Karen Read trial heads to jury: What you need to know

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The fate of Karen Read, a Massachusetts woman accused of killing her police officer boyfriend in 2022, is now in the hands of 12 jurors. They will determine whether she intentionally struck her boyfriend with her SUV and left him to die in the cold, or if law enforcement officers framed her, as her lawyers contend.

The jury heard closing arguments on Tuesday and began deliberations after almost two months of testimony in the trial, which has been closely watched in Massachusetts and among true crime enthusiasts across the country.

Read is charged with second-degree murder and vehicular manslaughter in the death of her former boyfriend, John O’Keefe, and pleaded not guilty to the charges

Here’s what to know about the case:  

Who are Karen Read and John O’Keefe?

O’Keefe was an officer with Boston Police Department for 16 years before his death on Jan. 29, 2022. He was discovered in the snowy front lawn of a home in Canton, Mass., the morning after spending a night out with Read, his girlfriend, and others, per NBC Boston. He was 46 at the time of his death.

Read, 44, of Mansfield, Mass., worked as an equity analyst at Fidelity Investments and adjunct professor at Bentley University, her alma matter, prior to the incident. She and O’Keefe dated for about two years prior to his death, though prosecutors say the relationship was troubled in the final months.

The prosecution’s case

The night before O’Keefe’s body was found, prosecutors allege the couple and some others spent the evening drinking at several bars before Read dropped her boyfriend off at a house party shortly after midnight, per The Associated Press.

While at the house, Read allegedly made a three-point turn and struck O’Keefe before driving away, prosecutors said. When she came back hours later with two other women, Read found him in a snowbank. One of the women called 911 and O’Keefe was pronounced dead shortly before 8 a.m. at a hospital, prosecutors said, per the AP.

The medical examiner ruled his cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head and hypothermia, NBC News reported.

The prosecutors argued Read intentionally struck O’Keefe and offered evidence of an increasingly rocky relationship, the AP reported. The prosecution called O’Keefe’s brother, Paul, to the stand, and he said the couple repeatedly argued over his brother’s adopted children. He recounted a fight the couple had in Cape Cod in 2021 over how his brother treated Read, per the news wire.

Paul O’Keefe’s wife, Erin, testified she was told by Read the couple fought during a New Year’s trip to Aruba, shortly before O’Keefe’s death, after Read found O’Keefe kissing another woman, the news wire added.

Norfolk County Assistant District Attorney Adam Lally told the jury no individuals at the afterparty remembered seeing O’Keefe inside, with some stating they saw the SUV pull up to the house and then leave, NBC News reported.

Lally presented data from Read’s SUV to show the timing and speed of her car around the time of the alleged incident, along with forensic testing that found O’Keefe’s hair on the taillight, NBC News added.

Read’s defense

Read’s lawyers argued she was framed, and that O’Keefe was dragged outside after being beaten inside the house party in Canton, Mass.

Read’s defense team attempted to show the jury the investigation into O’Keefe’s death was poorly done and pointed to what it called a close relationship between the investigators, police and law enforcement agents who were at the party that night, the AP reported.

Investigators targeted Read because she was a “convenient outsider” that helped them avoid looking at other suspects, while someone else actually committed the murder, the defense argued.

One of the few defense witnesses was Dr. Frank Sheridan, a retired forensic pathologist who backed up these claims, per the AP.

Sheridan told the court he would have expected more bruising if O’Keefe had been hit by a heavy vehicle and suggested scratch marks on the officer’s arms may have come from a dog, consistent with the defense’s theory O’Keefe was also bitten by a dog inside of the house, the news wire said.

The defense also called witnesses from an independent consulting firm that works with forensic engineering, who reportedly said Read’s broken taillight was not consistent with the injuries found on O’Keefe on his head and arm.

Read did not take the stand.

Public reaction to case

The nearly two-month trial drew national attention, with true crime bloggers and media outlets seizing on the televised trial proceedings.

Supporters of Read often lined up outside Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham, Mass. in protest of the trial. Signs captured by local media popped up in the surrounding areas with the words “Free Karen Read” and “Enough is Enough.”

Meanwhile, other Massachusetts residents comes out in support of O’Keefe, with some holding signs that read, “Justice for officer John O’Keefe,” or “Truth and justice for John.”

What happens now

The jury of 14 was trimmed to 12 for deliberations, CBS News Boston reported, and includes six men, six women and two women serving as alternates. A woman was dismissed from the jury Tuesday morning, becoming the third juror to be removed from the proceedings.

The jury will weigh the charge of second-degree murder for Read, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, and manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol, which has a penalty of five to 20 years in prison. Read also faces a third charge, leaving a scene of personal injury and death, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.

The jury was sent away for deliberations around 1 p.m. Tuesday.

When asked if she had any nerves ahead of the verdict, Read said, “”I don’t know if nerves are the right word. Anticipation and…” before being cut off by a crowd of media and supporters, per CBS.

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