Mistrial declared in Oland retrial
Jury dismissed after police ‘improprieties,’ but trial resumes
SAINT JOHN, N.B. — After delays, a mistrial and dismissal of the jury, the retrial of Dennis Oland for the second-degree murder of his multimillionaire father will finally begin on Wednesday by judge alone.
The mistrial was announced Tuesday by Justice Terrence Morrison, citing “improprieties” in jury selection involving an officer with the Saint John police.
Const. Sean Rocca accessed a police database to check on prospective and sworn jurors in violation of a 2012 directive from the Supreme Court of Canada concerning jury vetting.
“The Crown was not aware of these improprieties at the time they occurred. When the Crown found out, they immediately notified defence counsel,” the judge told the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench jury as he announced the mistrial.
“I have determined that it is in the best interests of justice that a mistrial be declared thereby ensuring any further trial of this matter will not be tainted.”
It turns out the internal police database was also used during jury selection for the first Oland trial in 2015 — a jury that convicted the 50-year-old financial adviser of the second-degree murder of his father, Richard Oland.
That conviction was overturned on appeal in 2016 and the new trial ordered.
Rocca, the file co-ordinator for Crown prosecutors, was paying particular attention in his searches as to whether jurors may have had “negative interactions” with Saint John police.
“Obviously, we were aghast, gobsmacked, to find out it had happened previously,” chief defence counsel Alan Gold said Tuesday following the mistrial announcement.
“But our concern is what happens now and the future and getting this trial done as expeditiously as possible.”
In a statement late Tuesday, the city’s board of police commissioners said it would be asking the New Brunswick Police Commission to do an independent review.
“We will be reviewing the court’s decision to understand the issues identified and to learn from them. The board and the chief take these matters very seriously,” it said in a statement.
Oland will be re-arraigned in a Saint John courtroom on Wednesday and he will re-enter his not guilty plea. The trial, before Morrison, will then proceed with opening statements and possibly the first witnesses.
Oland, his wife Lisa and mother Connie were all in court for the news on Tuesday, the latest twist in a case that has seen many.
Oland is charged in the bludgeoning death of his father, Richard, a businessperson and former executive with Moosehead Breweries Ltd. in Saint John. The 69-year-old’s body was found on the morning of July 7, 2011, in a pool of blood on the floor of his office in the city’s uptown. He had been struck over 40 times, mostly on the head, with a weapon that has never been found.
Dennis, his only son, is the last known person to have seen his father alive. He was charged in 2013, and has steadfastly maintained his innocence with the support of his family, including Connie, Richard’s widow.
During the first trial, the Crown focused on possible issues of motive, including Dennis Oland’s financial difficulties and the knowledge his father was having an affair.
But in his own testimony, Dennis Oland downplayed his finances as a recurring issue in the life of a financial adviser and said he never raised them with his father. He also said the two never discussed his father’s affair.
The defence pointed to video that showed Dennis Oland and his wife shopping later on the evening of July 6, 2011, when people working below Richard Oland’s office say they believe they heard the sounds of the murder.
The decision to proceed with judge alone should speed up the retrial.
Dennis Oland and his wife Lisa head from the Law Courts in Saint John, N.B., on Tuesday. A mistrial has been declared in the retrial of Oland for the second-degree murder of his multimillionaire father.