Judge refuses to step down in Karen Read’s murder trial

Posted at 7:48 PM, July 25, 2023 and last updated 6:27 AM, July 26, 2023


DEDHAM, Mass. (Court TV) — A Massachusetts judge refused to step down from Karen Read’s murder trial for her boyfriend’s death, denying allegations that she has personal ties to a family involved in the case.

Karen Read appears in court

Karen Read appears in court Oct. 4, 2022 for a hearing. (Court TV)

Judge Beverly Cannone on Tuesday denied Read’s request to recuse herself after hearing arguments from Norfolk County prosecutors and Read’s defense in a crowded Dedham courtroom. Read’s case has generated national headlines for her aggressive claims that she’s being framed in a police cover-up for the death of her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe, and members of the public packed the courtroom with supporters of the defense and the prosecution.

Prosecutors say Read backed her car into O’Keefe and left him to die outside during a January 2022 snowstorm. Read claims she last saw O’Keefe when she dropped him off outside the Canton home of another Boston police officer, Brian Albert, where he was beaten and left for dead on the lawn.

In addition to the allegations of impropriety, Read’s defense argued that Cannone gave the appearance of unfairness by consistently ruling in the prosecution’s favor in a timely manner while delaying essential rulings on defense motions. Read’s lawyer, Alan Jackson, cited a recent example when Cannone rejected the defense’s request for a hearing where they could question Albert and his sister-in-law about potentially incriminating evidence on their cell phones.

Cannone concluded all the defense’s points were without merit.

“I know very well the importance of a fair and impartial judge,” Cannone said in her ruling from the bench. “And I know full well how to follow my oath and comply with my ethical obligations.”

News of Tuesday’s hearing and its bombshell allegations of impropriety against the judge further galvanized interest in the case. Community members started gathering on the courthouse steps more than two hours before the hearing for a “Justice for Karen Read” protest. They waved signs that read “Free Karen Read” and “Arrest the True Culprits.” They cheered Read and her family as they entered the courthouse, and booed members of the prosecution and their supporters, calling them “scumbags.”

Some signs included references to evidence that Read’s lawyers say exonerates her. One poster displayed the words of a Google search for how long it takes to die in the cold, which Read’s defense claims was performed on Jennifer McCabe’s phone.

Protesters holding signs

Protesters held signs outside of the courthouse where Karen Read appeared for a preliminary hearing on July 25, 2023. (Court TV)

Another protest sign included the words “Auntie Bev,” a reference to evidence the defense raised in their motion to recuse Judge Cannone. During the hearing, Read’s lawyer, Alan Jackson, displayed a poster board purporting to show text messages to Sean McCabe, Jennifer McCabe’s relative.

“‘Do you really have a line to judge cannone?’” Jackson said as he read aloud the text exchange. Sean McCabe’s alleged response: “‘Auntie Bev??? Whose seaside cottage do you think we’re gonna bury your corpse under?’”

Read’s defense also produced a screenshot of a Venmo transaction for a beach house to an account in the name of Franklin Beverly. Jackson said the payment was made by a person with the same name as a partygoer witness in the case, Julie Nagle, and suggested Franklin Beverly could be perceived as an account connected to the judge even if it wasn’t.

Cannone flatly denied knowing or socializing with Sean McCabe, members of his family or any other witnesses whose names have come up in court, including Julie Nagle’s.

“Doesn’t that underscore that anyone can say or write anything and make that the basis of a motion to recuse? I think that shows this motion is not credible,” Cannone said from the bench. “I want to make it very clear that I reject the notion that untrue and unsubstantiated rumors on the internet can force a judge to recuse herself.”

Cannone also heard the Commonwealth’s motion to prevent attorneys from speaking to the media outside the courtroom about evidence. If granted, the motion would apply to both sides, though prosecutor Adam Lally said the defense’s “trial by media” strategy prompted its necessity.

Photo of Officer John O'Keefe in uniform

This undated photograph provided by the Boston Police Department shows officer John O’Keefe, 46, of Canton, Mass. O’Keefe died at an area hospital after being found lying in snow unresponsive outside his home on Saturday Jan. 30, 2022. Karen Read, 41, of Mansfield, Mass., was charged with manslaughter on Wednesday Feb. 2, 2022 after allegedly striking O’Keefe, her boyfriend, with her car. Read pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and other charges at her arraignment Wednesday. (Boston Police Department)

Lally accused Read’s defense of using the media as a “propagandist” to advance its theory of a coverup using “cherry-picked” evidence. He cited the recusal notion as an example, saying even the person who messaged Sean McCabe about the judge didn’t believe him. The prosecutor also accused the defense of giving the media early notice of their motions, saying the recusal motion was discussed on YouTube over the weekend before it was docketed.

The prosecutor also accused the defense of exposing Albert and other witnesses to public harassment and vilification through motions that revealed their names, addresses and phone numbers. A few days before the hearing, organizers of the courthouse protest led a “rolling protest” past the homes of witnesses in the case.

Lally asked Cannone to prevent attorneys from speaking to the media about evidence in the case. “I’m somewhat surprised there’s even opposition to this motion as all it asks is that counsel’s conduct comport with Massachusetts’ ethical guidelines,” Lally said,

Read’s lawyer, David Yanetti fired back by calling the motion unconstitutional and hypocritical. Prosecutors had no problems speaking to reporters when Boston Police were cheering Read’s arrest.

“How dare they?” Yanetti said.

Cannone said she would rule on the matter another day.