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HomeLife StyleLegal experts weigh in on the direction of the Karen Read case

Legal experts weigh in on the direction of the Karen Read case


From an alleged conspiracy to battles over proof, Learn’s case has captured native consideration.

Karen Read, center, in a gray suit, stands on the steps of the courthouse, flanked by two of her lawyers. They are surrounded by members of the media holding cameras and microphones.
Karen Learn, a Mansfield lady charged with murdering her Boston police officer boyfriend, John O’Keefe, appeared in Norfolk County Superior Court docket for a pretrial listening to on Could 3, 2023. John Tlumacki/Globe Employees, File

Authorized consultants say it’s nonetheless too early to inform how the proof will pan out for Karen A. Learn, the Mansfield lady charged within the 2022 dying of her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe. 

However with the protection workforce and prosecutors already sparring in courtroom over eyebrow-raising cellphone knowledge and an alleged conspiracy, a minimum of one factor appears clear: Learn’s case is one to observe. 

Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe. – Boston Police Division by way of AP

The 42-year-old is accused of placing O’Keefe along with her automobile exterior a fellow Boston police officer’s house in Canton early on Jan. 29, 2022. She has been charged with second-degree homicide, motorized vehicle manslaughter whereas driving below the affect, and leaving the scene of a collision inflicting harm and dying.

Learn reportedly advised authorities she had no thought she might need hit O’Keefe along with her automobile whereas dropping him off at an after-party following an evening of consuming. She and two others discovered O’Keefe unresponsive within the snow later that morning, and Learn advised officers she returned to the scene after discovering a damaged taillight on her SUV and fearing for O’Keefe’s security. 

“It’s a really peculiar case to start with,” noticed Daniel Medwed, a prison regulation professor at Northeastern College. “The concept that you may hit any person sufficiently to principally trigger them to be in such misery that they couldn’t make it right into a home would appear to contain a fairly arduous strike. And even for those who had been slightly inebriated, you would possibly pay attention to it. So my first response was that’s considerably odd, proper?”

How robust is the case towards Karen Learn? 

In a case with out eyewitnesses to testify they really noticed Learn strike O’Keefe, the proof is “fairly circumstantial,” Medwed advised Nonetheless, prosecutors have pointed to different proof they imagine will implicate Learn. 

For instance, investigators allegedly discovered items of purple plastic matching Learn’s taillight within the snow the place O’Keefe’s physique had been. Assistant District Lawyer Adam C. Lally additionally famous in Norfolk Superior Court docket earlier this month that O’Keefe was seen leaving a bar that night time holding a cocktail glass, and items of a cocktail glass had been later discovered embedded in Learn’s bumper. 

After discovering O’Keefe’s physique, Learn allegedly advised a paramedic on the scene, “I hit him, I hit him, I hit him.”

But whereas notable, these statements could not essentially represent robust proof towards Learn, in accordance with Medwed. 

“It’s constant, possibly, with somebody who’s remembering what they did,” he mentioned. “It is also in step with somebody who’s grieving about harm to her boyfriend and form of speculating, ‘Might I’ve been concerned?’”

The protection workforce and prosecutors have gone head-to-head over different items of proof, reaching vastly totally different conclusions about the reason for O’Keefe’s accidents and whether or not his cellphone knowledge signifies he entered the house in Canton that night time.

“It’s fascinating that each side level to the identical proof and with a very totally different interpretation,” Boston-based prison protection lawyer Peter Elikann advised “And so it’s going to be fascinating to see how the proof performs out.”

‘Fishing expedition’ or authorized technique?

Maybe one of many greatest factors of rivalry is the protection workforce’s declare that Learn was framed. 

Throughout a listening to earlier this month, Learn’s attorneys urged that O’Keefe had been severely crushed, attacked by the house owner’s canine, and left exterior. They alleged a attainable conspiracy among the many householders and after-party company, even referring to a Massachusetts State Police trooper who investigated the dying as “conflicted.”

Amongst their proof, the protection pointed to cellphone knowledge indicating that the house owner’s sister-in-law searched “ho[w] lengthy to die in chilly” at 2:27 a.m., hours earlier than Learn discovered O’Keefe’s physique. 

“That was virtually a bombshell-looking, very robust [piece of] proof,” Elikann mentioned. “After which the prosecution offers explanation why they imagine that timestamp was unreliable.”

Particularly, Lally — the Norfolk ADA — argued in courtroom paperwork that Learn had directed the lady to Google, “‘How lengthy do it’s important to be left exterior to die from hypothermia?’, or one thing to that impact” after discovering the physique, and that the protection workforce had misinterpreted the information, leading to a defective timestamp. 

A member of Karen Learn’s protection workforce holds up {a photograph} exhibiting wounds to John O’Keefe’s proper arm throughout the pretrial listening to on Could 3, 2023. Learn’s attorneys have argued that the accidents are as a consequence of a canine assault, somewhat than ensuing from the affect of a automobile. – John Tlumacki/Globe Employees, File

Nonetheless, Learn’s attorneys doubled down on their claims in courtroom, pushing again on Lally’s accusations of a “fishing expedition.”

“I feel we’ve established this isn’t simply fishing,” protection lawyer Alan Jackson mentioned throughout the Could 3 listening to. “We’ve bought a fish on the hook; we simply want the courtroom to assist us reel it in.”

In the meantime, the case has additionally sparked fervent hypothesis on the native stage, significantly amongst readers of the weblog Turtleboy, which has promoted theories suggesting Learn was framed.

“At first blush, it does sound fairly far-fetched, proper? As a result of it could take lots of coordination between … 4 or 5 totally different individuals,” Medwed mentioned of the attorneys’ concept. “However principally, the protection can solely make arguments in good religion that may recommend cheap doubt, and there’s sufficient right here that you may think about a protection lawyer making this argument in good religion. And so the query, then, actually turns into whether or not the jury believes it.”

He additionally famous that Learn was arrested just some days after O’Keefe’s dying. 

“Possibly what occurred was it simply appeared like a form of open-and-shut case, a fairly believable case — snowstorm, consuming, damaged taillight, girlfriend who appears slightly distraught and wonders if she did it — that principally the police and the prosecution thought that it was all tied up, and it simply took some time for them to start to research the cellphone data and this different data,” Medwed speculated, although he acknowledged that prosecutors have supplied their very own interpretations of the proof.

Based on Elikann, Learn’s case serves as one thing of a cautionary story about leaping to conclusions.

“On the outset of this case, … it appeared like a considerably robust case towards Ms. Learn, after which as increasingly more proof has come to gentle, there are some dramatic questions right here in regards to the proof,” he mentioned. “So it’s probably not clear who may probably be responsible at this level.”

Elikann added: “This case actually has the makings of a made-for-TV film, virtually.” 

What comes subsequent?

Each he and Medwed predicted that the case may hinge on knowledgeable testimony, significantly in regards to the cellphone knowledge and O’Keefe’s accidents.

I feel in the end, that is perhaps the important thing to the case: Does the jury imagine the protection consultants greater than it believes the prosecution consultants?” Medwed summarized.

He emphasised that the burden is on the prosecution to show Learn’s guilt past an inexpensive doubt.

Karen Learn in courtroom on Could 3, 2023. – John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe, File

“The objective of the protection lawyer is to not show who did it, however principally to create cheap doubt about their shopper’s culpability. And that appears to be what the attorneys are doing,” Medwed defined. “Yeah, they’re pointing the finger on the different officer and the officer’s relations, and so forth. However they don’t really need to show that; they simply need to show that there’s cheap doubt, due to this proof, about whether or not Karen Learn did it.” 

He mentioned it’s attainable that prosecutors could possibly be serious about providing Learn a plea deal, although his instincts say the case would possibly go to trial. 

Trying forward, Elikann suspects the case will likely be a “fascinating and attention-grabbing” one to observe. 

“Typically I can form of inform the trajectory of a case and see … the handwriting on the wall and I can see which course it’s going,” he mentioned. “On this one, issues are manner too up within the air and it’s too early at this level.”

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