Karen Read and Burrell Ramsey-White

Like many people in and out of Greater Boston, I’ve been following the Karen Read murder trial.

If you know about the case, you can skip this paragraph. The case concerns the death of John O’Keefe, who was found dead outside the home of Brian Albert on the morning of January 29th, 2022. O’Keefe had been dropped off outside Albert’s home after a night of drinking at around 12:30 AM by his girlfriend Karen Read. (Everyone inside the house had been out drinking at the same bars) The prosecution alleges that Karen Read intentionally hit John O’Keefe with her car and left him to die in the cold. The defense says that John O’Keefe’s death was not caused by the car, and that his death was caused by a person or people (and a dog) that were inside the house at the time.

I initially thought, well, she was drunk, they’d been fighting, she probably hit him. I didn’t give much credence to the defense theory, mostly because it was pushed by a lovelorn right-wing blogger who has a history of obnoxious behavior. But then I started watching recaps of the trial on YouTube. And folks, the case against this woman is a joke. Lots of people are covering this trial closely, but here’s a day-by-day recap.

I don’t have the energy to list all the ways in which the case is a joke, so I’ll just say this—the Commonwealth’s case against Karen Read requires you to ignore your common sense multiple times. Puncture marks on his sweater? Definitely caused by a taillight and not a dog. Parallel scratches on his arm such as might be made by dog claws or teeth? Taillight again! Evidence collected over a period of weeks from an unsecured crime scene? Not a problem! Two people and a dog sleeping through police, paramedics, and a screaming woman in their front yard? Sure, could happen. And the homeowners just happened to take up their basement floor and sell the house and the guy who texted everyone “tell them the guy was never in the house” actually was telling them to say that a guy who was never in the house was never in the house because that’s totally a thing people do. Oh yeah, and a bunch of the folks in the house just weirdly happened to destroy their phones. Just coincidence, folks. Move along, nothing to see here.

Now, if you follow the trial via the mainstream media, particularly the Boston Globe, you’ll find that Read’s defense attorneys are proposing a wildly improbable, wide-ranging conspiracy, but in fact, it’s really neither.

Because all you have to believe in order to think Karen Read is not guilty is that cops protect their own. We all know this is true. The cops don’t really make much of a secret about it. I’ll give you an example.

Did you know that in Boston, friends and families of cops are exempt from traffic laws? It’s true! Or at least it was 18 years ago. Can’t imagine much has changed. That’s when I was riding in a car with a guy who had a LOT of cop friends. He was impatient with the pace of traffic on Melnea Cass Boulevard, so he crossed over the double yellow and drove for half a block on the wrong side of this 4-lane road. A cop saw and pulled him over. The cop was verbally abusive, but the driver didn’t say a word in return. After the cop left, the driver explained to me that if you talk back to the cops, they put a star on the ticket. That way other cops know not to “fix” it. Otherwise, you just give your ticket to your cop buddy, and they “fix” it for you—no fines to pay, no points on your license—like it never happened.

But cops will sacrifice their friends and families to protect other cops as well. This is what happened with child rapist cop and Boston Patrolmen’s Union president Patrick Rose. In 1995, an internal affairs investigation found that he had molested a 12-year-old boy. He was not fired, and the union fought to get him back on the streets. and succeeded two years later. He went on to rape five more children that we know of. The streets he was put back on, by the way, were the streets of West Roxbury, where a lot of Boston Police officers live. This is how deeply sick the thin blue line is—they turned a known child rapist loose on their own children rather than hold him accountable.

So, back to Karen Read—you don’t have to be a deranged conspiracy theorist to believe this: Boston police officer John O’Keefe was found dead in the snow outside the Canton home of another Boston police officer, who was also the brother of a Canton police officer. And all the cops decided immediately that the owner of the home couldn’t be involved because he was a cop. So they found someone else to pin it on.

It’s not that the investigators knew John O’Keefe was killed inside the home and chose to cover it up, in my opinion—it’s that they simply never entertained the possibility, and they bent over backwards to avoid even the appearance of considering Brian Albert or anyone who had been inside his home a suspect.

To wit: they found John O’Keefe’s body on Brian Albert’s front lawn and didn’t even ask to search the house. Do you think the same would happen to you if the body of someone you know was found on your front lawn?

Again, I could go on and on about details of the trial, but the bottom line is this—the Commonwealth’s case against Karen Read simply doesn’t make sense. This, of course, is why the federal government is investigating Canton Police and Massachusetts State Police for misconduct in this case.

So why, I wonder, is the local media, and the Globe in particular, so pro-prosecution?

I think it’s because the Globe has a very pro status-quo bias, and this case presents a challenge to the status quo. Because why did the cops in this case investigate with either clownish incompetence or actual malice? Probably because they were confident they could get away with this. I don’t think the police (mis)conduct in this case is at all unusual; I think it’s just that Karen Read was able to raise enough money to hire top-notch defense attorneys to expose all the holes in the Commonwealth’s case.

I can’t be the only one who thinks this—if you’re competent and professional, you don’t suddenly get incompetent, shady, and unprofessional for one case. It’s just your way of working.

Or, to put it another way—if the cops will do this to a white woman, what would they do to a Black man? Black folks already know that policing is a deeply corrupt institution, but if white suburbanites catch on? That might mean trouble.

The question of what cops and the entire law enforcement structure might do to a Black Man is illustrated by the case of Burrell Ramsey-White, who was shot dead by Boston Police Officer Matthew Pieroway in 2012 at the age of twenty-six. I was Burrell’s ninth-grade English teacher, so I’ve had a special interest in the case.

I’ve written about this case here and here. (And I think somewhere else too, but I can’t find it.) The second link is a pretty comprehensive look at what I know about the case. As with the Karen Read case, the official story here makes no sense at all.

Nobody in the local media ever followed up about why the police initially lied about the reason for the traffic stop. (I mean, we know they lied in order to create the “he had it coming” narrative, but it baffles me that local reporters will serve as stenographers for police lies and never feel the need to point out that they were used in this fashion.). There were some bombshell revelations in the civil suit filed against Matthew Pieroway and Joel Resil (the other officer on the scene) by Burrell’s mom that show that the report on the incident from D.A. Conley featured one outright lie and one lie of omission. Conley’s report says no one ever checked Burrell’s ID, but it came out at trial that Officer Joel Resil actually did. Conley’s report also neglects to mention that Pieroway and Resil were ordered not to pursue Burrell when he fled from them, and they chose to do it anyway. Had Pieroway followed orders, Burrell would still be alive. Not only did Pieroway not get disciplined for not following orders, he actually got a medal from Governor Deval Patrick. True story!

But there were no youtubers covering the civil trial. Nobody was posting videos with titles like, “BLOCKBUSTER testimony shows D.A. LIED!!” Nobody in the local media covered the civil trial except to write when the jury ultimately sided with the cops. I’ve reached out to a number of journalists with more reach and power than I have asking them to please write something about this case. And nobody has. Just another Black man with a gun (that didn’t have his fingerprints or DNA on it, but never mind, don’t ask questions, move along).

So we don’t have to ask what police do when the accused is not a white woman. We know. They do the same damn thing and worse. The only difference is that nobody gives a shit.