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George O'Toole

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George O'Toole
Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts
Title:   Judge
Position:   Seat #2
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 Worcester, 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. He was appointed 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 Zobel returned in 1999 and filled the first vacancy, which was created in 2001 when Edward Harrington assumed senior status.[1]

Notable cases

Bombing suspect loses pre-trial challenges (2014)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 21-year-old who along with his brother is accused of masterminding the Boston Marathon terror attack, lost his bid to have evidence kept from the jury when he goes to trial. The evidence was collected by law enforcement during its investigation and includes items found when the FBI searched his computer, Dartmouth dorm room and his parent's apartment. Tsarnaev also asked for the charges against him to be dropped, claiming his rights were being violated by unfair jury selection processes. Judge George O'Toole denied both the request to suppress evidence and to dismiss charges. He pointed out that law enforcement obtained the necessary search warrants and exercised proper judgment when conducting the searches, though he left open the option to challenge individual pieces of evidence as they came up during trial. Further, Judge O'Toole found that Tsarnaev failed to present any specific facts showing bias or prejudice against him in the jury selection process.


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 was 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 was 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] He later did, however, delay the trial's starting date to January 5, 2015.[9]

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."[10]

At a hearing on April 16, 2014, Judge O'Toole ruled that Tsarnaev was allowed visits from his family without the presence of an FBI agent. This was requested so that the family could speak freely, and the defense would be able to see the "story" of the family. Prosecutors said the agent was necessary for security, but O'Toole disagreed. He gave them the option of removing the agent, or assigning an agent who is not on the Tsarnaev case.[11]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Edward Harrington
District of Massachusetts
Seat #2
Succeeded by:

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