Karen Read Trial, Proctor Keep Focus On State Police

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2024/07/04/karen-read-trial-proctor-keep-focus-on-state-police/

By Sam Doran
State House News Service

With the declaration of a mistrial in the Karen Read murder case, eyes that had been glued for weeks to the proceedings at Norfolk County Superior Court are focusing on the executive branch of state government as pressure mounts on the Massachusetts State Police.

The agency announced shortly after the mistrial Monday, July 1 that Trooper Michael Proctor, who served as lead investigator probing the death of Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe, was “immediately” relieved of duty and would be transferred out of the Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s office by Sunday, July 7.

Proctor’s new assignment is Troop H, but he is not working, a State Police spokesman told State House News Service. A duty status hearing in “the near future” will result in a determination of whether Proctor continues to be paid, the spokesman said.  He took home more than $146,000 last year, including $102,400 in base pay, according to comptroller’s records.

“In any State Police discipline process, the Trooper is subject to a duty status hearing where they will be retained on full duty, placed on restricted duty, suspended with pay, or suspended without pay,” the agency said this week.

Meantime, the union representing State Police troopers and sergeants said Tuesday afternoon, July 2 that the Read trial featured “nuances of legal proceedings” and had “blurred the lines between fact and innuendo.”

Proctor’s removal from the Norfolk District Attorney’s office “follows our previous decision to open an internal affairs investigation after information about serious misconduct emerged in testimony at the trial,” Colonel John Mawn, interim superintendent of the State Police, said Monday. “This investigation is ongoing.”

Mawn has served as interim superintendent since February 2023 while Healey’s long search for a permanent successor has dragged on.

“We’ll have more on that soon,” Healey said in mid-June of the search process.

Personal text messages from Trooper Proctor emerged publicly through the trial featuring comments about Read which Governor Maura Healey has denounced as “unprofessional.” Proctor used vulgar slurs to refer to Read, made light of a medical ailment she suffered from, said he wished she would kill herself, and joked about searching the suspect’s phone for nude photographs.

“It’s terrible … it’s completely unprofessional,” Healey said on June 13 when asked about Proctor’s texts. “It does harm, frankly, to the dignity and the integrity of the work of men and women across the State Police and law enforcement. So as a former attorney general and as governor, I am disgusted by that.”

Proctor’s conduct could have effects in other cases, such as the high-profile Brian Walshe murder case out of Cohasset. Proctor was involved in the Walshe investigation, and that matter has been assigned to the same judge as the Read trial:  Superior Court Judge Beverly Cannone.

Beyond Proctor, other State Police officers were on a text thread raised during the trial. Interim superintendent Mawn said Tuesday that he sees his agency coming under the microscope.

“We’re gonna see additional scrutiny on all of these investigations as a result of what has come about in regards to the most recent trial. And we’re prepared for that,” Mawn told reporters, according to the Boston Globe.

Brian Williams, head of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, said the trial “shined a bright light on our judicial process and the nuances of legal proceedings” and “also blurred the lines between fact and innuendo presented during the defense of the accused.”

“It is our understanding that this discipline came as a result of the trooper’s private text message exchanges that were made public during the trial. We also understand that it has no relationship to salacious allegations of cover-ups, collusion, or conspiracies offered by the defense,” Williams said Tuesday.

The union president continued, “The Association is proud of the work our members do each day, as well as the fact that our Massachusetts homicide solve rate is the envy of the country. At the same time, we must be clear that we do not condone the language used in text messages presented as evidence during the trial.”

As for the Canton murder case in which Proctor was a featured witness, District Attorney Morrissey’s office wrote Monday that “[t]he Commonwealth intends to re-try the case.”

Morrissey has faced public pressure and scrutiny over the case, including jabs from Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr. Carr wrote last week that Morrissey “and his bent band of state police detectives may yet have another opportunity to explain themselves — in front of the federal grand jury that’s been all over this miscarriage of justice.”

A Democrat from Quincy’s Squantum neighborhood, Morrissey served in the Massachusetts House and Massachusetts Senate from 1977 to 2011 before taking on the DA’s job. He is next up for re-election in 2026, and his campaign warchest has hovered between around $450,000 and $500,000 in recent years, though without any significant fund-raising since 2021.

Before she declared the mistrial Monday, Judge Cannone gave the jury a Tuey-Rodriguez charge — instructions that underscore another jury would likely find themselves in the same situation.

“You have been selected in the same manner and from the same source as any future jury would be selected,” Cannone told jurors Monday. “There is no reason to suppose that this case will ever be submitted to 12 persons who are more intelligent, more impartial, or more competent to decide it than you are. Or that more or clearer evidence will be produced at another trial. With all this in mind, it is your duty to decide this case if you can do so conscientiously.”

If Morrissey does re-try the state’s case against Read, without a change of venue, Cannone would again preside.

“Judge Cannone has been assigned to the Commonwealth v. Karen Read case, and that has not changed,” court spokeswoman Jennifer Donahue said Wednesday.

Parties in the case are scheduled to conference on Monday, July 22 at the Dedham courthouse.


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