Things to know about the Karen Read murder case, which could go to a retrial

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This photo undated photo released by the Boston Police Department shows officer John O'Keefe. (Boston Police Department via AP)

DEDHAM, Mass. – Prosecutors in Massachusetts say they plan to retry Karen Read for the death of her Boston police officer boyfriend. She’s accused of striking him with her SUV and leaving him to die in a snowstorm. The judge declared a mistrial after jurors said they couldn't agree.

Karen Read was facing second degree murder and two other charges for allegedly striking John O’Keefe with her SUV and then leaving the scene as she dropped him off at a fellow officer's house after a night of drinking.

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Both sides will be in court July 22 to consider next steps. Plenty of questions remain unanswered. A federal investigation of how law enforcement handled O'Keefe's death continues, and Read's defense claims four jurors have indicated that the jury found her not guilty on several charges.

Double jeopardy claim

The defense this week filed a motion to dismiss the charges of second degree murder and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. Defense lawyers say they're aware of four jurors who said the jury had unanimously concluded that Read was not guilty on those charges, and they couldn't agree only on the remaining manslaughter charge.

Partial verdicts are possible in Massachusetts, but the defense motion said Judge Beverly Cannone abruptly declared the mistrial in open court without first questioning jurors about where they stood on each charge, or giving the prosecution and defense a chance to raise questions.

If the court requires more information before invoking double jeopardy, Read's team said the judge should hold a “post-verdict inquiry” to confirm that the jurors unanimously found her not-guilty on the two counts.

And if Cannone does agree to hold such a hearing, there's a real chance prosecutors could be barred from retrying Read for murder and leaving a deadly accident scene, if it's shown the jury did unanimously agree to acquit, according to Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University who is not involved in the case.

‘Legally inappropriate’

Prosecutors asked the court Friday to deny the defense request, describing the defense motion as an “unsubstantiated but sensational post-trial claim,” based on “hearsay, conjecture and legally inappropriate reliance as to the substance of jury deliberations.”

“Contrary to the defendant’s claims, throughout the jury deliberations the defendant was given a full opportunity to be heard, the jury’s communications to the court explicitly indicated an impasse on all charges, and the court carefully considered alternatives before declaring a mistrial,” prosecutors wrote.

The jury “did not reach any verdicts partial or otherwise,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors also argued the defense was given a chance to respond and, after one note from the jury indicating it was deadlocked, told the court that there had been sufficient time and advocated for the mistrial declaration. Prosecutors wanted deliberations to continue, which they did before a mistrial was declared the following day.

What's a judge to do?

Some Massachusetts trial court veterans defended the judge's response to the deliberations.

Brad Bailey, a former state and federal prosecutor and longtime criminal defense lawyer, said Cannone declared a mistrial on all the charges because that is what she heard from the jury: Jurors repeatedly said they were deadlocked but never indicated they had reached a decision on any of the charges.

Juries are routinely instructed “that any communication with the judge should not reveal what actually is going inside the jury room in terms of the nature and substance of their deliberation," but it's not unusual for jurors to declare themselves deadlocked "on all counts,” or to announce decisions on only some counts, Bailey said.

Michael Coyne, the dean at the Massachusetts School of Law, said he found it “curious” that jurors never indicated they had reached a verdict on some of the counts — if indeed they had. “That is the unusual part — If in fact they had reached consensus on some, why didn't they report it to the court?"

Since the jurors left the verdict forms blank, Coyne expects prosecutors to make the case that they “didn't reach consensus on anything," he said.

Juror secrecy, for now

The jurors' identities have not been released yet, and none are believed to have spoken with the media. A week after declaring the mistrial, Cannone ordered a 10-day hold on naming them publicly, citing “a risk of immediate and irreparable injury should the list be made available to the public at this time.” She noted that people surrounding the case had been charged with intimidation. The ruling aims to protect the jurors’ privacy if they want to remain anonymous, but doesn’t prevent them from volunteering to speak publicly.

The order could be extended out of concern for “potential violence to those jurors if their names and other identifying information was disclosed,” Coyne observed, but he predicted that pressure to release their names will grow.

“We all wanted to know the names before to see if anyone would speak,” the dean said. “Now it's even more pressing because the defendant is saying the jurors reached a verdict on counts one and three. We ought to know what they are actually saying about that.”

Investigating the investigator

The lead investigator, State Trooper Michael Proctor, was relieved of duty after the trial revealed he'd sent vulgar texts to colleagues and family, calling Read a “whack job” and telling his sister he wished Read would “kill herself.” He said that was a figure of speech and that his emotions had gotten the better of him.

The defense also suggested he should've stepped aside from the investigation because he had personal relationships with several of the people involved in the case. Read's lawyers also questioned the sloppiness of the police work: The crime scene was left unsecured for hours; the house, owned by Boston Police Detective Brian Alpert, wasn’t searched; bloodstained snow was scooped up with red plastic drinking cups; and a leaf blower was used to clear snow.

Proctor was relieved of his duties after the trial but was still being paid until Monday, when a state police hearing board changed that suspension to without pay, effective immediately. Meanwhile an internal affairs investigation could result in charges against him, and there's a federal probe into state law enforcement's handling of the case. The U.S. Attorney's office said it neither confirms nor denies investigations.


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