Skip to main content

Ahead of ‘bombshell’ hearing, defense for adjunct lecturer charged with murdering cop boyfriend says ‘crucial’ withheld evidence may ‘confirm her innocence’

John O'Keefe and Karen Read. (Images via BPD portrait and WBZ-TV screengrab, respectively.)

John O’Keefe and Karen Read. (Images via BPD portrait and WBZ-TV screengrab, respectively.)

Defense attorneys for a Massachusetts woman accused of murdering her police officer boyfriend by hitting him with her car and leaving him to die in the snow say there’s even more evidence out of their hands that may “confirm her innocence.”

Lawyers for Karen Read, 42, previously alleged in a “bombshell” motion expected to be heard on Wednesday afternoon on May 3, in Norfolk Superior Court, that exculpatory evidence — that is, evidence which tends to favor the defense — raises serious doubts as to Read’s criminal culpability in the 2022 nor’easter death of 46-year-old Boston police officer John O’Keefe in Canton.

In the latest motion, which was filed on April 26, Read attorneys David R. Yannetti and Alan Jackson renewed their call to compel discovery in case, arguing the “crucial” evidence, if inspected or independently tested by the defense, could lead the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office case to completely fall apart. The identified evidence includes: John O’Keefe’s  clothing at the time of his death; evidence seized from Read’s Lexus SUV — including the pieces of her allegedly broken tail light and “complete access to both the Event Data Recorder and the Lexus ‘infotainment’ system”; any trace evidence and autopsy samples, including “any samples from the wounds on Officer O’Keefe’s arms, head and/or body” and “any DNA evidence”; purportedly “missing” surveillance videos from outside the Canton Public Library — videos which the defense asserts would show Read driving by during a “crucial time period” in the “early morning hours of hours of January 29, 2022.”

Taken together, the lawyers are prepared to argue that all of the foregoing evidence should be produced right away to the defense. In an affidavit submitted in support of his motion, signed under penalty of perjury, Yannetti said the defense’s requests for this evidence has been frustrated at every turn for the better part of a year.

“The defense has been desperately seeking this evidence since the outset of this matter in District Court, because the defense believes it will help exonerate Ms. Read and confirm her innocence,” the filing said.

In a footnote, the defense indicated it did not receive a “complete 911 call in this case” until a “year after the alleged January 29, 2022 incident,” even though such evidence “would be provided in any district court case by the date of the first pretrial hearing.”

Read’s lawyers said that, as of Feb. 8, 2023, the prosecution anticipated getting the requested evidence back from the lab in the next “thirty to sixty days.” The defense said a hard deadline is necessary because the range of days floated by the prosecution has been passed by and there appears to be no end in sight. As a result, they suggested that lab analysts might need to be hauled before the court for civil contempt proceedings.

“As of the date of filing this motion, April 26, 2023 — 78 days later — the Commonwealth has apparently made progress processing or producing any of this crucial discovery material. Defense counsel continues to be denied access to the most critical evidence in this case for independent testing and analysis,” the filing said. “Accordingly, at this point, the defense is respectfully requesting that the Court order such a deadline be imposed. If the testing is not completed by the deadline ordered by the Court, defense counsel would request the opportunity to summons the analyst or analysts responsible for the testing into court for a show-cause hearing pursuant to the civil contempt proceedings outlined in Mass. R. Civ. P. 65.3.”

Read, an adjunct lecturer in finance and equity analyst, asserted through her lawyers earlier in April that evidence from another Boston cop’s cell phone and the phone of that officer’s sister-in-law “completely undermines the prosecution’s theory of the case.”

In February 2022, Read was formally accused of leaving O’Keefe to die in the snow after a car collision outside of officer Brian Albert’s home. Authorities claimed that Read and O’Keefe had gone to at least two bars on Jan. 28, 2022, a Friday, after which point they went to Albert’s home. Read claimed she wasn’t feeling well and went home – leaving O’Keefe at that residence.

Read allegedly told investigators she later tried to contact O’Keefe but was unsuccessful. The next morning, Jan. 29, 2022, the defendant allegedly told police, she noticed that her vehicle had a broken taillight.

“Could I have hit him?” Read allegedly said upon returning to where she dropped off her boyfriend, according to prosecutors. “Did I hit him?”

Read’s lawyers said that Jennifer McCabe — described as “the government’s seminal witness” and Albert’s sister-in-law — Googled “hos [sic] long to die in cold” after 2 a.m. on that fateful Jan. 29. Prosecutors dispute this claim directly:

Karen Read

The defense lawyers claimed the alleged Google search and ensuing deletion of evidence ran counter to statements made by McCabe to police about her knowledge of what happened in the lead-up to and aftermath of O’Keefe’s death.

“McCabe explicitly told law enforcement that she ‘did not think much’ of O’Keefe’s failure to enter the residence that night and assumed that O’Keefe and Ms. Read simply decided to go home. Yet, three hours before Jennifer McCabe had any reason to suspect O’Keefe hadn’t gone home with Ms. Read, three hours before she inserted herself into Ms. Read’s search for O’Keefe and delayed her return to the Albert Residence, and three hours before her ‘discovery’ of his lifeless body in the cold snow of her brother-in-law’s front lawn, Ms. McCabe had only one thing on her mind: how long does it take to die in the cold,” the defense motion said. “What’s even more shocking, is that the very next day, before turning her phone over to law enforcement, Ms. McCabe took calculated steps to purge her phone of this inculpatory search and, at the same time, attempted to delete her communications with Brian Albert and remove a screenshot of his contact information from her phone, which she had obviously shared with someone that morning.”

The defense asked the court to issue a “pretrial summons” for Albert’s and McCabe’s cell phone records between Jan. 28, 2022 and Feb. 5, 2022, claiming that this would “undoubtedly reveal text messages and calls that Ms. McCabe deleted from her phone in an effort to interfere with the investigation.” Read’s lawyers added that the available evidence “incontrovertibly establishes” that O’Keefe, Read, Albert, Albert’s wife, and McCabe, among others, drank with each other at the Waterfall Bar and Grille in Canton on the night before the police officer’s death.

“As the bar was closing around midnight, the parties discussed going to Nicole and Brian Albert’s residence located close by […] to continue the party and celebrate their son, Brian Albert, Jr.’s, birthday,” the motion said. “Although O’Keefe and Ms. Read were not well-acquainted with the Alberts, the invite was extended to them by O’Keefe’s longtime friend, Jennifer McCabe.”

The lawyers further claimed that Apple Health app data helps prove their request is no “fishing expedition” by placing O’Keefe inside the Albert residence early on Jan. 29, 2022. Prosecutors dispute this, too:

The defense has claimed that Apple Health evidence “directly contradicts Brian Albert’s assertion to police that O’Keefe never entered his home or arrived at the party on January 29, 2022.” Beyond defense claims, no allegations of wrongdoing have been made against witnesses McCabe and Albert, and they have not commented.

The DA’s Office is prepared to argue that the defense is, in fact, on a “fishing expedition” and that evidence Read’s lawyers have obtained doesn’t mean what they think it does.

WCVB reported that the DA’s Office responses asserted the defense claims of a conspiracy amounts to a “‘fishing expedition,’ for evidence of a purported conspiracy amongst these witnesses supported merely by speculation and conjecture.”

Regarding the phone evidence, a Norfolk District Attorney’s Office spokesman reportedly said weeks ago that it was unclear if the “raw data” put out there was interpreted correctly by the defense.

“While prosecutors are ethically constrained in the statements that can be made outside the courtroom, the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office is in receipt of the motion filed today but it has not yet been determined that defense has interpreted the raw data correctly,” said a statement attributed to David Traub. “The Norfolk District Attorney’s Office has asked defense repeatedly during the pendency of this matter to provide any actually exculpatory evidence to support their claims.”

Another statement attributed to Traub said that the DA’s Office has “asked the defense repeatedly during the pendency of this matter to provide any actually exculpatory evidence to support their claims.”

Prosecutors have said they would formally respond on May 3, but the sum and substance of their position is already public:

Simply put, counsel’s “facts” section assumes or attempts to sensationalize or misconstrue statements made by and between these witnesses. The motion merely assumes, through no evidentiary support, that such a wide-ranging conspiracy exists and that any such content indicative of said conspiracy must be found within this phone and call detail records and would be relevant. However, the motion is scant in any evidence that any such statement was ever made by the witness or that such conspiracy ever existed. The defendant’s motion contains no specific, or even opaque, mention of any known statements by the witnesses to each other, let alone through the employment of the cellular device he seeks. There is nothing to demonstrate that the items sought are either evidentiary or relevant, or that this is anything but a fishing expedition.

For the foregoing reasons and those articulated by the Commonwealth at the hearing of this motion, this request should be denied.

Prosecutors also defended Brian Albert and Jennifer McCabe at length, again arguing that the defense has not interpreted the data correctly in suggesting the witnesses are part of a conspiracy. On McCabe and Karen Read, prosecutors had this to say:

This case does not, as counsel states, hinge solely upon the testimony of Ms. McCabe. The statements and testimony of other witnesses, the forensic evidence, and video evidence are conjunctively simply hard to reconcile with counsel’s facts, even assuming everything averred is true and accurate. The predominant amount of statements made by the defendant to this witness, were made by the defendant in the presence of additional witnesses, which is conspicuously absent from counsel’s recitation. Counsel states that the defendant “has always maintained” the purported story of her leaving Mr. O’Keefe at the Fairview residence and calling him repeatedly to ensure that he was safely within the home. The defendant stated a lot of things to a lot of witnesses, and the troopers in her interview with them, however, this version that the defendant has “consistently” maintained is one of first impression. The defendant seems to suggest that the body of Mr. O’Keefe was discovered that morning by the defendant and Ms. McCabe. However, Ms. Roberts was present with them at this time as well but remains absent from counsel’s recitation of the facts. Counsel further states that Ms. McCabe “inserted” herself into the defendant’s search that morning for Mr. O’Keefe. However, it was the defendant that awoke the victim’s niece at 4:30 a.m., had the niece repeatedly text and call the victim, and then asked or instructed the niece to call Ms. McCabe at 4:53 a.m. Ms. McCabe answered this call from the victim’s niece, not the defendant. During this call, the defendant stated to Ms. McCabe initially that she last remembered seeing the victim at the Waterfall. When informed by Ms. McCabe that she had seen the victim and defendant leaving the Waterfall together and seen the defendant’s vehicle in front of the Fairview residence, the defendant then stated that she had left the victim on Fairview after they had gotten into an argument. The statements made by the defendant to Ms. McCabe during this call were confirmed by the victim’s niece in her interview.

The defendant then drove from the victim’s home to Ms. McCabe’s home, exiting the garage at 5:08 a.m., per the victim’s Ring camera footage. Said Ring footage, however, does not contain any video of the defendant’s arrival to the victim’s home after she left the Fairview residence. The defendant arrived at the home of Ms. McCabe at approximately 5:30 a.m., shortly followed by Ms. Roberts, whom the defendant had also called that morning and provided a different story as to the victim’s whereabouts than what she had earlier stated to Ms. McCabe. The video from both the Canton Town Library and the Temple, coupled with the movements of the defendant’s cellular phone, detail that prior to going to Ms. McCabe’s home, the defendant went in both the direction of the Waterfall and the residence on Fairview. Counsel suggests that Ms. McCabe “delayed” the defendant’s return to the Fairview residence that morning, when the evidence demonstrates that she had already been there before she even went to Ms. McCabe’s home. This case is simply not, as counsel misconstrues, solely and wholly reliant on the testimony of Ms. McCabe.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.