Protesters fight buffer zone outside of Karen Read’s murder trial

Posted at 2:37 PM, April 23, 2024 and last updated 11:57 AM, April 23, 2024

DEDHAM, Mass. (Court TV) — An attorney representing a group of people who want to protest outside of Karen Read‘s murder trial has filed an appeal, saying that the buffer zone the judge put in place is unconstitutional.

A truck with a sign that says Justice John O'Keefe Karen Read with a heart

Protesters gathered outside of the Dedham courthouse during an evidentiary hearing for Karen Read. (Court TV)

In the days leading up to the beginning of jury selection in the high-profile case, Judge Beverly Cannone issued an order that created a “Zone of Prior Restraint,” also known as a buffer zone, around the courthouse where demonstrators would be banned from gathering. Pre-trial hearings in the case had been marked by groups of people both inside and outside of the courthouse showing their support for Read and holding signs questioning the integrity of the investigation into the case.

Read is charged with murder in the death of her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe, who was found dead in a snowbank outside of his friends’ home after a night out drinking. Prosecutors have alleged that Read hit him with her car and left him for dead, while her attorneys have pointed the finger at several potential other suspects and accused the Canton Police Department of a cover-up to frame their client.

Two previous appeals were denied by individual justices, but now the group is appealing to the full Supreme Judicial Court. In its brief, due Tuesday, the protesters said that the entire order should be tossed because it was “created by a judge who lacked any power to do so, without any attempt to involve affected parties, and in derogation of affected parties’ rights.”

READ MORE: Key players in the Karen Read murder case

The brief references a Court TV article as part of its argument that the protesters have been peaceful and law-abiding. It emphasizes that the group’s sole intent is to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech and peaceful assembly.

karen read appears in court

Karen Read appears in court Monday, April 22, 2024. (Court TV)

Attorneys for the appellants accuse the government of overreaching in their charging of nine people for witness intimidation in connection with the case, saying that the group had been standing at an intersection holding signs. “The government took the position that since a potential witness hypothetically could have seen these signs, that equaled witness intimidation. However, not one person has been found to have intended to intimidate.”

Joining the four people who had initially filed appeals of the order are a group of “more than 500 citizens who wish to protest on a variety of subjects.” An attached exhibit listed each of those citizens’ names and what they intended to protest. While most people listed something related to the trial as what they intended to protest, others included:

  • Protesting her local church
  • Protesting lack of school funding and misuse of funds in education
  • Protesting for the equality of women
  • Protesting against minimum wage
  • Protesting for border protection
  • Protesting the “Free Mom Hugs” organization

Those people all want to take advantage of the media covering the Read trial, according to the brief that stated:

“…with news cameras surrounding the courthouse, it will be a good opportunity to seek attention for other causes, much like those who stand outside ‘Good Morning America’ live broadcasts hold up signs for their cases, or others come to sporting events and hold up signs containing Bible passages.”

Jury selection will continue in Karen Read’s trial on Wednesday. The state’s response to the appellant’s brief is due Wednesday, as well.