Livestream video of the Karen Read murder trial: Monday, June 23

Live stream on NBC10 Boston.

On the stand:

  • Andrew Rentschler, ARCCA LLC


Update from 10:30 a.m.: John O'Keefe's injuries could indicate a physical altercation, says coroner

Retired forensic pathologist Dr. Frank Sheridan is questioned by defense attorney Elizabeth Little. Pat Greenhouse / The Boston Globe

According to Dr. Frank Sheridan, a retired California medical examiner, John O'Keefe's injuries could indicate a fight or physical altercation.

Sheridan, the former chief medical examiner for San Bernardino County in California, estimates he has performed between 12,000 and 13,000 autopsies over the course of his career. He said he has reviewed a number of documents in the Karen Read case, including photographs of O'Keefe's injuries as well as his autopsy, neuropathology and toxicology reports.

Defense attorney Elizabeth Little projected an image of O'Keefe's injured right arm to the jury and Sheridan shared some thoughts on the injuries.

“We classify them under the general category of blunt force injuries, but in these specific cases they are abrasions,” he said, adding, “Essentially these are friction injuries.”

He said O'Keefe suffered the arm injuries before he died.

“Based on your extensive training and experience, how do you assess the cause of injury consistent with personal injury caused by a vehicle?” asked Little.

“I would say no, it doesn’t look like that at all,” Sheridan replied.

“If you get hit by a vehicle or whatever part of your body is hit, if it's even a strong impact, you're going to get bruises,” he explained. “And here we don't have bruises. We just have linear … abrasions with no bruising.”

Sheridan said O'Keefe's arm injuries did not “remotely resemble an impact with a motor vehicle.” He also said the wounds suggested an animal attack.

“I'm not 100 percent sure, but when I saw the photo, my first thought was it was probably an animal – most likely a dog,” Sheridan said, identifying what he described as possible bite and scratch marks.

Little later asked Sheridan if the injuries were consistent with a scenario in which O'Keefe was standing with his arm outstretched and was struck from behind by an SUV traveling at 24 mph.

“No, I don't think so,” Sheridan replied, adding, “One thing that shouldn't be present in this idea, this scenario, is that there should be bruising. At least bruising, if not more.”

He further testified that O'Keefe's wound pattern did not appear to be consistent with the rear of a vehicle. He also later noted that leg injuries – particularly broken bones – are common when a pedestrian is struck by a car. O'Keefe had a small abrasion on the side of his right knee, but no leg fractures.

Little then turned her attention to O'Keefe's head injuries. Sheridan said O'Keefe's head trauma caused swelling of the brain and a herniation toward the upper part of his spinal cord.

“And that would have been the last straw,” Sheridan said. “It would have led to respiratory arrest and death. So that was definitely a fatal injury.”

He stated that O'Keefe must have been unconscious after the head trauma, but was able to breathe on his own for some time. Sheridan also claimed that earth or grass would have been too soft to cause O'Keefe's head injuries.

Little asked whether O'Keefe's injuries were consistent with a fight or a physical altercation.

“By and large, they can be,” Sheridan replied. “Yes, they could be.”

He pointed to a cut above O'Keefe's right eyelid and “scratch marks” on his face, as well as bruising on the back of his right hand.

“This type of injury to the hands can be what we call a defensive injury,” Sheridan said. “In other words, an injury that occurs when you are defending yourself and are struck either with the other fist or with a hard object.”

When Assistant District Attorney Adam Lally cross-examined Sheridan, the defense expert said that other than O'Keefe's arm wounds, he did not see any other injuries on the victim that would indicate an animal attack. Sheridan also confirmed that he could not say definitively what type of animal might have caused the marks.

He further testified that he could not say when or where the wounds were inflicted, but said O'Keefe's arm was probably injured “minutes to hours” before his death.

“You can't time injuries as precisely as you might imagine on 'CSI' or one of those TV shows,” Sheridan said. “But they're definitely generally recent.”

Lally asked a series of questions to gauge Sheridan's familiarity with the evidence in the case, including evidence recovered from Read's SUV and at the crime scene outside 34 Fairview Road.

Sheridan said he was unaware that the forensic science division of the University of California, Davis's veterinary genetics laboratory had found no trace of dog DNA in swabs taken from O'Keefe's shirt.

He also said he was unaware that months after O'Keefe's death, the family dog ​​Albert, a German shepherd mix named “Chloe,” attacked another dog and injured a human who tried to intervene. Likewise, Sheridan could not recall whether he knew that investigators had found microscopic pieces of plastic matching Read's taillight in O'Keefe's clothing.

“Were you ever shown any material indicating that there was DNA in the defendant's taillight housing that matched Mr. O'Keefe?” Lally asked.

“I asked myself,” Sheridan replied. “But I think the answer I got was 'no.'”

Lally turned his attention back to O'Keefe's arm injuries and asked Sheridan if he thought it was impossible that O'Keefe had been injured by broken glass, a taillight fragment, or any other vehicle part.

“They don’t look anything like that to me,” Sheridan replied.

Lally pointed to Sheridan's previous statement that the ground was too soft to cause O'Keefe's head injuries and asked if Sheridan's opinion would change if the ground had been completely frozen at the time. Judge Beverly Cannone overruled a defense objection, forcing Lally to rephrase his question.

If O'Keefe were hit by a car and hit his head on the ground, Lally asked, would the force be enough to cause a skull fracture in the back of his head?

“If all that happened, yes,” Sheridan replied. “On asphalt or something similar, yes. If that actually happened. But for other reasons, I don't think that happened.”

Karen Read's lawyers will be in the spotlight again Monday as the defense continues to present its arguments to the jury.

Read, 44, is accused of driving her Lexus SUV into her boyfriend, Boston police officer John O'Keefe, outside a Canton home in January 2022. Prosecutors allege she was driving drunk and intentionally struck O'Keefe as she dropped him off at a house party. But the Mansfield woman's lawyers say she was framed as part of a broad cover-up involving witnesses and law enforcement.

The prosecution concluded its evidence on Friday and Read's lawyers called their first three witnesses: a snow plow driver and experts in dog bites and digital forensics. Outside the courthouse on Friday, defense attorney Alan Jackson told WBZ that the defense could conclude its evidence as early as Monday.

“I think we'll be finished by Monday,” Jackson said, according to the news agency. “I think the closure [arguments] on Tuesday. And then we'll indict the jury. They'll have it maybe by the end of Tuesday.”

According to WBZ, the defense still plans to call two accident reconstructionists and a forensic pathologist to the witness stand.

On Friday, jurors heard testimony from snowplow driver Brian Loughran, who said he didn't see anything outside 34 Fairview Road when he first drove by around 2:45 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2022. O'Keefe's body was found on the front lawn just hours later.

Loughran also testified that he did not see anything outside 34 Fairview Road when he passed by for a second time that morning. When questioned by his defense attorney, David Yannetti, he specifically denied seeing a body on the lawn.

Read's lawyers have stated that sometime after midnight on the 29th, O'Keefe entered 34 Fairview Road, was beaten, attacked by the family dog ​​and thrown outside in the snow.

Defense expert Dr. Marie Russell, a retired emergency room physician and forensic pathologist, testified Friday that the wounds on O'Keefe's right arm “were caused by an animal, possibly a large dog, based on the pattern of injuries.”

Russell has authored or co-authored several peer-reviewed articles on dog bites in law enforcement.

Another key piece of evidence in the defense team's cover-up theory is a Google search conducted by witness Jennifer McCabe for “guys who want to die in the cold.” While two digital forensics experts have testified that McCabe conducted the search shortly after 6:20 a.m. on the 29th — after O'Keefe was found in the snow — defense expert Richard Green said the search actually took place hours earlier, at 2:27 a.m.

Green testified that the search “occurred at or before 2:27 a.m.” and “was in a deleted state” when he analyzed the data from McCabe's phone. Two other digital forensics experts, Jessica Hyde and Ian Whiffin, previously testified that the 2:27 a.m. timestamp actually indicates when McCabe first opened the browser tab.

Karen Read, center, and her defense attorneys Alan Jackson, left, and David Yannetti, right, listen as the prosecution questions their witness Dr. Marie Russell. – AP Photo/Josh Reynolds, Pool

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