Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

A Massachusetts judge declared a mistrial Monday in Karen Read’s murder trial after a jury deadlocked with no decision despite more than 26 hours of deliberation.

The mistrial put a dramatic pause on a case that for months captured outsize national attention. Moments after Judge Beverly J. Cannone called a mistrial, Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s office announced it intends to retry Read, 44, who is accused of killing her boyfriend, Boston police officer John O’Keefe, in 2022.

The mistrial came after the jurors sent notes to Cannone telling her they were hopelessly deadlocked, first Friday and again Monday morning. After the latter, the judge delivered Tuey-Rodriguez instructions — a “last resort” instruction in Massachusetts jury trials to encourage the end to a stalemate.

Judge Beverly Cannone called a mistrial in the Karen Read case after the jury was unable to reach a verdict. (Video: AP, Photo: Pat Greenhouse/AP/AP)

In the jurors’ final note to Cannone on Monday afternoon, they described themselves at an unmovable impasse with perspectives on the evidence “sharply divided.”

“To continue to deliberate will be futile and only serve to force us to compromise these deeply held beliefs,” the jurors wrote in a note the judge read aloud to the courtroom.

“I’m not going to do that, folks,” Cannone told the jury in court, dismissing them and declaring a mistrial. Members of O’Keefe’s family looked stricken after the announcement, while Read approached the gallery with a smile to hug family and supporters who had gathered.

In a statement announcing plans to retry Read, prosecutors thanked O’Keefe’s family.

“They maintained sight of the true core of this case — to find justice for John O’Keefe,” the statement read.

The trial, which began in April, captivated the nation as followers tried to decipher its dueling narratives. Prosecutors described Read and O’Keefe as locked in a volatile years-long romance that boiled over after a night of drinking where Read reversed her SUV to fatally strike O’Keefe before fleeing. Defense lawyers suggested Read, a former equity analyst and adjunct professor, was framed by officers who had turned on their colleague and were seeking to cover up a fatal fight.

Despite the seriousness of the charges, the trial has taken on the quality of a whodunnit mystery to true-crime fans and conspiracy theorists who saw an irresistible combination of a telegenic female murder suspect, a soured romance and an alleged law enforcement conspiracy in a town where investigators were closely tied to the subjects.

The fervor over Read’s trial at times spilled into the courtroom. Cannone ordered Aidan Kearney, a local blogger known as “Turtleboy,” to leave the courtroom during appearances by at least seven witnesses, arguing his presence could have a “chilling effect” on their testimony, according to CBS Boston. Kearney was charged last year with witness intimidation after sharing videos of himself confronting witnesses and posting personal information about an investigator in the case. He has denied the accusations of harassment and said he was exercising his First Amendment rights.

Morrissey, the district attorney, last year took the rare step of issuing a video statement months before the trial to both condemn the conspiracies and plead for them to cease.

“Innuendo is not evidence,” Morrissey said.

The prosecution and defense agreed on few facts beyond that on the night of Jan. 28, 2022, O’Keefe and Read drank at the Waterfall Bar in Canton, Mass., where they ran into Boston Police Sgt. Brian Albert and were invited to a party at his home. After Read drove O’Keefe in her black Lexus SUV to Albert’s party without going inside, the narratives diverge.

Prosecutors said the couple were fighting before Read dropped off O’Keefe and that she fatally hit him with her car while making a three-point turn, then sped off. Prosecutors argued that their theory was supported by vehicle data from Read’s SUV along with a broken taillight on her car and hair on the vehicle.

Defense lawyers said Read was being used as a scapegoat, arguing that O’Keefe was beaten up in Albert’s home before being thrown outside onto the lawn in a snowstorm, where he was staged to look like Read had hit him. The defense noted that Albert’s house was never searched for signs of a fight involving O’Keefe, and contended that scratches on O’Keefe’s arms indicated he was attacked by Albert’s dog, a 70-pound German shepherd mix named Chloe. They also pointed to conflicts of interest among investigators in the case and those at the party. The prosecution denied there was any police coverup or conspiracy.

O’Keefe, a 16-year veteran of the Boston Police Department, was found unresponsive outside Albert’s home and later pronounced dead at a hospital. An autopsy found he had died of hypothermia and blunt-force trauma.

Central to the prosecution’s case was testimony from several first responders who were called to the scene after Read found O’Keefe’s body outside Albert’s house. They testified to hearing a hysterical-sounding Read yell, “I hit him. I hit him. Oh my God. I hit him.” Prosecutors, according to the AP, also point to angry phone messages that Read allegedly sent to O’Keefe hours before he died, and a voice message she left O’Keefe moments after she drove away from the house party in which they said she was “seething in rage” and screaming at O’Keefe.

The defense was bolstered by reports from an FBI probe into O’Keefe’s death that said his injuries did not appear to be from a vehicle strike, and by damaging testimony from Massachusetts State Police Trooper Michael Proctor, a lead investigator in the case. Proctor faced withering questions about messages he shared with friends where he called Read a “whack job” and hoped she would kill herself, supporting the defense’s argument that hostile law enforcement had a conflict of interest. Proctor also admitted he told colleagues about how he didn’t find any nude photos of Read while searching her phone.

Read did not take the stand during the trial. She told reporters outside the court Tuesday: “There is no case against me. … After eight weeks, it’s smoke and mirrors, and it’s going through my private life and trying to contrive a motive that was never there.”

The end of the trial starts a separate process for O’Keefe’s family, his longtime friend Tara Kerrigan wrote in an April essay in Boston Magazine. “I prayed this will be over soon so his family can finally begin a process that the circus around John’s death has denied them,” Kerrigan wrote. “The chance to grieve in peace.”

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