Karen Read Murder Case Ends in Mistrial, Prosecutors Say They Will Try Again

Karen Read Murder Case Ends in Mistrial, Prosecutors Say They Will Try Again
Karen Read (R) smiles as defense attorney David Yannetti (L) speaks to reporters in front of Norfolk Superior Court after the judge declared a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a verdict following a two-month trial, in Dedham, Mass., on July 1, 2024. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)

DEDHAM, Mass.—A judge declared a mistrial Monday after jurors deadlocked in the case of Karen Read, a woman accused of killing her Boston police officer boyfriend by striking him with her SUV and leaving him in a snowstorm.

Prosecutors said in a statement that they intend to retry the case.

Ms. Read, a former adjunct professor at Bentley College, faced second-degree murder and other charges in the death of Officer John O’Keefe, a 16-year member of the Boston police who was found outside a Canton home of another Boston police officer in January 2022. An autopsy found O’Keefe died of hypothermia and blunt force trauma.

Prosecutors said Ms. 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 Ms. Read as the victim, saying O’Keefe was actually had been killed inside Mr. Albert’s home and then dragged outside and left for dead. They argued that investigators focused on Ms. Read because she was a “convenient outsider” who saved them from having to consider other suspects, including Mr. Albert and other law enforcement officers at the party.

NTD Photo
Officer John O’Keefe of Canton, Mass. (Boston Police Department via AP)

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 Ms. Read hugged her father and other relatives.

The Norfolk County district attorney’s office said in a statement: “First, we thank the O’Keefe family 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. The Commonwealth intends to re-try the case.”

Defense attorney Alan Jackson said he and others representing Ms. Read will keep fighting.

“They failed. They failed miserably, and they’ll continue to fail,” he told reporters outside court. “No matter how long it takes, no matter how long they keep trying, we will not stop fighting.”

Testimony during the two-month trial focused on shoddy police work and relationships between the parties. 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.

Experts disagreed on whether O’Keefe’s injuries were consistent with being hit by Ms. Read’s luxury SUV, which had a broken taillight. The defense contended the injuries were caused by an altercation and the Mr. Albert family’s aggressive dog.

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

Another lawyer representing Read, David Yannetti, said he was in awe of his client’s “strength and courage” and praised those who have backed her before and during the trial.

“Your support was invaluable,” he said. “We are touched and we ask for your continued support.”

Rita Lombardi, one of those supporters, said she had mixed feelings about the outcome.

“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,” she said. “But we accept the hung jury, we accept the mistrial.”

Aidan Timothy Kearney also said he’d hoped for full vindication.

“But in my mind, the fact that so many people in that jury clearly are aware, the majority clearly is with Karen Read,” he said outside the courthouse. “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 Ms. Read admitted that she hit O’Keefe—saying “I hit him”—as well as evidence that Ms. 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 Ms. Read to O’Keefe that were left after she allegedly struck him, including one left minutes afterward saying, “John I [expletive] hate you.”

Defense attorneys sought to poke holes in the police investigation, noting that Mr. Albert’s house was never searched for signs of a fight involving O’Keefe and that the crime scene was not secured. They suggested that some evidence—like pieces of her SUV’s cracked taillight, a broken drinking glass and even a strand of hair—was planted by police.

A turning point in the trial came when lead investigator, State Trooper Michael Proctor, took the stand. He acknowledged sending offensive texts about Ms. 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 Ms. Read several names, including “whack job.” At one point, he texted his sister that he wished Ms. 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.

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 Ms. 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.

By Michael Casey