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SJC justice rules Karen Read can access small portion of cellphone records she sought

Karen Read appeared in Norfolk Superior Court for a pre-trial hearing in June.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

A single justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Wednesday that Karen Read, who is awaiting trial on charges in the death of a Boston police officer, can have access to a small portion of the cellphone records her defense attorneys had requested.

Read, 43, has been indicted by a Norfolk County grand jury on charges of murder, manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol, and leaving the scene of personal injury and death in connection with the January 2022 death of her boyfriend, Officer John O’Keefe.

Read’s lawyers had filed a motion requesting cellphones and related data for Boston police Sergeant Brian Albert and cellphone data for his sister-in-law, Jennifer McCabe, both of whom were present with Read and O’Keefe at a bar the night before O’Keefe was found dead outside Albert’s Canton home, according to court records.

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That motion was previously rejected by Norfolk Superior Court Judge Beverly J. Cannone, and Read appealed to the state’s highest court to reverse the decision, records show.

Associate Justice Scott L. Kafker ruled Wednesday that Read’s defense team can access McCabe’s phone records from the day O’Keefe’s body was found but turned down their request for additional records from McCabe and Albert’s phones.

Kafker agreed with Cannone “that the defendant had not shown that relevant, admissible evidence would be found on Albert’s cell phone or in Albert’s cell phone records,” he wrote in his decision.

He also agreed that Read’s request for records from McCabe’s phone for several days around O’Keefe’s death amounted to “a fishing expedition,” with the exception of the 24-hour period after Read, O’Keefe, and the others left a bar around midnight on Jan. 28, 2022, according to the ruling.

Kafker wrote that computer forensic experts for Read’s defense team had alleged that someone had performed a Google search on McCabe’s phone at 2:27 a.m. on Jan. 29 for “hos [sic] long to die in cold” and subsequently deleted it, while an expert for Norfolk County prosecutors said there was no record of the search.

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Experts for both sides agree that McCabe conducted similar searches shortly before 6:30 a.m. that day.

Kafker wrote that Cannone, for the purpose of considering Read’s motion, had assumed that McCabe had made and deleted the 2:27 a.m. search, but it “does not follow from that presumption that the defendant’s request for McCabe’s cell phone records related to this search are not relevant or that the request amounts to a ‘fishing expedition.’”

“Indeed, what does follow is that the information related specifically to that request is relevant and sought in good faith,” he wrote.

Read’s trial is scheduled to begin in March.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him @jeremycfox.