If you’re one of the many people paying close attention to the ongoing murder trial of Karen Read — who’s accused of fatally striking her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe, with her SUV on a snowy night in 2022 — there’s a vast array of coverage options.

For example, you can get rolling updates from The Boston Globe, which regularly rank among the paper’s most-read stories. Similar offerings are available from the Boston Herald. Since the trial is in state court, where cameras are allowed, you can also stream it live: on a recent weekday morning, 24,000 people were watching the Law & Crime Network’s stream on YouTube, with 14,000 watching Court TV’s and more than 6,000 viewing NBC10 Boston’s. You can also get after-the-fact daily recaps from Boston’s various broadcast-news stations — including NBC10, which has a show dedicated entirely to each day’s proceedings.

For trial mavens sympathetic to the defense, there’s another crucial source: the website Turtleboy Daily News, the right-leaning, muckraking blogger Aidan Kearney — aka “Turtleboy” — has been arguing for more than a year that Read is being framed in an elaborate conspiracy involving members of law enforcement. (Kearney has also been charged with witness intimidation in connection with his activism around the case; those charges are pending.) With his early and aggressive coverage, Kearney, who already had a dedicated following, ensured that the trial would have a sizable audience, and his conspiracy theories anticipated the approach Read’s defense team would ultimately take.

The broad array of Read coverage, in national outlets ranging from the highbrow to the lowbrow, attests to the massive public interest in the case — and it also raises some questions: Why are so many people following this trial so obsessively? And what might it say about our political and cultural moment?

On one level, the answer is obvious: true crime gets eyeballs and clicks. In a 2022 YouGov poll half the respondents said true crime was either their favorite genre or one they enjoy, and a third said they consumed it at least on a weekly basis. A third of respondents in that same poll also said TV was their preferred mode of consumption.

Another study, conducted in 2023 by Pew, found that true crime podcasts are more popular than any other type, with women and people with less formal education especially likely to listen.

Even taking those preferences into account, though, there are certain facets of the Read trial that set this particular case apart. One is the aforementioned notion that Read, who dropped O’Keefe off at retired Boston police officer Brian Albert’s home in Canton after Read and O’Keefe had spent the night drinking with Albert and others, is the victim of an elaborate law enforcement plot to frame her for his murder.

According to the defense, Read didn’t fatally strike O’Keefe with her SUV after dropping him off. Instead, her attorneys claim he went inside and was subsequently beaten, possibly by one or more individuals with law-enforcement ties, and attacked by a dog before being moved outside. They say his murder was then covered up by both perpetrators and investigators, who had preexisting ties and worked in tandem to conceal the truth.

This theory of the case “feeds into a certain zeitgeist that exists right now — the notion of the conspiratorial powers that be,” said Jack Cunha, a well-known Boston defense attorney. “Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that the people who are fascinated by it are Trump supporters or those who seem to indulge in conspiracy theories, but I think it’s in the same vein. It’s the same sense of a cabal, and I think that just fascinates people.”

That fascination is especially acute, Cunha suggests, because a bevy of details that have been presented in court lend some plausibility to this theory of the case.

“They all know each other, but at least some of them have sort of downplayed how well they knew each other and then had to admit that they’d done that,” Cunha said, referring to the individuals linked by the defense to the alleged conspiracy to frame Read. “There’s the search of the scene which finds nothing, and they pore over it, and then the next day they come up with pieces of a broken tail light. … There’s a number of things like that, and one way to tie them together is the sense that people are conspiring.”

Sue O’Connell, who’s in the courtroom most days for NBC10, has a slightly different take. (O’Connell is also a GBH News contributor.) She argues that whatever theory of the case one prefers regarding Read’s guilt or innocence, the trial has repeatedly offered reasons to draw the exact opposite conclusion. If you’re sympathetic to Read, for example, voicemails in which she heaped abuse on O’Keefe might make you reconsider. The result, O’Connell says, is “multiple layers of confusion and intrigue” that create a strong enticement to keep paying attention.

There are other factors worth considering. O’Keefe was handsome and altruistic, raising his nephew and niece after their mother and father passed away in 2013 and 2014. Read, for her part, comes off as telegenic and stylish. And when women, who commit far fewer murders than men, are accused of the crime, both the media and the public tend to pay especially close attention (think of the trials of Amanda Knox, Casey Anthony, and Louise Woodward).

What’s more, O’Connell said, the people who Read’s defenders believe set her up represent a fascinating subculture in their own right.

“You basically have all of these first responders and police officers who, on the night before a big blizzard, decide that they’re going to go out drinking — and then go to a [retired] Boston cop’s house for more drinking afterwards,” O’Connell said. “You’ve got this bar-hopping culture.”

In that sense, O’Connell says, the Read trial doubles as an extremely close, warts-and-all look at an American small town. It’s striking, she says, “how many people are related to each other in Canton … people who have lived there for generations, and they’ve got family on the select board or on the fire department or on the police force. … [P]eople who are entrenched in the community who are witnesses, it adds to another level of interest for people who are watching from the outside.”

That aspect also drew in Andie Cassette and Jessie Pray of the podcast “Love Murder,” whose episodes usually focus on cases that have already been decided in court. Recently, the pair broke with that approach to produce an episode on the Read case, which they say attracted slightly more listeners and considerably more social media engagement than usual.

I spoke with them after they returned from Crimecon, an annual conference dedicated to all things true crime.

“There was a lot of stuff going on in the true crime world, including [convicted triple murderer] Chad Daybell being sentenced — and still, everyone was just talking about the Karen Read trial,” Pray said.

At the convention, the pair was approached by multiple subscribers who professed shock at the details of the investigation. “We have a lot of listeners who are actually involved in law enforcement in other states,” Pray said. “And they were coming up to us and saying, ‘As police officers, we were listening to this episode and we kept stopping it and screaming.’”

Trials like this one, Pray suggests, gives everyone who follows along the chance to feel like they’re an investigator making a contribution to a greater cause.

“True-crime enthusiasts ... they’re looking for justice,” she added. “And we’re watching people in real time question law enforcement … everyone from amateur detectives to defense attorneys to people who are involved in the DA’s office in other jurisdictions, as well as law enforcement officers from other areas of the country.”

That framing of the public’s obsession with the case calls to mind another point O’Connell made when discussing the Read trial’s far-reaching public appeal — namely, that for many of Read’s supporters, it’s the first time they’ve found themselves deeply distrustful of law enforcement.

“I got a lot of pushback a couple of weeks ago when I said I that felt that the Karen Read supporters, the Free Karen Readers, had a lot in common with Black Lives Matter,” O’Connell said. “But … I’ve spoken to a number of the Free Karen Read supporters who just described themselves as Thin Blue Line supporters, that were always very pro-police, but are now wondering how something like this, from their perspective, could happen to someone like Karen Read, [and] now wondering what else is happening.”

Whatever the outcome is for Read, then, her trial has the potential to become a seminal moment in conservative skepticism regarding the potential excesses and abuses of the criminal justice system — one that happens to coincide with the recent felony convictions of former President Donald Trump. If so, it could have an outsized cultural impact few people anticipated when it first began.

Corrected: June 11, 2024
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the Karen Read trial is taking place in a district court. It is being tried in Norfolk Superior Court.