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Karen Read murder trial testimony begins, jurors shown police video from scene

Recap of first day of testimony in Karen Read murder trial
Recap of first day of testimony in Karen Read murder trial 02:54

DEDHAM – The first day of testimony in the highly anticipated Karen Read murder trial has concluded after opening statements and testimony from three witnesses. Read is accused of hitting and killing her boyfriend, Boston police officer John O'Keefe, with her SUV in 2022.

The trial is taking place inside Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham, Massachusetts. Judge Beverly Cannone swore in the jury Monday morning and gave them their formal instructions before the lawyers started presenting their cases.

First police officer on scene says Read was "hysterical"

Canton police officer Steve Saraf, who was the first officer on scene when O'Keefe's body was found around 6 a.m. on January 29, 2022, testified on Monday.

Saraf said he checked for a pulse on O'Keefe, but could not find one. Firefighters soon arrived and took over treatment. 

According to Saraf, Read was "hysterical" and yelling.

"She kept saying 'This is all my fault, this is my fault, I did this. She was very hysterical. She kept asking 'He's dead. Is he dead? Is he dead?'" Saraf testified. 

The prosecution then played video from the dashboard camera in Saraf's cruiser.

In the video, Read and the two women she was with when they discovered O'Keefe's body can be seen. Read is shown running, and screaming "No! No! No!" with her face in her hands.

Prosecutor Adam Lally concluded his questioning of Saraf. Cannone asked Read's defense team if they plan to cross-examine Saraf. When Read's attorney said yes, the judge concluded court for the day and said the cross-examination would begin Tuesday morning.

While she was leaving court after testimony, Read addressed seeing the video from the scene.  

"I've seen it many times. And it's difficult each time," Read told reporters.

Karen Read, right, seen on Canton police officer Steve Saraf's dashboard camera on January 29, 2022, when John O'Keefe's body was found. CBS Boston

John O'Keefe's brother was first witness to give testimony

Before Saraf took the stand, the prosecution called John O'Keefe's brother, Paul O'Keefe as the first witness in the trial.

Paul O'Keefe spoke about his sister, who died and left her children in John O'Keefe's custody.

He also was asked about the nature of his brother's relationship with Read, recalling several arguments they had.

Lally asked about the night John O'Keefe died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Brockton. Paul O'Keefe said Read was being restrained by police at the hospital and was screaming out asking if John O'Keefe was alive.

Lally showed Paul O'Keefe several security camera videos from his brother's house from the morning he died.

The defense had no questions for Paul O'Keefe at the conclusion of his testimony. 

Paul O'Keefe's wife Erin was next on the stand. Erin O'Keefe said she considered Read a friend and said Read confided in her a month before his death that she had caught John O'Keefe kissing another woman.

"She told me that she had to remember the bad times. Which struck me as an odd comment to say. She said 'I don't think I'm ever going to see you guys again,'" Erin O'Keefe recalled.

Prosecution opening statement

Earlier in the day, Lally began his opening statement by describing O'Keefe as a "proud member of the Boston Police Department."

Read and O'Keefe were dating at the time of his death, but Lally said the couple's relationship had suffered.

Read's defense has argued that O'Keefe was actually killed inside the Canton house where he was found in the snow during a fight. Lally attempted to dispute that during his opening statement, saying "From all of those people in that house that evening, none of them at any point in time observed John O'Keefe enter that house."

According to Lally, when first responders arrived at the scene after O'Keefe's body was found, Read said to them "I hit him, I hit him, I hit him."

Karen Read listens to testimony on April 29, 2024. CBS Boston

"Karen Read was framed," defense tells jury

Read's defense attorneys accuse law enforcement of being at the center of an elaborate coverup. During the trial, Read's defense is expected to make a third-party culprit defense, saying he was dragged outside after a fight inside Brian Albert's Canton home.

Judge Cannone ruled that Read's attorneys cannot make the third-party culprit argument during opening statements, but can do so during trial proceedings when accompanied by admissible evidence.

Within seconds of beginning his opening statement, defense attorney David Yannetti told the court that "Karen Read was framed."

"Her car never struck John O'Keefe. She never caused his death," Yannetti said. "Karen Read was framed for a murder she did not commit."

Yannetti told jurors about what he calls a compromised police investigation. He said Canton police should never have investigated the case because Albert is the brother of a Canton police officer. 

Yannetti also portrayed Michael Proctor, the lead Massachusetts State Police investigator in the case, as compromised. State police said in March that they have opened an internal investigation into "a potential violation of department policy" by Proctor. Through his attorney, Proctor denied any wrongdoing. He remains on full duty during the investigation.

What is Karen Read charged with?

Read is charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol, and leaving the scene of personal injury and death. 

She has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Smaller courtroom

The trial is being held in a smaller courtroom after Read's attorneys requested that jurors should be able to see witnesses' faces as they testify. As a result, only family and a select number of media will be allowed inside. There were 17 jurors seated Monday, but only 12 will decide the case.

The trial is expected to last 6 to 8 weeks.

Read's supporters have been vocal outside the courthouse throughout trial proceedings, often holding "Free Karen Read" signs and wearing shirts supporting her. Cannone established a 200-foot "buffer zone" in an effort to push supporters back from the courthouse and maintain an unbiased jury.  

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