Karen Read supporters accuse prosecution of going on ‘unchecked bender’

Posted at 1:32 PM, April 3, 2024 and last updated 10:49 AM, April 5, 2024

DEDHAM, Mass. (Court TV) — With just days to go until the scheduled start of Karen Read‘s murder trial, the legal battle has spilled out of the courtroom and into the streets.

karen read appears in court

Karen Read, accused in the death of police officer John O’Keefe, appears in court Friday, Jan. 15. 2024. (Court TV)

Read is charged with murder in the death of her boyfriend, Police Officer John O’Keefe, who was found dead in the snow outside of the home of a fellow officer in Jan. 2022. Prosecutors have said that Read hit O’Keefe with her car and left him to die, while her attorneys have accused the Commonwealth of a sloppy investigation and a cover-up.

The murder trial is scheduled to begin on April 16. Last week, prosecutors filed a motion asking for Judge Beverly Cannone to create a “buffer zone” outside of the courthouse where demonstrators would be banned from gathering.

Protesters have been a constant presence at hearings in Read’s case, with people gathering outside the courthouse with bullhorns and signs that say “Free Karen Read.” It’s those protesters that prosecutors have asked to ban from the area, saying their presence would create “a substantial risk to both the defendant and the Commonwealth’s rights to a fair trial.” The motion proposes a 500-foot area extending around the courthouse, sidewalks, parking lot and the Registry of Deeds.

Prosecutors have also asked the judge to ban anyone inside the courtroom from wearing any attire that says “Free Karen Read,” but also seek to prohibit law enforcement officers, whether they be testifying or attending the trial, from wearing their uniforms.

A group of four citizens gathered to file a motion opposing the prosecution’s request. Court TV’s Vinnie Politan obtained the filing, which refers to the group as “brave Patriots” who plan to demonstrate their support for Read. The 21-page motion accuses the Commonwealth of infringing on the group’s Constitutional right to protest, saying that the state’s motion seeks “to bind and gag Lady Liberty and must not be permitted to do so without opposition. Defendant Read should not be asked to defend herself and the rights of 7 million Massachusetts citizens at the same time.”

“The Commonwealth is not satisfied that it has the unlimited power and resources that come from one-party rule, unlimited ability to tax, and a monopoly on violence. Power has become so intoxicating that the Commonwealth has, in the course of prosecuting this case, gone on an unchecked bender — pursuing the additional prosecution of journalists and demonstrators alike. But, like any addiction, eventually even those who love the addict must stop enabling them.”

Protesters holding signs

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

Referencing the historic trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian anarchists who were tried and executed in the 1920s in the same courthouse, the motion says that the group “wishes to communicate that everyone deserves a fair trial, and Sacco and Vanzetti did not get one, but Karen Read should.”

Reacting to the motion, Politan noted the commitment the demonstrators have shown by hiring an attorney to fight back against the prosecutor’s motion. “This is unprecedented, the level of support for an accused cop killer. The scene in Dedham outside the courthouse will be as intense as the legal battle inside the courtroom.”

While the demonstrators’ motion concedes the need to maintain decorum inside the courtroom, it suggests that ordering a blanket prohibition before there has been any issue reported is overly broad and unnecessary. The motion also calls attention to the request to not allow law enforcement uniforms, saying, “The Court should, prior to granting such a request, consider why the Commonwealth is asking for this restriction, and should consider the fact that the Commonwealth may be asking for this relief in order to send a message of its own.

Also noting that the proposed buffer zone includes private property, the motion filed by the group of demonstrators said that no matter what restrictions are put into place, they will find a way to share their message: “Free Americans make other people fighting for Liberty look like amateurs. Since April 19, 1775, we in Massachusetts have been the O.G.s of Liberty.”

On April 5, Judge Cannone issued her ruling, which creates a 200-foot “buffer zone” outside of the courthouse complex. Under the ruling, nobody will be allowed to demonstrate in any way — including carrying signs or placards — or from using audio-enhancing devices while protesting.  The order similarly bans people from wearing any buttons or clothing referencing any trial participant. Judge Cannone also granted the request from the prosecution to prohibit members of law enforcement from wearing their uniforms while in the courtroom watching or testifying.