'Enough is enough,' Oland lawyers argue
Family subjected to 'media frenzy,' 'poison climate,' say Gary Miller and Bill Teed
Dennis Oland's lawyer urged New Brunswick's chief provincial court judge, behind closed doors last summer, to keep information related to his client and the Richard Oland murder investigation sealed.
Gary Miller argued there was already a "poison climate" against Dennis.
"I mean, this has been a media frenzy," he said during the Aug. 17, 2012 hearing, redacted copies of court transcripts made public on Friday reveal.
He suggested the media coverage was becoming "tabloid journalism."
"And there comes a time when a court can say, an innocent person can stand up and say, 'Enough is enough.'"
Miller made the statements nine months before additional documents were subsequently released, identifying Dennis, 45, as the prime suspect in his father's murder.
Those documents suggested a possible financial motive. He owed his father more than $500,000 and is described as being "on the edge financially."
Richard Oland, 69, a prominent businessman, was found murdered in his uptown Saint John office on July 7, 2011.
No charges have been laid, although Police Chief Bill Reid has said he expects charges to be laid this year.
CBC News and Brunswick News have been fighting since late 2011 for the release of as much information as possible related to the investigation.
Halifax-based lawyer David Coles, who is representing the media outlets, contends public scrutiny is key to ensuring the proper administration of justice.
"In the darkness of secrecy, evil has full swing," he said in court on Friday, in a bid to have closed-door testimony by the lead investigator last summer made public.
Const. Stephen Davidson testified behind closed doors in order to be able to speak freely about search warrants, which were sealed at the time. But once those warrants were released, there was no longer a justification to keep the testimony sealed, Coles argued.
Chief Judge R. Leslie Jackson agreed to release the transcripts with some sections blacked out, which was uncontested by the Crown, Dennis' lawyer, and Bill Teed, who is representing other members of the Oland family.
"Therefore, the public, the media, should be able to read what [the officer] said to understand the thinking of the police, their approach to this case, what they've done, so that again, the public can form its own opinion as to whether the police, the judges, the lawyers, are doing their job properly, that this investigation is proceeding as it should," Coles told reporters outside the courtroom.
"It's only by being an informed public that our democracy and the open court principle make sense," he said.
Protection of privacy
The documents show, however, that the other parties argued strenuously last summer to keep as much as possible concealed from the public.
"Rest assured … as anxious as the … frenzied media might be to get under these deleted paragraphs, I don't think there's anybody in the room more interested than me in getting under those deleted paragraphs on behalf of my client," Miller had said.
"I mean, that's the first thing on a criminal lawyer's check list when there's a search warrant involved. That's where you get the summary of what the Crown's case is up to that point," he said.
But if he had applied for the search warrants to be released, that would have invited contest by the media, creating a dilemma, he said.
"So there I am trading off my client's right to protect the privacy of him and his family," explained Miller.
"So we laid in the bushes until we were forced to come and respond to the application by the media to get into it."
"I do think once you look at the media coverage that you can see … they have enough for now, thank you. Let's see what happens in the investigation," Miller told the judge.
Teed agreed. "If one does not think that the privacy of my clients has not been invaded, let me suggest to you that it has not only been invaded, it has been run over by a truck," he said.
"What this family has had to put up with and deal with as a result of this murder, as a result of the investigation, as a result of this media attention, the privacy rights and … the innocent rights that we try to protect for them has been just about drowned," Teed said.
It has "dramatically affected all of their lives — Mrs. Oland, children, grandchildren, Dennis, all of them. So I would suggest to you, just as Mr. Miller has, that there has been a lynching going on. And it's been a lynching throughout the whole citizenry based on what the press does with information pieces that they do have and that enough is enough."
'Basically everything … could be hallmark'
The lead investigator also wanted to withhold as much information as possible, transcripts of his closed-door testimony reveal.
"I don't think any items can be disclosed at this point," Davidson had said.
But the media lawyer challenged him, saying case law stipulates only so-called hallmark evidence about the crime scene that only the killer would know should be kept confidential.
Davidson replied, "My opinion on this, with respect to hallmark evidence, is that every piece of evidence that we seize, in the initial stages, may not be relevant; however as the investigation continues and we see the relevance … they are important throughout stages of the investigation.
"So basically everything that we seize could be hallmark evidence."
"This is simply, 'Let us do our job in the dark,'" countered Coles. "That's exactly what our system doesn't do. Justice is perverted in the dark." he said.
"To have this officer sit here and to say his preference is to keep the entire file sealed, well fortunately that's exactly what the Supreme Court of Canada has said is not to occur," Coles said, referring to the precedent-setting case MacIntyre versus the Attorney General of Canada, which affirmed the principle of transparency in the courts.
In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that once a search has been executed and evidence has been seized, the documents generally should then become public.
"The Saint John police may like to keep everything confidential from the public, but fortunately there is a process and we have a judge," said Coles.
Davidson was so reluctant to divulge any information, at one point, Coles asked the judge to direct the officer to answer his questions.
Jackson agreed, instructing the officer to answer. "I guess the difficulty I have is he appears to be saying that notwithstanding all the procedure that we've gone through of closed court and no media and cone of silence, that he doesn't want to tell anybody, perhaps including me," said the judge.
He is expected to decide by Oct. 4 whether to release any more details from the closed-door testimony or from the search warrant and two production orders issued last fall, which were also made public on Friday.