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

After the defense's last witness, Judge Beverly J. Cannone speaks to the jury during the murder trial for Karen Read at Norfolk Superior Court, in Dedham, Mass., Monday, June 24, 2024. Read is accused of backing her SUV into her Boston Police officer boyfriend, John O'Keefe, and leaving him to die in a blizzard in Canton, in 2022. (Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via AP, Pool)

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 at the center of a media storm created 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 suggested some of the evidence doesn’t line up with what prosecutors say happened. Describing their detailed reconstructions, the witnesses said they concluded that damage to Read's SUV, including a broken taillight, didn't match O'Keefe's injuries.

“You can’t deny the science and the physics,” Andrew Rentschler from ARCCA said at one point, describing an analysis of the level of injuries associated with various speeds of Read's vehicle. ARCCA 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.

Read’s lawyers, who argue that she was framed, 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 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.

“We know Karen Read was framed. And framed by the people that we trust, that have sworn an oath to protect to serve,” she said. “That is a problem in America.”

Michael Casey, The Associated Press