New Brunswick

Dennis Oland murder appeal challenges evidence, jury instructions

Dennis Oland made "an innocent mistake" when he told police he was wearing a navy blazer while visiting his father the night the New Brunswick businessman was murdered, his defence argued at his appeal hearing Tuesday in Fredericton.

Crown contends evidence at N.B. trial into 2011 killing of dad Richard Oland was 'highly reliable'

Oland Appeal - Day 1

NB

5 years ago
2:40
Just ten months into his life sentence, Oland was back in court today, to appeal his conviction for the murder of his multi-millionaire father Richard. Defense lawyers are arguing the judge erred on several points during the last year's trial and the guilty verdict should be overturned. 2:40

Dennis Oland made "an innocent mistake" when he told police he was wearing a navy blazer while visiting his father the night the New Brunswick businessman was murdered, his defence argued at his appeal hearing Tuesday in Fredericton.

And it was a coincidence the blood-stained brown sports jacket Oland was actually wearing that night was dry cleaned the morning after Saint John police told him he was a suspect in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, multimillionaire Richard Oland, said Alan Gold.

A Saint John Court of Queen's Bench jury found Dennis Oland, 48, guilty of second-degree murder on Dec. 19, 2015. The brown sports jacket was a key piece of the Crown's evidence. The Hugo Boss jacket had four small bloodstains on it and the DNA extracted from three of those areas matched his father's DNA profile.

Oland's three-member defence team is seeking to have his conviction overturned by New Brunswick's highest court, and either an acquittal entered or a new trial ordered.

Court of Appeal Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau pledged the three-justice panel will provide a ruling "at the earliest opportunity," following the three-day hearing.

Defence lawyers contend the trial judge erred in his instructions to the jury regarding Oland's "after-the-fact conduct." They allege Justice John Walsh wrongly suggested Oland's "erroneous statement" about the colour of his jacket and the fact it was dry cleaned could be considered the actions of a guilty man.

Innocent events start to resemble the actions of a guilty person only if you assume the person is guilty, Gold told the small courtroom filled with reporters and Oland supporters, as Oland looked on from the prisoner's box, sporting a dark jacket, white shirt and red tie.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
Post-offence conduct was​ "too tough an area for a jury of lay persons," said Gold. The jurors fell victim to the circumstantial evidence in the case, failing to locate "the boundary which separates permissible inference from impermissible speculation," the defence's 88-page written submission states.

"We have no complaints about the jury," Gold quickly added. The appeal is not an attack on the jurors, who listened and "tried to do their job," he said.

CBC is livestreaming Dennis Oland's murder conviction appeal hearing at the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick in Fredericton, which started today and runs until Thursday.

It's the jury's verdict the defence contends was "unreasonable" and a "miscarriage of justice."

The defence also contends the trial judge erred in law by admitting certain pieces of evidence, including Oland's blood-stained brown sports jacket, his father's cellphone records, and electronic communications between the appellant and his wife about their financial situation.

The Crown, however, maintains the evidence was "highly reliable," that the judge's instructions were "beyond sufficient" and that the jurors weighed all the evidence carefully.

"Despite the appellant's suggestion otherwise, the case against him was not a house of cards waiting to fall, but a structure based on a strong evidential foundation," the prosecutors state in their written submission to the court.

The appellate court must "determine on the whole of the evidence whether the verdict is one that a properly instructed jury, acting judicially, could reasonabl[y] have rendered," the 88-page document states.

The appeal is being heard by Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau, Justice Margaret Larlee and Justice Kathleen Quigg.

CBC New Brunswick is livestreaming the hearing on www.cbc.ca/nb, but is not allowed to show Oland or members of the public in the camera view.

Richard Oland, 69, was discovered lying face down in a pool of blood in his Saint John investment firm office on July 7, 2011. He had suffered 45 sharp and blunt force injuries to his head, neck and hands.

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

Oland is being represented by the same lawyers who handled his trial: Gold, of Toronto, Gary Miller of Fredericton and James McConnell of Saint John.

Prosecutors Kathryn Gregory and Derek Weaver will serve for the Crown.

Oland is still seeking to be released on bail pending the outcome of his appeal.

The Court of Appeal of New Brunswick twice refused to grant Oland bail, saying it would undermine the public's confidence in the justice system to release a convicted murderer.

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear his bail appeal on Oct. 31.

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