Defense rests in trial of Karen Read, accused of killing her police officer boyfriend with SUV

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — The defense rested its case Monday in the murder trial of a woman accused of striking her Boston police officer boyfriend with her SUV, clearing the way for closing arguments and jury deliberations after nearly two months of testimony.

Karen Read did not take the stand after three final witnesses testified in the high-profile case that's created a media storm in part by accusations of police misconduct that have been fueled by true crime bloggers. Closing arguments will take place Tuesday, with one hour for each side, before jurors begin their deliberations, the judge said.

Prosecutors contend Read struck John O’Keefe with her SUV and then left the scene in January 2022, leaving him unconscious in the snow after a night of bar hopping. He was found unresponsive hours later outside the Canton home of another Boston police officer who was hosting a party. An autopsy found he died of hypothermia and blunt force trauma.

The three defense witnesses on Monday cast doubt on prosecutors' version of events.

Dr. Frank Sheridan, a retired forensic pathologist who worked previously as chief medical examiner for San Bernardino County in California, testified he would have expected more bruising if O’Keefe had been hit by a heavy vehicle. He also suggested that scratch marks on O’Keefe’s arm could have come from a dog and that other injuries were consistent with an altercation.

Two witnesses from an independent consulting firm that conducts forensic engineering also said the damage to the broken taillight was not consistent with injuries suffered by O'Keefe on his head and arm. One of the witnesses also suggested his injuries should have been more severe if Read backed into him at more than 20 mph (32 kph) as the prosecution contends and questioned how O'Keefe's body ended up where it did.

“We don’t know what happened in this case,” said Andrew Rentschler from ARCCA, which was hired by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a federal investigation into state law enforcement’s handling of the Read case.

“Certainly it’s not consistent with getting hit by the car and ending up where he did, even if the ground is somehow hard enough to cause that type of an injury,” he said of O'Keefe head injuries. “We don’t really have enough evidence in this case to determine what one specific event actually caused that injury.”

Read’s lawyers argue that she was framed. They contend O’Keefe was dragged outside after he was beaten in Brian Albert’s home in Canton and bitten by Albert’s dog. They used Sheridan’s testimony to reinforce those theories, even despite a lack of canine DNA evidence.

The defense 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 who were at the party.

Testimony in the trial began on April 29 after jury selection. Prosecutors spent most of the trial methodically presenting evidence from the scene. The defense called only a handful of witnesses but used its time in cross-examining prosecution witnesses to raise questions about the investigation, including what it called conflicts of interest and sloppy police work. Complaints from a chorus of supporters that often camp outside the courthouse echoed those same questions.

Rita Lombardi, a Canton resident who said she’s part of the “sidewalk jury” and has never missed a day of the trial, said the experience at Norfolk County court has demonstrated “failures in the system” that she believes need to be addressed.