The Karen Read Case: Public Perception in the Legal System

June 25, 2024 O'Connor Family Law Divorce

If you follow local or legal news, you might be tuned in to the murder trial that has gripped the state. Karen Read is a Mansfield, Massachusetts native who is (as of June 2024) being tried for the murder of her boyfriend of two years, Boston police officer John O’Keefe, who died in January of 2022. She was accused of intentionally running him over with her car. The trial has garnered attention due to controversy over the case’s handling and largely in part because of local blogger Aidan Kearney’s (also known as Turtleboy) posts surrounding the casein support of Read’s defense. Read was an adjunct finance professor at Waltham’s Bentley college until her arrest, at which time she was removed from her position.

Kearney has been a firm advocate of Read’s innocence and has accused key witnesses in the trial of impeding justice or being involved in O’Keefe’s death themselves. He faces charges of witness intimidation in relation to interactions with individuals involved in the Read case.

The Read trial began in April of 2024 and closing arguments concluded today (June 25, 2024). Throughout the trial, Read has maintained her innocence. Prosecutors argue that Read intentionally caused O’Keefe’s death because of their rocky relationship history. According to the prosecution, the couple was arguing after drinking with friends at a bar in Canton after which Read allegedly ran into O’Keefe and killed him with her car. Voicemails were played in court which had been left for O’Keefe by Read on the night that he died. The voicemails accused O’Keefe of cheating on her with another woman. The defense argues that Read is the victim of members of the police department who tried to cover up and lie about O’Keefe’s cause of death. They argue that Read had dropped O’Keefe to Brian Albert’s home where he was beaten, possibly attacked by the Albert’s dog, Chloe, and killed before his body was dropped in a snow bank at the front of the property. They accuse state police trooper Michael Proctor of placing evidence at the scene of the crime. Several witnesses for the defense testified that O’Keefe’s injuries were not highly likely to have been caused by a car, and expressed doubt towards the ability of a car to cause the injuries that O’Keefe sustained.

Read More: CBS News Karen Read Murder Trial

If convicted of second-degree murder (one of the three counts that she has been charged with), Read may face life in prison.

Public Perception in the Legal System

This case offers an important moment of reflection on the effects of social media and media coverage in court battles. High-profile cases such as this one can quickly become complex. Hundreds of individuals have stood outside of the courthouse showing their support for Karen Read and professing a belief in her innocence, many holding signs or shouting the phrase “Free Karen Read” which has become a common mantra among supporters. Whatever the outcome of this trial ends up being, it will surely continue to impact the local community. Public perception has become so strong in this case that Assistant District Attorney Adam Lally himself has said “There is no conspiracy. There is no cover-up. There is no evidence of any of that.” (WCVB Broadcast)

Although most family law cases do not garner such public attention, the power of public perception and the public nature of social media posts is a large part of why we often advise clients to be careful about making public posts or written statements, especially for the duration of their case (note: we are not saying that Read or anyone involved in this case made any such posts). While public perception can offer support and certainly a morale boost, it can be a gamble in cases, especially as interest grows and one may never know who can make statements or posts that are not in alignment with one’s case or that may not accurately portray events. Depending on case circumstances, public posts and/or the posters may be eligible for consideration as evidence or to be called as witnesses.

Our heart goes out to the victim’s family, friends, and loved ones for their loss and the pain that this trial may cause.

All information regarding the trial has been collected from the following sources. For further information on the trial, and to gain a more complete understanding of the months-long proceedings which we cannot cover in full here, please consult these sources: