Norfolk DA’s office will remain on Karen Read case after judge denies motion to disqualify


Judge Beverly Cannone declined to take the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office off Read’s case, even as she acknowledged some of DA Michael Morrissey’s comments have “crossed the line.”

Karen Read talking to her defense attorneys, David Yannetti, right, and Alan Jackson, before a February court hearing. Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe Staff, File

Some of Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s comments on the Karen Read case “crossed the line” and “undoubtedly reflected poor judgment” — but not enough to warrant removing the DA’s office from the high-profile murder case, a judge ruled last week. 

Lawyers for Read, 44, argued that Morrissey violated the Mansfield woman’s right to a fair trial when he put out an Aug. 25 video statement defending the integrity of the investigation and commenting on witnesses’ credibility. The defense also alleged that the DA’s office failed to disclose information about a separate federal probe into the case in a timely manner. 

However, Judge Beverly Cannone disagreed. 

“Though certain comments by DA Morrissey crossed the line of permissible extrajudicial statements by a prosecutor, they are not egregious misconduct that is reasonably or substantially likely to materially prejudice or interfere with a fair trial,” Cannone wrote in the 11-page ruling.

Read is accused of backing her SUV into her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe, and leaving him to die in the snow outside a fellow Boston officer’s home in Canton in January 2022. Her lawyers say she’s the victim of a widespread cover-up among law enforcement and witnesses, alleging that O’Keefe was actually beaten inside the home. 

In her ruling, Cannone acknowledged that some of Read’s concerns about the DA’s office were “nontrivial.” In particular, Morrissey’s comments about witnesses’ credibility could have a prejudicial effect on court proceedings, and his statement that the defense theory is “a desperate attempt to re-assign guilt” runs the risk of heightening public condemnation of Read, the judge noted. 

However, Cannone also pointed out that Morrissey’s statement came before a trial date was set, and therefore “is less likely to materially prejudice the proceedings.” The court can also mitigate any potential prejudice through the voir dire process of jury selection, she said.

Further, Cannone added, disqualifying an entire district attorney’s office from a case is “highly unusual.” 

As for the defense team’s claims that the DA’s office withheld information on the federal probe, Cannone determined that Read’s lawyers had the same information as prosecutors did in May 2023, when defense attorney Alan Jackson referenced the investigation during a hearing. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts began looking into O’Keefe’s death and Read’s prosecution in November 2022, but federal prosecutors’ correspondence with Morrissey’s office shows the DA had “little to no information” about the probe in May 2023, according to Cannone. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys received more than 3,000 pages of information on the federal investigation in February.

As such, “any delay in disclosure by the [Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office] does not require the drastic sanction of dismissal or disqualification,” Cannone wrote. 

Reached for comment on the ruling, Morrissey’s office said prosecutors “look forward to presenting the case to a jury as soon as possible.” 

Read’s case is scheduled to go to trial April 16. 

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