The Karen Read murder case ends in a mistrial. Prosecutors say they will try again

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — A judge declared a mistrial Monday after jurors deadlocked in the polarizing and much-watched case of Karen Read, a woman accused of striking her Boston police officer boyfriend with her SUV and leaving him to die in a snowstorm.

Prosecutors say they intend to retry the case in which the defense asserted that Read had been framed by police.

On the fifth day of deliberation, jurors sent Judge Beverly Cannone a note saying they remained at an impasse in the case involving the January 2022 death of John O'Keefe. Within moments, a trial that had lasted two months and featured over 600 pieces of evidence and more than 70 witnesses was over.

“Folks, this is what it looks like when you bring false charges against an innocent person,” defense attorney Alan Jackson told reporters on the steps of the courthouse. “The commonwealth did their worst. They brought the weight of the state based on spurious charges, based on compromised investigation and investigators and compromised witnesses. Guess what, they failed.”

Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey thanked the O'Keefe family in a statement “for their commitment and dedication to this long process.”

“They maintained sight of the true core of this case — to find justice for John O’Keefe,” Morrissey said.

Read, a former adjunct professor at Bentley College, faced second-degree murder and other charges in the death of O’Keefe, a 16-year member of the Boston police who was found outside a Canton home of another Boston police officer. An autopsy found O’Keefe died of hypothermia and blunt force trauma.

Prosecutors said Read and O’Keefe had been drinking heavily before she dropped him off at a party at the home of Brian Albert, a fellow officer. They said she hit him with her SUV before driving away.

The defense sought to portray Read as the victim, saying O’Keefe was actually killed inside Albert’s home and then dragged outside. They argued that 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 at the party.

On Friday, a jury foreperson told the judge that they hadn’t reached a unanimous verdict despite an “exhaustive review of the evidence.” The judge told jurors to keep trying. On Monday morning, jurors said they were at an impasse, but the judge asked them to continue deliberating. In the afternoon, they said it would be futile to continue.

“The deep division is not due to a lack of effort or diligence but rather a sincere adherence to our individual principles or moral convictions," the jury said in a note read by the judge in court.

O’Keefe’s mother cried after the mistrial was declared, while Read hugged her father and other relatives.

The verdict is a win for the defense, which hammered prosecution witnesses over shoddy police work and conflicts of interest involving investigators and witnesses. Police acknowledged using red plastic cups to collect blood evidence and a leaf blower to try to clear away snow to reveal evidence. The lead investigator acknowledged making crude statements about Read in texts from his personal cellphone.

A turning point in the case came when State Trooper Michael Proctor, the lead investigator on the case, took the stand. He acknowledged sending offensive texts about Read to friends, family and fellow troopers during the investigation. He apologized for the language he used but insisted they had no influence on the investigation.

In his texts, he called Read several names, including “whack job.” At one point, he texted his sister that he wished Read would “kill herself,” which he told jurors was a figure of speech. And despite having relationships with several witnesses, he remained on the case.

On Monday, Massachusetts State Police relieved Proctor of duty, saying the move followed the agency's previous decision to open an internal affairs investigation after getting information about potential serious misconduct. As part of the disciplinary process, Proctor will face a hearing at which officials will decide how to proceed with his employment.

Two expert witnesses hired by the U.S. Department of Justice during an investigation of police handling of the case testified for the defense, providing a scientific analysis for their conclusion that O’Keefe’s injuries and the physical evidence didn’t sync with the prosecution theory that he was struck and injured by Read’s 7,000-pound (3,175-kilogram) vehicle.

O’Keefe had a significant head injury and other injuries but lacked significant bruising or broken bones typically associated with being hit by a vehicle at the speed indicated by GPS and the SUV’s onboard computer.

While the drama played out in a courtroom, dozens of Read’s supporters dressed in pink gathered each day outside, carrying “Free Karen Read” signs and mobbing her when she arrived each day. A smaller group of people who wanted Read convicted also turned up.

Read supporters cheered after word got out of the mistrial, but they acknowledged that the outcome wasn't all they hoped for — and that she could be back in court again.

“It’s not the verdict we were hoping for, we were hoping for a not guilty verdict. That is what this jury should have returned with the evidence that was presented,” Rita Lombardi, a Canton resident who has described herself as being part of the “sidewalk jury.” “But we accept the hung jury, we accept the mistrial.”

Aidan Timothy Kearney, known online as Turtleboy and whose website and social media posts have attacked the prosecution's case for months, called the ruling “bittersweet.”

"It's not the outcome that we wanted. I wanted full vindication," he said. "But in my mind, the fact that so many people in that jury clearly are aware, the majority clearly is with Karen Read. It’s a small minority that is just stubborn and won’t look at the facts and won’t be impartial and it’s just judging her based on not liking her.”

Prosecutors relied on several first responders who testified that Read admitted that she hit O’Keefe — saying “I hit him” — as well as evidence that Read was legally intoxicated or close to it eight hours later, after she returned to the house with friends and they found the body.

Several witnesses testified the couple had a stormy relationship that had begun to sour. Prosecutors presented angry texts between the couple hours before O’Keefe died. They also played voice messages from Read to O’Keefe that were left after she allegedly struck him, including one left minutes afterward saying, “John I (expletive) hate you.”


This story has been corrected to show that the Norfolk district attorney's surname is spelled Morrissey, not Morrisey.