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Judge in Karen Read case refuses to step down, hears arguments on gag order

Karen Read appeared in Norfolk County Superior Court for a pretrial hearing in May.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Norfolk Superior Court Judge Beverly J. Cannone refused Tuesday to recuse herself from the upcoming murder trial of Karen Read, saying she does not know and has not had dealings with anyone involved in the case, despite defense attorneys’ claims.

Cannone is presiding over pretrial matters related to Read’s charge of second-degree murder in the January 2022 death of her boyfriend, Boston police Officer John J. O’Keefe. The judge said in court Tuesday that Read’s motion for Cannone’s recusal “is not credible” and that “all four points raised in the defendant’s motion are without merit.”

“There’s no actual lack of impartiality; there is no reasonable or credible appearance of lack of impartiality,” the judge said. “And I want to make it very clear that I reject the notion that untrue and unsubstantiated rumors spread on the Internet can force a judge to recuse herself from a case.”


Read, 43, has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, motor vehicle manslaughter while driving impaired, and leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury and death. Authorities allege that after arguing with O’Keefe, Read made a three-point turn to leave the home, hit O’Keefe with her SUV, and left him there.

Around 6 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2022, Read discovered O’Keefe’s unconscious body in a snowbank during a blizzard. O’Keefe was later pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton.

Read’s lawyers have asserted that O’Keefe, 46, was beaten in the basement of a Canton home owned by a fellow Boston police officer, Sergeant Brian Albert, and that Albert’s family dog, a German shepherd, scratched O’Keefe’s right arm during the struggle. Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s office has dismissed that claim as baseless.

Earlier in the hearing, defense attorneys held up posterboards showing enlarged screenshots of a text message exchange and a Venmo transaction that purportedly showed Cannone’s connections to people involved in the case. Cannone said she had never met those people.


The judge also heard arguments Tuesday concerning the prosecution’s request that she block defense attorneys from making public statements outside court as part of a “trial by media strategy.”

Assistant District Attorney Adam C. Lally accused defense lawyers of sending motions in the case to news outlets before filing them with the court and of “cherry-picking certain items of evidence, completely divorced from their context within the body of evidence that has been provided through the course of discovery, and releasing certain pieces of evidence directly to the media.”

In response, defense attorney David R. Yannetti fired back at the district attorney’s office, saying prosecutors wanted to control the narrative and did not object when officials made public statements indicating Read was guilty of the murder charge.

“Can you imagine the hypocrisy of the prosecution, now coming before this court to suggest that a gag order is appropriate?” Yannetti said. “How dare they! Not only is it not appropriate, it’s unconstitutional. Not only is it unconstitutional, it is anticonstitutional.

“We, not only as defense attorneys but as US citizens, have a First Amendment right to speak out, consistent with our ethical duties as lawyers representing a client who has been falsely charged with a crime,” he continued.

Cannone said she would take the motion for a gag order under advisement.


Read was recently interviewed by NBC’s “Dateline” and a portion was broadcast Monday on the network’s “Today” show.

Read remains free on $100,000 bail and is due back in court for a status hearing on Sept. 15. A trial date has not been set.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him @jeremycfox. John R. Ellement can be reached at Follow him @JREbosglobe.