content of the deliberations.” However, it is not uncommon for jurors to declare they are undecided “on all counts” or to announce their decision on only some counts, Bailey said.

Michael Coyne, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, said he found it “odd” that the jury never indicated they had already reached a verdict on some of the charges – if they had. “That’s what’s unusual about it – if they had actually reached a consensus on some of the points, why didn’t they tell the court?”

Because jurors left the verdict forms blank, Coyne expected prosecutors to argue that they “did not reach a consensus on anything,” he said.

Confidentiality of the jury, for now

The identities of the jurors have not yet been released, and none are believed to have spoken to the media. A week after declaring a mistrial, Cannone ordered a 10-day delay in publicly releasing the names, saying there was “a risk of immediate and irreparable harm if the list were made available to the public at this time.” She noted that people close to the case have been charged with intimidation. The ruling is intended to protect the privacy of jurors if they wish to remain anonymous, but does not prevent them from speaking out voluntarily.

The injunction may be extended because of concerns that “jurors may be subjected to violence if their names and other identifying information are released,” Coyne noted, but predicted that pressure to release their names would increase.

“We all wanted to know the names beforehand to see if anyone would speak,” the dean said. “Now it is even more urgent because the defendant says the jury has reached a verdict on counts one and three. We should know what they actually say about that.”

Investigator’s investigation

The lead investigator, State Trooper Michael Proctor, was relieved of his duties after the trial revealed he sent vulgar text messages to co-workers and family in which he called Read a “nutcase” and told his sister he wished Read would “kill himself.” He said it was a figure of speech and his emotions got the better of him.

The defense also said he should have recused himself from the investigation because he had personal relationships with several of the people involved in the case. Read’s lawyers also questioned the sloppiness of the police work: the crime scene was left unsecured for hours, the house was not searched, blood-stained snow was picked up with red plastic cups, and a leaf blower was used to clear snow.

Proctor was relieved of his duties after the trial but was still receiving pay until Monday, when a state police hearing board changed the suspension to an unpaid suspension, effective immediately. In the meantime, an internal investigation could lead to charges against him, and there is a federal investigation into the state police’s handling of the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it is not confirming or denying the investigation.

By Aurora