Karen Learn homicide trial: A have a look at the forensic proof


At round 6 a.m. on a snowy January day in 2022, a sleepy residential road in Canton was ablaze with the blue lights of police cruisers, quickly joined by an ambulance and fireplace truck as one of many three ladies surrounding the physique of a Boston Police officer screamed and wailed.

When John O’Keefe was rushed away by ambulance to Brockton’s Good Samaritan Medical Heart, the place he would quickly be pronounced useless, native police took the preliminary steps to gather proof for a case that might finally be the investigative duty of the Massachusetts State Police unit assigned to the Norfolk DA’s workplace.

Over the course of the trial the place Karen Learn has defended herself since April 29 in opposition to expenses together with second-degree homicide within the demise of O’Keefe, the forensic proof has trickled out amongst descriptions of the fateful Friday night time into Saturday morning, Jan. 29, 2022, when O’Keefe would die.

“It’s a fascinating trial, it’s grabbed everyone’s attention across the country,” stated Boston protection lawyer William D. Kickham, one of many two specialists the Herald spoke with to investigate what has been offered after 4 weeks of trial. “It’s an amalgam of jealousy, possible lies, possible sex, a number of human behaviors that combine to create a very compelling story.”

Chris Dearborn, a Boston protection lawyer for 3 a long time and a medical regulation professor at Suffolk College Legislation College, stated the police’s dealing with of the bodily proof within the case is “a ripe area for cross-examination and argument for the defense.”

“You have all the weird stuff with the texts, and the love interests and the oddities with the forensic evidence and the oddities with the cell phones,” he stated. “There’s enough here that may not add up and give the jury pause. It just depends on whether or not that gives them enough pause for reasonable doubt and acquittal.”

Blood purple SOLO cups

“Nothing about the scene was standard,” stated Canton Police Lt. Paul Gallagher, who arrived on the scene together with the solar and took management following the preliminary witness statements and O’Keefe’s removing by ambulance.

He testified on the fifth day of trial, Might 6, that he selected to make use of a leaf blower to fight the falling snow and take away layers of it to get to any proof under.

He stated he noticed pink droplets that turned redder as he eliminated extra snow — O’Keefe’s blood. He didn’t have any precise proof assortment instruments so he retrieved a set of purple SOLO plastic cups — from a sealed bag, he burdened — from the house of a fellow officer who lived close by. Gallagher collected the purple snow within the cups, the place it will thaw right into a bloody combine.

These cups then in some unspecified time in the future had been collected right into a Cease & Store grocery bag, because the officers who took the stand stated they needed to improvise on the scene. Ample parts of cross-examination of the officers focused the storage strategies and that the bag was seen inside toes of Learn’s Lexus SUV, which protection attorneys stated might result in cross-contamination.

“The fact that they used red SOLO cups ostensibly from an unopened package doesn’t change the calculus for me,” Dearborn stated. “We think of college kids drinking beer and playing drinking games, that’s what we use red SOLO cups for.”

“I do appreciate that sometimes police need to be creative under pressure, but they have to expect to be thoroughly challenged by the defense, especially in a homicide case,” he added. “The general principle here is that jurors have the right to expect high-quality police work in how they maintain and preserve forensic evidence.”

Kickham equally described the gathering and retention of the proof as “far less than typically ideal forensic, evidence collection conditions. … It may not be literally amateur, but it’s close.”

A damaged cocktail glass

Canton Police Lt. Michael Lank, who was a sergeant on the time, additionally stated {that a} damaged cocktail glass was discovered on the scene. He and others say O’Keefe walked out of the Waterfall Bar and Grill in central Canton with simply such a glass when heading to the afterparty at 34 Fairview Street, the place he could be discovered useless or dying on the garden that morning.

On Might 7, Lank, carrying blue proof gloves, eliminated the glass from an proof field within the courtroom. The bottom and the jagged decrease sides of the glass had been all that remained of the one piece of bodily proof to enter the courtroom to this point. Every part else has been proven as images on a display screen.

Days later, a taillight

Neither Lank nor Gallagher nor some other first responder testified to seeing any items of a damaged taillight on the crime scene. However days after the murder, through which prosecutors allege Learn slammed her SUV into O’Keefe following a drunken battle and left him to die within the chilly, then-Canton PD Chief Kenneth Berkowitz stated he noticed simply such an merchandise when he drove by in his automotive.

He dispatched Lank to {photograph} the massive piece of purple plastic. And extra items had been allegedly recovered, an allegation that has practically introduced protection attorneys to assert it was planted there. They hammered every Canton officer who took the stand in the event that they noticed any of the “45” items of taillight there that morning, and so they every answered no.

“I think a prosecutor’s job is to be a constructionist while typically a defense lawyer is a deconstructionist and I think the best way to handle some of these legitimate questions about evidence … that the defense is going to argue should create a reasonable doubt,” Dearborn informed the Herald, is for prosecutors “to focus on the big picture and acknowledge small deficiencies.

“The more they fight them the more they’re going to walk into jurors questioning how significant those deficiencies are,” he stated.

Pictures of Learn’s Lexus proven in courtroom present a lacking or closely busted passenger-side taillight. The jurors additionally acquired a first-person have a look at the automobile on a subject journey to 34 Fairview Street, with Learn’s automobile parked exterior.

Defensive wounds

Of specific curiosity to Kickham is the {photograph} of O’Keefe’s arm, replete with scratches and different wounds.

“In and of themselves, the wounds are extremely suggestive of defensive wounds or an animal attack,” he informed the Herald, indicating what he noticed as “highly suggestive of animal scratches and tooth punctures.”

The protection has raised the speculation that Chloe, a 70-pound German shepherd combine owned by Brian and Nicole Albert, the homeowners of 34 Fairview Street, might have participated in an assault on O’Keefe. They’ve developed a “third party culpability” principle that posits that Brian Albert, ATF Agent Brian Higgins, and Albert’s nephew Colin Albert, or any mixture of the three, beat O’Keefe to demise and framed Learn.

“I realize that no canine DNA was found by officers responsible with evidence collection, but it is possible that it could have become degraded or lost in the process, possibly,” Kickham stated.

‘Hos long to die in cold’

Central to the speculation of a conspiracy to border Learn is strictly when Jennifer McCabe, Brian Albert’s sister-in-law, searched on her cellphone for “ho(w) long to die in cold.”

McCabe testified she did the search on her cellphone at 6:24 a.m. on the behest of Learn, who was hysterical over O’Keefe’s physique on the garden and needed to understand how rapidly hypothermia might set in.

However protection attorneys say that an evaluation of her cellphone suggests she really made the search at 2:27 a.m., hours earlier than McCabe, Learn and a girl named Kerry Roberts would discover O’Keefe and name police. She stated that’s not true and the one purpose the evaluation would present that’s as a result of she used the identical browser window to carry out the search that she was utilizing in mattress on the earlier time when she was searching for protection of her daughter’s sports activities sport from the earlier night.

“Even if her explanation is plausible, it’s still susceptible to two interpretations,” Dearborn stated. “She still could have done it at 2:27 or 6:24, but if it’s not plausible, then there’s only one interpretation: that she did the internet search at 2:27.”

Kickham agreed: “I think the veracity of her testimony is going to turn on possible expert testimony offered in the form of search engine expertise, if it is forthcoming.”

Flint McColgan/Boston Herald

Prosecutors within the Karen Learn homicide trial level to this damaged passenger-side taillight as onerous proof Learn struck Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe. (Photograph by Flint McColgan/Boston Herald)


Greg Derr/through AP, Pool

“Hos (sic) long to die in cold” Web search outcomes are offered by the protection as protection lawyer Alan Jackson questions witness Jen McCabe. (Greg Derr/through AP, Pool)

Karen Read at pre-trial hearing as her attorney shows a poster of John O'Keefe's arm. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

Nancy Lane/Boston Herald

Karen Learn at pre-trial listening to as her lawyer reveals a poster of John O’Keefe’s arm. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

Boston Police Officer John O'Keefe. (BDNews.com photo)

Boston Herald file picture

Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe. (BDNews.com picture)

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