June 19, 2024

Crime

In a marathon listening to Friday, the decide in Karen Learn’s homicide case heard a number of motions and set a trial date for subsequent March.

Karen Learn appeared in Norfolk County Superior Courtroom for a pre-trial listening to in Might. John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe, File

Prosecutors and protection attorneys for Karen Learn went head-to-head in court docket Friday, buying and selling scathing barbs and arguing a sequence of recent motions as Choose Beverly Cannone set a trial date for March 12, 2024. 

Learn is accused of killing her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe, early on Jan. 29, 2022. 

Prosecutors say that after an evening of consuming, Learn struck O’Keefe together with her automotive and left him to die within the snow whereas dropping him off on the Canton residence of Brian Albert, a fellow Boston police officer. Her attorneys argue that she is being framed, and that O’Keefe was truly crushed to dying. 

Learn has pleaded not responsible to prices of second-degree homicide, motorcar manslaughter whereas driving below the affect, and leaving the scene of a collision inflicting damage and dying.

The contentious case has drawn intensive media protection and widespread debate in Canton and past, with Learn’s supporters rallying exterior the courthouse throughout her hearings. 

Protection says prosecutors have withheld proof

In court docket Friday, the protection workforce accused prosecutors of withholding a number of objects of proof, together with samples taken from O’Keefe’s clothes and physique, in addition to items of a damaged taillight reportedly discovered on the scene.

Protection legal professional Elizabeth Little alleged that since Learn’s arraignment greater than a yr in the past, “the protection nonetheless has not been allowed to a lot as have a look at the bodily proof that the commonwealth has had in its possession for 21 months, and has so desperately withheld from the protection out of concern of what it’d present.” 

Little additionally mentioned that date-marked proof luggage prompt investigators carried out no less than 5 undocumented searches at Albert’s residence and reportedly recovered items of a taillight.

“We don’t have a police report for any of these. No notes, no stories, no pictures of the place these taillight items have been discovered within the yard,” Little mentioned, including, “If this info exists, we’re entitled to it. We want a brief compliance date for the manufacturing of those notes and stories in order that we are able to no less than try to forestall additional fabrication of proof.”

Assistant District Legal professional Adam Lally pushed again, asserting that “any suggestion that we’re ‘desperately withholding’ proof from the protection as we’re afraid of what it’d present is simply patently ridiculous.” 

He famous that some proof remains to be present process testing, additionally casting doubt on the protection declare of 5 undocumented searches. 

“I’ll actually look into that, and if there may be any documentation associated to these — whether or not they be notes, whether or not they be pictures, whether or not they be stories — the commonwealth has no concern of offering these in brief order,” Lally mentioned. 

Cannone ordered expedited testing and requested prosecutors to report again on outcomes by Nov. 3.

Hair pattern known as into query

At one level, the protection workforce additionally accused prosecutors of mendacity in regards to the details in court docket filings.

The dispute concerned a hair prosecutors mentioned was recovered from Learn’s bumper. Protection legal professional Alan Jackson argued that “the historical past of that hair is considerably tortured,” asserting that testing on the hair confirmed “no human DNA detected.” 

“So after … 19 months or so of claiming this was a human hair on the again of that bumper, seems it’s not hair, and DNA testing indicated it was not a hair, and now the commonwealth appears to be in some kind of triage mode to attempt to determine how they made a mistake,” Jackson mentioned. “Truly, I query whether or not or not it was a mistake, as a result of you may make a mistake as soon as — I don’t know that you could possibly do it 4 separate occasions.” 

He additionally alleged that the state police forensic skilled who initially confirmed that the hair was human had failed their proficiency examination.

Lally refuted Jackson’s narrative as “a whole misrepresentation of what that DNA testing report says.” He asserted that the take a look at’s lack of ability to detect a enough quantity of DNA didn’t essentially imply that the hair wasn’t human.

Prosecutors are requesting additional DNA testing that may probably deplete the proof pattern, given its measurement. The protection, nonetheless, is asking that the hair be made out there to their skilled first.

Livestream of the listening to through WCVB.

Learn asks decide to return bail cash

Learn’s attorneys additionally requested the court docket to return $80,000 in bail cash she had beforehand posted and depart Learn free on private recognizance. In alternate, they mentioned, Learn would flip in her passport and signal a waiver of rendition. 

The attorneys’ argument was primarily based partly on Learn’s mounting authorized bills, with protection legal professional David Yannetti describing an “overwhelming monetary crush” tied to her legal case.

He denied that Learn posed a flight danger, noting her private ties to Massachusetts and the nationwide publicity her case has generated.

“My shopper is without doubt one of the most recognizable legal defendants in America,” Yannetti mentioned. “The place on earth would she go, even when she wished to go someplace?”

Yannetti additionally argued that the circumstances of the case have “utterly modified” since Cannone final reconsidered Learn’s bail earlier this yr.

He cited info from a snowplow driver who allegedly cleared Fairview Highway the day O’Keefe died and advised investigators that he didn’t see a physique exterior Albert’s residence when he handed by early that morning.

“The plow driver’s testimony ought to finish this case. To place it merely, no physique at 2:30 a.m. means Karen Learn is harmless,” Yannetti mentioned. “Neglect about all the opposite proof that factors to her innocence; this one truth alone prevents the commonwealth from ever convicting her.”

He additionally attacked the credibility of 1 investigator, Massachusetts State Police Trooper Michael Proctor, alleging that Proctor has private ties to the Alberts and even calling him “corrupt.” 

Viewers members within the courtroom erupted into laughter and jeers as Lally asserted there may be “merely no proof of Trooper Proctor having an in depth reference to the owners.”

District Legal professional Michael Morrissey made an analogous assertion final month, when he launched a video making an attempt to debunk conspiracy theories and condemning witness harassment within the case.

Morrissey asserted that Proctor had no shut private relationship with anybody concerned within the investigation, nor was he on the scene the day O’Keefe died. 

A press release of the case filed by prosecutors in 2022 notes that Proctor and state police Sgt. Yuriy Bukhenik “responded to the scene” and interviewed witnesses on Jan. 29, however a spokesperson for the DA’s workplace later advised Boston.com that Albert’s residence was not among the many varied scenes Proctor and Bukhenik visited that day. 

Morrissey’s public assertion seemingly touched a nerve with Learn’s supporters, because the DA’s title appeared on no less than one signal within the crowd exterior the courthouse Friday. 

Jackson additionally took goal at Morrissey whereas addressing Learn’s supporters after the listening to, in response to the Boston Herald

“I’ll say this slowly so you possibly can perceive,” Jackson reportedly mentioned, incomes some laughs. “Michael Morrissey, we ain’t received no give up. … Ms. Learn and her household won’t ever, ever give up.”

Cannone took Learn’s bail request below advisement. Additionally pending is prosecutors’ movement to request footage from interviews Learn gave to NBC’s “Dateline” and ABC’s “Nightline.” Protection attorneys didn’t object to the movement, however Cannone opted to provide each networks extra time to weigh in.