New Brunswick

Dennis Oland getting bail pending appeal is 'tricky question,' says expert

It's possible, but unlikely, Dennis Oland would be released from custody on bail, pending the outcome of a planned appeal of his murder conviction, according to a legal expert.

Associate law professor Nicole O'Byrne says it's possible, but unlikely in a murder case

Dennis Oland plans to appeal

7 years ago
Duration 1:45
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.

It's possible Dennis Oland could be released from custody on bail, pending the outcome of a planned appeal of his murder conviction, according to a legal expert.

But the chances are "very slim," said Nicole O'Byrne, an associate law professor at the University of New Brunswick.

Oland, 47, was found guilty Dec. 19 of second-degree murder in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
The jury delivered its unanimous verdict in Saint John's Court of Queen's Bench after deliberating for about 30 hours over the course of four days.

Defence lawyer Alan Gold told CBC News the three-member defence team has already "started the preparation to commence an appeal in the near future." 

Gold declined to reveal when they plan to file, or the grounds on which they would seek leave to appeal, saying it would be "inappropriate to discuss further details at this time."

Simply put, bail could be granted but the chances are very slim.- Nicole O'Byrne, associate law professor

Whether Oland would be released in the interim is a "tricky question," said O'Byrne.

"The key issue is whether Oland could establish a meritorious appeal to overcome the presumption that the release of a convicted murderer would destroy the public's confidence in the administration of justice," she said.

"Simply put, bail could be granted but the chances are very slim for two reasons:1) the grounds for appeal from a jury trial are not robust … and 2) the public confidence in the administration of justice would likely be shaken if a convicted murderer were released pending an appeal process."

Manitoba murder convict got bail in 1998

It has happened before, however, said O'Byrne, citing a 1998 case from Manitoba, R v. Khan.

Mohamed Ameerulla Khan, who was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder by a jury, was granted bail, pending an appeal of his conviction on the charge of murdering his wife and pending a new trial on a charge of murdering his sister.

Nicole O'Byrne, an associate law professor at UNB, says the chances of Dennis Oland getting bail are 'very slim.' (CBC)
"The circumstances in which convicted murderers have been released pending an appeal differ greatly and from province to province," Justice J.A. Twaddle noted in the decision. "This court, however, has stated that such circumstances must be limited to those which are 'exceptional.'"

"I am of the view that among such circumstances which may (not "must") be deemed exceptional are those in which: (i) the applicant's appeal is capable of being judged as high in merit; and (ii) excessive delay in scheduling the appeal results from causes other than the fault of the accused's lawyer," the judge said.

In Khan's case, the judge felt there was "unreasonable delay" because of "tardy" preparation of a transcript of evidence, and scheduling conflicts of the lawyers involved, and bail was granted.

Must make persuasive case for release

In R v. McAuley, a 1997 Ontario case, Bonnie McAuley was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of her husband was denied bail, pending appeal.

On the other hand, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in 1997 that although a first-degree murder appeal was not frivolous, the maintenance of confidence in the administration of justice required the accused to establish a persuasive case for release, said O'Byrne.

"The jury members who convicted the applicant were chosen from the community and they were unanimous in finding that she was guilty of first-degree murder. This was brutal crime. It would not be appropriate to grant interim release in this case," stated Justice J.A. Brooke.

"To do so would bring the administration of justice into disrepute for it would demean the conclusions of the jury and disregard the gravity of the offence," said Brooke, quoting from a previous Ontario Court of Appeal case.

Oland's remand location undisclosed

Oland is currently remanded in custody until his sentencing on Feb. 11 at the Saint John Law Courts building.

The Department of Justice has declined to reveal where Oland is being held. But typically, "if an individual receives a conviction that involves a sentence in a federal facility, that individual would remain in the custody of a provincial correctional facility until the sentence is imposed," spokesman Dave MacLean said in an email to CBC News.

"At that point, a federal penitentiary placement would be completed and the individual would be transferred to federal custody, " he said.

The closest provincial facility would be the Saint John Regional Correctional Centre on the city's east side.

The jury has recommended the minimum 10 years before Dennis Oland becomes eligible for parole, but Justice John Walsh will decide during sentencing on Feb. 11. (Andrew Robson sketch)
Although second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, parole eligibility can range between 10 and 25 years.

The jury unanimously recommended the minimum 10 years before Oland can become eligible for parole, but Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Walsh does not have to follow that recommendation.

Walsh has ordered that a pre-sentence report be prepared.

The body of Richard Oland, 69, was discovered lying face down in a pool of blood in his Saint John investment firm office on July 7, 2011. The multimillionaire had suffered 45 sharp and blunt force injuries to his head, neck and hands. No weapon was ever found.

Dennis Oland, his only son, was the last known person to see him alive during a meeting at his office the night before.

Oland told police he was wearing a navy blazer when he visited his father that night, but video surveillance and witness testimony showed he was wearing a brown jacket.

A brown Hugo Boss sports jacket seized from his bedroom closet a week later had three blood stains on it and the DNA extracted from those areas matched his father's DNA profile.

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.


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