Norfolk County

Amicus brief filed by ACLU to weigh in on buffer zone restrictions during Karen Read trial

DEDHAM, Mass. — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling into question the Norfolk County District Attorney’s request to provide a 500-foot buffer zone around a Dedham courthouse for a high-profile murder case.

In a motion filed in Norfolk Superior Court on Wednesday, the ACLU is asking to submit an amicus brief regarding the DA’s expansive buffer zone for the Karen Read trial “and other measures that impact free expression.”

On Tuesday, supporters of Read filed a motion arguing the buffer zone outside the courthouse violates their First Amendment rights. In response, the Norfolk DA’s Office said the court regularly exercises its authority to defend the juries from “undue influence” in various ways and pointed to the “Puppy Doe” trial in 2017 as an example.

But the ACLU questions if smaller measures were explored before asking for a buffer zone.

“There are serious reasons to doubt that orders of the scope sought by the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office can be justified consistent with free expression principles, protected both by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 16 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights,” the 5-page filing read. “Certainly, the District Attorney seems not to have met the government’s burden to show why narrower alternatives are not feasible, and unless and until that high burden is met, the Motion should be denied.”

Judge Beverly Cannone will make a ruling on the motion for the buffer zone on Thursday.

“The Memorandum is intended to assist the Court by laying out standards that should be applied in determining whether or not to allow any portion of the pending Motion,” court documents say. “ACLUM is an organization dedicated to protecting civil rights and civil liberties in the Commonwealth, including the rights of free expression and assembly.”

The full amicus briefing can be found here:

Karen Read is accused of killing her Boston Police officer boyfriend, John O’Keefe, by backing over him with a car during a snowstorm in 2022. The case has garnered public interest, as Read’s defenders say she is being framed in a large-scale coverup.

Her trial begins on April 16 in Norfolk County Superior Court.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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