Dennis Oland plans to appeal his conviction for second-degree murder in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, prominent New Brunswick businessman Richard Oland.

"We have started the preparation to commence an appeal in the near future," defence lawyer Alan Gold confirmed in an email to CBC News on Sunday night.

Alan Gold, Dennis Oland's defence lawyer

Defence lawyer Alan Gold confirmed they plan to appeal the conviction, but did not indicate exactly when, or on what grounds. (CBC)

Oland, 47, was found guilty in Saint John's Court of Queen's Bench on Saturday morning after the jury had deliberated for about 30 hours over four days. He now faces life in prison.

The guilty verdict shocked many people, who had followed the three-month trial closely, given the burden of proof that rested with the Crown in the largely circumstantial case.

Gold did not reveal the grounds on which Oland's three-member defence team will seek leave to appeal.

"It would not be appropriate to discuss further details at this time," he said.

But University of New Brunswick associate law professor Nicole O'Byrne says there are two main grounds of appeal on a conviction by a jury — the admissibility of evidence, and the judge's instructions to the jury.

Jacket tested under expired warrant

Dennis Oland's brown sports jacket, Sgt. Brian Wentzell photo

The brown sports jacket seized from Dennis Oland's bedroom closet, which had three bloodstains and DNA that matched his father's profile, was forensically examined after the search warrant had expired. (Court exhibit)

O'Byrne believes the planned appeal could focus on Oland's blood-stained brown sports jacket being deemed admissible by Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Walsh, even though it was forensically tested after the Saint john Police Force's search warrant had expired.

The Hugo Boss jacket, which was seized from Oland's bedroom closet on July 14, 2011, a week after his multimillionaire father's body was discovered, was a key piece of evidence in the Crown's case against him.

It had three small bloodstains — on the right sleeve, the upper left chest and on the back — and the DNA extracted from those areas matched his father's DNA profile, the trial heard.

The estimated probability of selecting an unrelated individual at random from the Canadian Caucasian population with the same DNA profile is one in 20 quintillion, a Crown DNA expert testified.


Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)

Oland's defence lawyers had filed an application with the court, alleging the accused's charter right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure was violated, and seeking exclusion of the evidence.

But Walsh ruled on June 10 that there was lawful authority for the forensic examination of the brown jacket, as well as other items seized under the house warrant, and that the evidence should be admitted. To exclude it, he said, would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

Information about the pretrial hearing had been under a publication ban until last week, when the jury was sequestered to begin deliberations.

"A determination of admissibility of a piece of evidence is a question of law for the judge to determine. It must be decided on a standard of correctness which means that the accused in this case could appeal his conviction on this basis," said O'Byrne.

Nicole O'Byrne, associate law professor, UNB

Nicole O'Byrne, an associate law professor at UNB, says appellate court are wary of substituting their judgment for a trial judge because they learn about the evidence second-hand through legal arguments. (CBC)

"The overriding question for the judge determining admissibility during a voir dire (pretrial hearing) is whether the prejudicial nature of the evidence, i.e. its impact on the juror's ability to judge the merits of the case without bias, and thus, not permit the accused to have a fair trial by an impartial jury, outweighs the probative nature of the evidence in question," she said, describing it as a "balancing act."

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2009 that several factors should be taken into considerations when determining the admissibility of improperly obtained evidence, including the seriousness of the charter breach, the seriousness of the offence, and the ability of the accused to receive a fair trial, said O'Byrne.

"The trial judge is given a lot of leeway on appeal because they are the ones hearing the arguments and examining the evidence first hand.  An appellate court will be wary of substituting its judgment for a trial judge because they are learning about the evidence second-hand through legal arguments," she added.

Judge's instructions detailed

Justice John Walsh and jury at Dennis Oland's murder trial, sketch

Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Walsh told the jurors they had to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Dennis Oland was guilty of killing his father to convict him of second-degree murder. (Andrew Robson sketch)

Oland could also appeal his conviction if the judge's instructions to the jurors on how they should apply the law to the evidence in determining guilt  or innocence were incorrect.

"Again, the judge's charge to the jury [would] be judged on a correctness standard as it is a question of law," said O'Byrne.

But Walsh sought input from both the Crown and defence in preparing his detailed instructions to the jury, which took two days to deliver. The written version was 204 pages.

During his instructions, Walsh stressed that Oland was presumed innocent, and that it was up to the Crown to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not enough to believe the accused is probably or likely guilty, he had said.

'An accused cannot appeal a decision because they do not like the result. There needs to be a substantive reason. This is hard, if not impossible, to do when there are no reasons for judgment.' - Nicole O'Byrne, associate law professor

O'Byrne says it is difficult to appeal a decision made by a jury because juries do not give reasons for their decision.

"An accused cannot appeal a decision because they do not like the result. There needs to be a substantive reason. This is hard, if not impossible, to do when there are no reasons for judgment."

Walsh told the jurors the case against Oland, "in its totality, is a circumstantial one."

Oland was the last known person to see his father alive during a meeting at his Saint John investment firm office on Canterbury Street on July 6, 2011.

His father's body was discovered in his office the next morning, lying face down in a large pool of blood. The 69-year-old had suffered 45 sharp and blunt force injuries to his head, neck and hands. No weapon was ever found.

Oland told police he was wearing a navy blazer on the night in question, but video surveillance and witness testimony showed he was wearing a brown jacket.

The Crown has suggested Oland's financial problems and his father's extramarital affair were possible motives in the slaying.

Oland testified in his own defence, saying he had no reason to kill his father, that he loved him and misses him.

Family support unwavering

His defence team appeared confident in its case following Oland's testimony and decided against calling three more witnesses — his wife, Lisa Andrik-Oland, sister, Jacqueline Walsh, and mother, Connie Oland — Richard Oland's widow.

"You are no closer to knowing who killed Richard Oland today than you were when you all walked into Harbour Station that first Tuesday after Labour Day," Gold had said in closing arguments to the jury.

Oland's family continues to stand by him and hinted at an appeal in statements issued shortly after the verdict Saturday.

"Our faith in Dennis's innocence has never wavered and the jury's decision has not changed that belief," said his mother.

"We will now discuss our options with the legal team. We sincerely believe justice will eventually be served," she said.

His uncle, Derek Oland — Richard Oland's brother — said "all Oland family members are certain Dennis had nothing to do with the death of his father."

"We will support him and his family members through the course of whatever legal actions will unfold."

Oland, who has two daughters, a son, and a stepson, will be sentenced on Feb. 11, 2016, at the Saint John Law Courts building.

The judge has ordered a pre-sentence report.

Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, but parole eligibility can range between 10 and 25 years. The jury unanimously recommended the minimum 10 years before Oland becomes eligible for parole, but the judge does not have to follow that recommendation.

Appeals must be filed within 30 days of sentencing.