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Karen Read's defense team rests their case in her murder trial

Final witnesses testify in Karen Read murder trial
Final witnesses testify in Karen Read murder trial 02:28

DEDHAM - Karen Read's defense team rested its case on Monday in the high-profile Massachusetts murder trial, setting the stage for closing arguments Tuesday and jury deliberations this week. 

Read is charged with second-degree murder in the death of her boyfriend, Boston police officer John O'Keefe, on January 29, 2022. Prosecutors say she hit him with her SUV outside a home in Canton and left him for dead in a snowstorm. Read has pleaded not guilty. Her attorneys say she's being framed, and that O'Keefe was beaten to death inside the home, bitten by a dog and dragged outside to the yard.

Karen Read's defense rests its case

The trial began on April 16 with jury selection. Dozens of witnesses have been called over the course of nearly two months since testimony began on April 29.

The prosecution rested its case on Friday. With the defense now having presented its case, jury deliberations will likely begin this week following closing statements.

While the prosecution called 68 witnesses, the defense's list was much shorter. Their witnesses included a plow driver who said he did not see anything on the lawn of 34 Fairview Road in Canton where O'Keefe's body was found.

The defense has argued scratches on O'Keefe's arm were caused by a dog during a fight inside the home. They called an expert who testified about those injuries, as well as two accident reconstruction experts and a medical examiner.

"We feel great," Read's attorney Alan Jackson said outside court. "What a great way to end a case, right. With a little truth and professionalism. It feels, you have no idea how good it feels to finally get this thing done."

When will closing arguments be in the Karen Read trial?

Jurors were sent home for the day on Monday after the defense rested.

"Jurors, that is the evidence in this case. After all these weeks, that's the evidence that you will hear in this case," Judge Beverly Cannone said.

Closing arguments will be held on Tuesday morning. Each side will be given one hour to make its final case to the jury.

Seventeen jurors were originally sworn-in and two were excused during the trial, leaving nine women and six men. Cannone will choose the foreperson before 11 other jurors are chosen at random to deliberate. 

Karen Read did not testify for defense

There had been a question if Read herself would take the stand as a witness for the defense.

Read had previously told reporters that she was open to the idea, but would follow the advice of her attorneys.

The defense's case came to a close Monday, and Read did not take the stand.

Defense calls final witness

Just after noon on Monday, the defense called Dr. Andrew Rentschler, a biomechanical engineer for ARCCA. 

Rentschler and Dr. Daniel Wolfe, the director of accident reconstruction for ARCCA, were hired by the Department of Justice to do a third-party reconstruction analysis as part of the investigation into the how Read's case was handled by law enforcement.

Jurors will not know who hired Rentschler and Wolfe. Alan Jackson handled direct questioning of Rentschler and Wolfe for the defense team.

Rentschler testified that O'Keefe's injuries were not consistent with being hit by a vehicle at 24 mph. He said O'Keefe would have had more significant injuries such as broken bones or torn ligaments.

"If there's enough force to cause a skull fracture, there's enough force to cause injuries to the other part of the body," Rentschler said.

On cross-examination, Prosecutor Adam Lally was asking Rentschler about how O'Keefe's arm was positioned, if it was tucked in or hanging out.

"There's no indication in any of that evidence of what he may or may not have been doing, how he may or may not have been positioned," Rentschler said. "That's the whole issue. There's no evidence to indicate what may have allegedly occurred in this case."

Accident reconstruction expert takes stand

Earlier Monday, Wolfe took the stand. Wolfe said he had not ever heard of the Karen Read case when he was hired to investigate, and followed only the evidence provided to him.

He and a Rentschler developed a theory that perhaps someone threw a cocktail glass at Read's SUV, breaking the taillight. To test it, they built a pressurized air cannon and shot the glass at a taillight.

"So you literally built a cannon?" Jackson asked, prompting Wolfe to respond, "Yeah. It's pretty awesome."

Wolfe said when the glass was fired 37 mph at a taillight it caused similar damage to what was photographed on Read's SUV. 

Lally said on cross-examination that Wolfe had not seen Read's SUV in person.

"Are you aware that the defendant's vehicle is still in police custody and available for inspection?" Lally asked. "No," Wolfe answered. "Were you ever asked to look at the vehicle?" Lally followed up. "No," Wolfe responded.

Federal expert says O'Keefe's injuries were not caused by SUV

Federal investigators previously said that the experts they hired determined O'Keefe's injuries were not consistent with a vehicle strike.

Jackson questioned Wolfe on the findings of his investigation. 

"In your expert opinion based on all your testing, is the damage to the taillight that you saw consistent with striking a human head?" Jackson asked. Wolfe said no.

"In your expert opinion, is the damage to the taillight consistent with striking a human arm?" Jackson asked. Wolfe said no, and Jackson said he had no further questions.

Retired medical examiner says injuries consistent with animal attack

Dr. Frank Sheridan was the first witness on the stand on Monday. Sheridan is a retired forensic pathologist and was previously the chief medical examiner for San Bernadino, California.

Sheridan was asked about scratches on O'Keefe's arm that the defense claims were caused by Brian Albert's German shepherd Chloe. Albert, a retired Boston police officer, owned the home at 34 Fairview Road in Canton where O'Keefe's body was found on the lawn.

Defense attorney Elizabeth Little asked Sheridan if the injuries could have been caused by a motor vehicle.

"If you mean struck in that part of the body on the arm directly, I would say no, it doesn't look like that at all," he said.

Little then asked if the injuries appear to be consistent with an animal attack.

"I would say they are. I'm not 100% sure. But my initial reaction when I saw this was that it was an animal. Scrape marks with claws and possibly also a bite mark," Sheridan said.

Cross-examination of Dr. Frank Sheridan

On cross-examination, Lally noted that Sheridan has not conducted any autopsies where a victim was sideswiped by the back of a vehicle.

Lally also asked Sheridan if frozen ground could have cracked the back of O'Keefe's head. Sheridan said it could have caused that injury.

Sheridan said O'Keefe did not have any broken orbital bones or other injuries to his eyes, which Lally said would have been consistent with having been in a fight.

Sheridan concluded his testimony after just over 90 minutes.

"Free Karen Read" supporters outside courthouse

Supporters of Read, many wearing pink as a sign of support, have been present outside Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham throughout the trial. They are required to remain outside of a "buffer zone" set by Judge Beverly Cannone in an effort to maintain an unbiased jury.

On Monday, the crowd was the largest its been during the proceedings.

The crowd swarmed Read and her team as she left court Monday. "It's heartwarming," Karen Read said outside court. "It'd be difficult to come to court every day with a different reception. So, I'm grateful for it."

WBZ-TV's Penny Kmitt said there were about 200 cheering supporters near the courthouse. Several told Kmitt they traveled from out of state to support Read. 

"Battle of the experts"

WBZ legal analyst Jennifer Roman says it came down to a "battle of the experts."

When the jury looks at all the theories and evidence, they will have to decide which expert they believe.

"The jury's job is to sort of assess the expert testimony in light of everything else that they heard and saw during this trial," Roman said. "We can't look at any of those experts in a vacuum."

Defense rests in Karen Read murder trial, legal analyst says it was "battle of the experts" 03:06

After 29 days of testimony and 74 witnesses, it's anyone's guess how long deliberations will last.

"With this much evidence and this many witnesses, I would think that after day two or three both sides are going to start to get a little bit nervous," Roman said.  

Prosecution rests case against Karen Read

After eight weeks of testimony and 68 witnesses, the state rested its case against Read last Friday in Norfolk County Superior Court.

Their final witness, the medical examiner, could not say definitively that O'Keefe was hit and killed by a car, leaving his cause of death unsolved for the jury.

Karen Read's short defense witness list

A plow driver testified for the defense Friday, saying he plowed the street outside the home on Fairview Road in Canton several times between 2 and 6 a.m. that night. He said he saw "nothing" on the lawn. O'Keefe was later found there dead in the snow.

Who is Karen Read?

Read, 44, of Mansfield, Massachusetts, is charged with second-degree murder in O'Keefe's death, along with manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of personal injury and death.

She and O'Keefe were dating at the time he died. Prosecutors say Read had been drinking for hours with O'Keefe before she hit him with her Lexus SUV while making a three-point turn after dropping him off an an after-party at the Canton home of Boston Police officer Brian Albert. Her attorneys say O'Keefe actually walked into the home and was killed in a fight there.

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