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George O'Toole

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George O'Toole
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Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts
Title:   Judge
Position:   Seat #2
Service:
Appointed by:   Bill Clinton
Active:   5/26/1995 (3/1/2001) - Present
Preceded by:   Edward Harrington
Personal History
Born:   1947
Hometown:   Worcester, MA
Undergraduate:   Boston College, A.B., 1969
Law School:   Harvard U. Law, J.D., 1972
George A. O'Toole, Jr. (b. 1947) is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. He joined the court in 1995 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton. He joined the court as a temporary replacement for Rya Zobel, who was serving as the Director of the Federal Judicial Center. He retained his position when she returned in 1999 and filled the first vacancy, which was created in 2001 when Edward Harrington assumed senior status.[1]

Early life and education

Born in Wocester, Massachusetts, O'Toole graduated from Boston College with his bachelor's degree in 1969 and later obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School in 1972.[1]

Professional career

O'Toole was a private practice attorney in Massachusetts from 1972 to 1982 before serving as an Associate Justice in the Boston Municipal Court from 1982 to 1990. In 1990, Governor Michael Dukakis appointed O'Toole to Associate Justice for the Superior Court of Massachusetts from 1990 to 1995.[1]

Judicial career

District of Massachusetts

On the recommendation of U.S. Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, O'Toole was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts by President Bill Clinton on April 4, 1995, to a temporary judgeship created by 104 Stat. 5089, which was approved by Congress to fill the temporary vacancy created when Rya Zobel served as the Director of the Federal Judicial Center. O'Toole was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 25, 1995, on a Senate vote and received commission on May 26, 1995. He retained his position when she returned in 1999 and filled the first vacancy, which was created in 2001 when Edward Harrington assumed senior status.[1]

Notable cases

Boston Marathon bombings (2013)

     United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (U.S. v. Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 1:13-cr-10200)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is accused of orchestrating the bombings that took place at the 117th running of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Tsarnaev's brother, Tamerlan, was also a suspect in the case, but was killed during a police shootout before Tsarnaev's capture. The explosions near the finish line killed three people and wounded 260. Tsarnaev was charged with 30 criminal counts, 17 of which include the death penalty as a possible punishment. While capital punishment is unconstitutional in Massachusetts, Tsarnaev has been charged under federal terrorism laws that allow for the implementation of the death penalty. Tsarnaev's attorneys requested additional time to convince prosecutors to spare their client's life, but O'Toole denied the defense attorneys' pleas. In the ruling, O'Toole cited the Attorney General's ultimate discretion in the matter, noting that it would be "well beyond the scope of any inherent authority" he had to intervene.[2][3][4][5]


Tsarnaev's attorneys also requested sweeping access to the prosecution's files in the case -- a request that O'Toole denied. Tsarnaev's defense team failed to provide any specificity in their request, which prompted O'Toole to note that the defense "essentially seeks access to the government’s information haystack because he is confident there are useful evidentiary needles to be found there. That is simply not enough to trigger a disclosure obligation..." O'Toole did, however, rule that Tsarnaev's attorneys were entitled to all relevant information in the government's files, including but not limited to, recordings of calls Tsarnaev made while in custody, and information regarding Tsarnaev's eligibility for the death penalty. The order can be found here.[6]


Attorney General Eric Holder had until January 31, 2014, to decide whether the government would pursue the death penalty as an option in the case. On January 30, 2014, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would authorize prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Tsarnaev, citing the defendant's lack of remorse and the age of the victims, one of whom was eight years old. The DOJ's notice of intent to seek the death penalty is available here. On February 12, 2014, O'Toole notified counsel that Tsarnaev's trial would begin on November 3, 2014, despite the fact that Tsarnaev's defense team requested that the trial begin no earlier than fall 2015.[7][8]


On February 20, 2014, Judge O'Toole approved the addition of a second death penalty expert to Tsarnaev's defense team. The defense team's previous request to supplement their client's representation in court was denied by O'Toole, without prejudice. In this case, the judge ruled that a "satisfactory showing" was made as to why a second death penalty expert was "necessary for adequate representation."[9]


On March 12, 2014, Judge O'Toole set a hearing date of April 16, 2014, which would allow the defense to present arguments as to why the court should end their client's special prison restrictions. In addition, the defense will be allowed to argue in favor of reducing the total number of criminal charges their client faces. Tsarnaev's lawyers believe that "[s]uch proliferation of multiple capital charges arising from each alleged act appears designed to put a thumb on the scales of justice in favor of the death penalty."[10]

See also

External links

References

Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Edward Harrington
District of Massachusetts
1995–present
Seat #2
Succeeded by:
NA


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