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Karen Read's high-profile Massachusetts murder trial underway with jury selection

Recap of Karen Read murder trial Day 1 jury selection
Recap of Karen Read murder trial Day 1 jury selection 02:58

DEDHAM – Jury selection will continue Wednesday in Karen Read's high-profile Massachusetts murder trial.

Read is accused of killing her boyfriend, John O'Keefe. The former Boston police officer was found dead in a snowbank outside a Canton home during a storm in 2022.

Karen Read trial underway

Prosecutors accuse Read of fatally striking O'Keefe with her SUV. Read's defense attorneys have argued that she is the victim of a coverup by others, including police. They argue that O'Keefe was killed during a fight inside the Canton home, and dragged outside.

Jury selection began Tuesday morning as the first pool of about 100 candidates entered Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham. The day ended with four jurors seated, the defense said. 

Once a jury is seated, the trial is expected to take about 6-8 weeks, with full days Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There will be half days on Tuesday and Thursday.  

How will a jury be chosen?

Dozens of potential jurors entered a mostly empty courtroom that included Read, attorneys from each side, the judge, security, and Read's brother. 

Attorneys from each side are allowed to challenge 16 jurors for no reason and additional jurors for cause.

During her opening remarks, Judge Beverly Cannone spoke about the importance of fair trials.

"It is just that simple and that important. So, while public comment will likely continue, the rule of law will be upheld," Cannone told the first group of potential jurors.

Cannone then began to read a lengthy list of potential witnesses in the case, asking if any possible jurors recognize the names.

The judge also asked for anyone who had seen, heard or talked about the case. About 70 people raised their hands. In a follow-up question, Cannone asked to see how many potential jurors have formed an opinion on the case. A total of 24 people raised their hands. Have any of you seen, heard, or talked about this case? Approximately 69 people raised their hands.

After Cannone asked questions to the group as a whole, she began speaking to prospective jurors one at a time at sidebar with attorneys. Once questioned, possible jurors were dismissed one at a time, meaning they did not meet the criteria. 

Ray Ruggiero is one of the potential jurors who was excused on Tuesday. "It's hard not to hear of the case. Do you know what I mean? It was an experience," said Ruggiero. "I actually work for the town of Canton so I would assume that was a big factor out of it if I was to guess."

Finding an impartial jury

On Monday, one legal expert told WBZ-TV the jury selection process is expected to be a difficult one. Suffolk University Law Professor Christopher Dearborn said he believes it will be "a long road" to pick a jury that is impartial.

"So the law is that [jurors] don't have to be somebody who doesn't have any opinion or doesn't have any familiarity," Dearborn said. "The law is they have to then be able to convince a judge they're going to be impartial and fair, and you really don't need to go very far from where you are right now to see how hard this is."

Dearborn pointed to the trials of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger as high-profile cases where it was difficult to seat an impartial jury.

Jury selection is scheduled to last several days. The goal is 12 jurors plus alternates.

A 200-foot "buffer zone" has been established in an effort to shield jurors from protesters outside the courthouse.

One of Read's biggest supporters, "Turtleboy" blogger Aidan Kearney, who is out of jail for witness intimidation in connection with the case, was vocal on day one of the trial.

"If you want John O'Keefe to have justice, then the people who killed John O'Keefe have to be held responsible," Kearney said. "That person is not Karen Read."   

Ruling on third-party culprit defense

Cannone has still not ruled on several motions in the case. 

Among the issues debated during Friday's pretrial hearing was Read's attorneys' desire to introduce a third-party culprit defense. Read's attorneys sought to make the argument that three men caused O'Keefe's death, and not Read.

Cannone said Tuesday in court that she is not excluding the third-party culprit defense, but reserves the right to limit it. The judge will only allow the theory to be introduced on admissible evidence.

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