Karen Read trial: Defense expert says John O’Keefe’s injuries ‘consistent with large dog attack’

DEDHAM, Mass. — The Karen Read murder trial continued Tuesday without jurors present to allow for the voir dire of three expert defense witnesses who may be called to the stand to testify at a later time.

WATCH LIVE: Karen Read murder trial continues with interviews of witnesses who might take stand.

WATCH LIVE: Karen Read murder trial continues with voir dire of expert witnesses who might take the stand at a later time.

Posted by Boston 25 News on Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Read, 44, of Mansfield, has pleaded not guilty to charges including second-degree murder in the death of John O’Keefe, her Boston police officer boyfriend.

Prosecutors say Read backed over O’Keefe with her Lexus SUV and left him for dead in a snowstorm outside 34 Fairview Road in Canton in January 2022 after a night of heavy drinking. The defense aims to prove that O’Keefe was murdered by someone inside the home and then tossed into the snow.

Dr. Marie Russell, a retired emergency room doctor and forensic pathologist, was the first expert witness called to the stand by the defense as part of the voir dire proceedings.

Russell told the court that she spent nearly three decades at Los Angeles General Medical Center and that part of her job was determining the cause of injuries. Russell also spent part of her career in law enforcement, working as a police officer in Malden for seven years.

Russell explained that she reviewed hospital photos of O’Keefe’s injuries, as well as his autopsy and toxicology reports, among other documents.

Russell claimed that the combination of cuts and scratches on O’Keefe’s arm was “consistent with a large dog attack,” not an accident involving a motor vehicle.

“These injuries on the arm, in my opinion, is that they are the result of an animal -- bites or scratches,” Russell told Judge Beverly Cannone when asked for additional clarification. “Most likely a dog, a large dog.”

When Cannone asked her how confident she was in her opinion, Russell responded, “Very sure” to a “high degree of medical certainty.”

Cannone told Russell that she “didn’t know” when she’d be called to testify and that the court would “let her know as soon we can.”

Assistant District Attorney Adam Lally proceeded to ask Cannone to block Russell from testifying, suggesting she tried to interject herself in the case and saying the defense brought her in too late.

Cannone instructed Lally to find a rebuttal witness in case she allows Russell to testify. Lally agreed and said that it could be done in a week.

Read’s defense team called Dr. Daniel Wolfe, of ARCCA, to the stand next. ARCCA is a private accident reconstruction firm. Wolfe said he specializes in the fields of accident reconstruction, human factors, and lighting.

Wolfe, an expert hired by federal investigators to conduct an accident reconstruction in the Read case, said his firm found O’Keefe’s injuries did not appear to be from a car strike.

Wolfe said he and two of his colleagues reviewed the case, including police reports, crime scene and autopsy photos, and data related to Read’s SUV.

Wolfe told the court that he has a wealth of experience examining cases involving pedestrians struck by vehicles, including “a lot of nighttime visibility work.”

During a pretrial hearing in March, defense attorney Alan Jackson said, “The damage on the car was inconsistent with having made contact with John O’Keefe’s body. In other words, the car didn’t hit him, and he wasn’t hit by the car. Period. Full stop.”

The third expert witness called on by the defense was Dr. Andrew Rentschler, a second accident reconstructionist from ARCCA who specializes in biomechanical engineering.

“I was tasked from the biomechanical standpoint to see how the injuries occurred,” Rentschler explained.

Rentschler added that he’s performed “a number of crash and sled tests” and his work on the Read case centered around biomechanical engineering analysis of O’Keefe’s injuries.

Cannone will now take some time to rule on what Russell and the two crash reconstruction experts will be allowed to say in front of the jury.

There is no court on Wednesday due to the Juneteenth holiday. The trial is slated to resume Thursday.

On Monday, Massachusetts State Police Trooper Joseph Paul, a crash reconstruction analyst, was grilled about his qualifications after he testified that Read’s SUV was traveling as fast as 24 mph in reverse when it struck O’Keefe in the snow outside 34 Fairview Avenue in Canton in January 2022.

Nicholas Guarino, another state trooper, read a series of text messages that Read sent to O’Keefe on the day before he was pronounced dead. Prosecutors allege the messages show their relationship was in a bad place.

Some of the texts Guarino read in court were as follows:

  • John O’Keefe: Sick of always arguing in fighting. It’s been weekly for several months now. So yeh, I’m not as quick to jump back into being lovie dovie as you apparently.
  • Karen Read: So you’re not into it anymore. That’s fine. But I don’t want to keep trying and you keep treating me like this.”
  • Karen Read: Tell me if you are interested in someone else. Can’t think of any other reason you’ve been like this.

Tess Chart, a forensic DNA analyst at Bode Technology, and her colleague Nicholas Bradford, testified last week that O’Keefe’s DNA was found on taillight pieces outside the home and those pieces matched Read’s SUV.

Multiple law enforcement officials have also testified to finding pieces of broken taillight on the lawn of 34 Fairview Road after the snow melted away.

Read has pleaded not guilty to charges including second-degree murder in O’Keefe’s death.

The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case by the end of this week. The defense will then present its case.

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