New Oland murder investigation details may soon be released
Lead investigator's closed-door testimony, 3 sealed documents back before courts
New information related to the two-year-old Richard Oland murder investigation could be revealed within weeks.
Provincial court Chief Judge R. Leslie Jackson is considering an application by CBC News and Brunswick News to lift the publication ban and sealing order on testimony given by the lead investigator in the case.
Const. Stephen Davidson testified behind closed doors last August so he could speak freely about sealed search warrants related to the case.
But details about those warrants — including the fact Oland's son Dennis is considered the prime suspect — have since been made public after the media outlets applied for a judicial review.
Justice William Grant of the Court of Queen's Bench ruled in May that Jackson "made an error in law" in imposing a publication ban on the names of people who were subject to searches.
Grant dismissed the application to lift the orders on the police officer's closed-door testimony, however, suggesting it may be more appropriate for Jackson to be the one to reconsider his ruling.
Jackson is expected to provide the Crown, media lawyer David Coles and lawyers representing members of the Oland family his initial view of what, if anything, should be released by the end of July.
If all parties agree, Jackson will then order the information released.
Otherwise, a hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 6.
Coles is optimistic. "Now that the decisions have been made that the warrant material is to be released — and it has been released — and the publication ban has been quashed, there should be no reason that the open court principle wouldn’t prevail and testimony given should be available for scrutiny," he told CBC News on Tuesday.
Oland, 69, a prominent businessman, was found dead in his uptown Saint John office on July 7, 2011.
No details have been released about the cause of death or whether any weapons were involved.
No charges have been laid.
Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid said last week the file is in the hands of provincial Crown prosecutors for consideration.
Under New Brunswick's pre-charge screening system, it is up to the Crown to decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed with laying charges.
Saint John Crown prosecutor Patrick Wilbur, who is handling the case along with colleague John Henheffer, has declined to comment.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice also declined any comment.
3 more sealed documents
Meanwhile, other sealed documents related to the murder investigation will be back before the courts in September.
There are still three more search warrants/production orders that have not yet been made public, said Coles, who is representing the media outlets in a bid to have them released.
Several other warrants have been ordered unsealed by the courts, other than so-called "hallmark" evidence about the crime scene and conditions of Oland's body that only the killer would know.
On Sept. 5, the Crown will argue behind closed doors as to what information should remain blacked out and why.
Lawyers representing members of the Oland family with have an opportunity to provide comment, then Coles will respond on behalf of the media outlets.
"Judge Jackson has previously ruled that content of other warrant materials —so long as they don’t describe the actual crime scene — ought to be released," said Coles.
"Justice Grant of the Court of Queen’s Bench indicated the previous publication ban ought to be quashed. So in my view, I would expect those decisions should have an impact here and the public should have an opportunity to learn some significant aspects of these warrant materials."
Previously-released warrants reveal Dennis Oland was the last known person to see his father alive and when questioned by police about what happened that day, July 6, 2011, he told officers: "Until I went over to [Richard Oland's] office, it was a very typical day.
The documents suggest a possible financial motive. Dennis, Oland's only son and one of his financial advisers, is described as being "on the edge financially," after having gone through a divorce a few years earlier. He owed his father more than $500,000, according to the documents.
Police have seized at least 378 pieces of evidence and interviewed approximately 60 people.