Back in the spot­light

Den­nis Oland’s re­trial in al­leged mur­der of father to be­gin with jury se­lec­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC - BY CHRIS MOR­RIS

One of the most sen­sa­tional mur­der cases in Cana­dian le­gal his­tory will be back in the spot­light on Mon­day as jury se­lec­tion be­gins for the re­trial of Den­nis Oland in the blud­geon­ing death of his mil­lion­aire father, Richard Oland.

The verdict from Oland’s 2015 mur­der trial was set aside on ap­peal in 2016 and a new trial or­dered. The sec­ond trial will start in much the same way as the first, with over a thou­sand prospec­tive jurors called to a Saint John sports arena where the process of choos­ing a jury will be­gin.

It could be time con­sum­ing given the in­tense pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing the mur­der of prom­i­nent Saint John busi­ness­man Richard Oland in 2011; the ar­rest and lay­ing of the sec­ond de­gree mur­der charge against his only son, Den­nis, in 2013, and then a very long and closely watched jury trial in 2015.

Ni­cole O’Byrne, a law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of New Brunswick, said it should be pos­si­ble to find im­par­tial jurors - the re­quired 12 and at least two al­ter­nates - de­spite the high-pro­file na­ture of the case.

“The ques­tion for prospec­tive jurors is: hav­ing heard what you have heard and know­ing what you know about this case, do you still have an open mind to ex­am­in­ing the ev­i­dence as pre­sented to you in a trial, in an im­par­tial way? They should be able to find 14 peo­ple,” O’Byrne said in an in­ter­view.

Richard Oland, a mem­ber of the well-known Mar­itime beer-mak­ing fam­ily and a former ex­ec­u­tive at the fam­ily’s Moose­head Brew­ery, was found dead in his Saint John of­fice on the morn­ing of July 7, 2011. His sec­re­tary found the 69-year-old busi­ness­man ly­ing face down on the floor in a pool of blood.

His skull had been shat­tered by over 40 blows from a weapon that was never found.

Den­nis Oland, 50, an in­vest­ment ad­viser in Saint John, has al­ways said he is in­no­cent of the crime. The Oland fam­ily, es­pe­cially his mother Con­nie and his un­cle Derek, chair­man of Moose­head, are stead­fast sup­port­ers of Den­nis and have stated pub­licly that the po­lice made a mis­take in charg­ing him with Richard’s mur­der.

Den­nis Oland be­came the only sus­pect within hours of his father’s body be­ing found. He is the last known per­son to have seen Richard Oland alive and vis­ited with his father in the of­fice where he was found dead on July 6, 2011 - the day the killing is be­lieved to have hap­pened.

Oland main­tains his father was alive and well when he left him that evening. Po­lice and prose­cu­tors have said Oland killed his father “in a rage.” He re­mains free on bail. “De­spite the no­to­ri­ety, the num­ber of ap­peals and the fact that there is a sec­ond trial, in fact, legally, it is not that in­ter­est­ing a case,” O’Byrne said.

“By that I mean the de­fence ar­gu­ment is he didn’t do it. There is no elab­o­rate de­fence, no claims of men­tal dis­or­ders or in­tox­i­ca­tion or any of those things which we spend months teach­ing our first year crim­i­nal law stu­dents about. The sim­plest de­fence is ‘You’ve got the wrong per­son.’ At that level, Oland isn’t that in­ter­est­ing.”

O’Byrne said where the case does get in­ter­est­ing is in the com­plex and costly le­gal ma­noeu­vring by Oland’s de­fence team, in­clud­ing Toronto crim­i­nal lawyer, Alan Gold.

There have been count­less mo­tions, hear­ings and voir dires as well as sev­eral ap­peals, in­clud­ing one over bail that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada where de­fence ar­gu­ments were up­held.

O’Byrne said the av­er­age per­son watch­ing the Oland case un­fold is jus­ti­fied in think­ing there seems to be more jus­tice for peo­ple with more money.

“Den­nis Oland hasn’t had any spe­cial treat­ment or any spe­cial pro­ce­dures or any­thing,” she said. “But it re­ally sheds light on the fact the sys­tem is very ex­pen­sive and hard to nav­i­gate.”

CP PHOTO

Den­nis Oland heads from a bail hear­ing af­ter be­ing re­leased from cus­tody in Fred­er­ic­ton on Tues­day, Oct. 25, 2016. One of the most sen­sa­tional mur­der cases in Cana­dian le­gal his­tory will be back in the spot­light on Mon­day as jury se­lec­tion be­gins for the re­trial of Den­nis Oland in the blud­geon­ing death of his mil­lion­aire father, Richard Oland.

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