Dennis Oland's bid for bail in hands of 3 Supreme Court justices

If Dennis Oland cannot and should not receive bail pending the appeal of his second-degree murder conviction, then no one convicted of serious offences can ever hope to, his lawyers argue in documents filed with the Supreme Court of Canada.

Murder case is 'opportunity' for country's highest court to clarify issue of 'national importance': defence

Dennis Oland, 48, is currently serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 10 years after being convicted of second-degree murder in the 2011 slaying of his father, New Brunswick multimillionaire Richard Oland. (CBC)

If Dennis Oland cannot and should not receive bail pending the appeal of his second-degree murder conviction, then no one convicted of serious offences can ever hope to, his lawyers argue in documents filed with the Supreme Court of Canada.

They point out the presiding judge at Oland's jury trial referred to his conviction in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, New Brunswick multimillionaire Richard Oland, as being "at the lower end of the scale."

In addition, their client was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 10 years before he becomes eligible to apply for parole, rather than up to 25 years, based on the unanimous recommendation of the jury, note Alan Gold, Gary Miller and James McConnell.

"In all other respects," Dennis Oland, 48, is "an ideal candidate" for bail, the defence lawyers state in their 13-page reply to the Crown's response to their bid to have the Supreme Court overturn the New Brunswick Court of Appeal's decision to twice deny Oland interim release.

"If this applicant cannot and should not receive bail pending appeal because his grounds of appeal, however arguable or strong, apparently do not involve proof of innocence or inevitable acquittal on appeal … then no one convicted of serious offences can ever receive bail where their grounds are merely 'substantial' or 'clearly arguable' or 'have a prospect of success' or any other lesser standard short of inevitable reversal and acquittal," the document states.

The Supreme Court is not obliged to hear the case. The Crown contends it should not because it does not raise "a matter of national importance," but rather the defence's "disagreement with the Court of Appeal's failure to find an error" in the initial bail denial.

Kathryn Gregory and Derek Weaver have referred to the defence's application as "overreaching" and a "serious misread" of the lower court's decision.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
The defence, however, maintains Oland's case is a "perfect and unique opportunity" for the country's highest court to "provide clear guidance" on the "public interest" component of bail pending appeal — "a critical juncture in the criminal appeal process and a matter of national importance, considering the present lack of consensus."

They say the Crown has improperly characterized their position as a "disagreement over the weight attributed to factors considered in a discretionary decision."

"This case is not a disagreement about a discretionary weighing, but rather about important questions of law affecting personal liberty and freedom," they state.

Seeking expedited decision

The matter is now in the hands of a three-member panel. Chief Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin, Justice Michael J. Moldaver, and Justice Clément Gascon will decide whether the Supreme Court will hear Oland's appeal.

It's unclear when a decision will be made, but the defence has filed a motion to expedite the matter, which the Crown did not oppose.

Supreme Court decisions on leave applications take, on average, three months, according to the court's website.

Judgments on appeals are rendered, on average, six months after the hearing of the appeal, it states.

If the Supreme Court rejects the defence's application for leave to appeal Oland's bail denial, he will remain behind bars until the appeal of his murder conviction can be heard. It is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 18-21.

Oland has been in custody since Dec. 19, when a jury found him guilty. He has been seeking release since Feb. 13, the day after he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years.

Could be precedent-setting

No one convicted of murder in New Brunswick has ever been granted bail before and there have only been 34 such cases across Canada, according to the defence.

The Supreme Court application was filed on April 29, just four weeks after the Court of Appeal rejected his request for a second time.

Court of Appeal Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau said in his April 4 ruling he was "duty bound" to uphold Justice Marc Richard's decision to deny Oland bail on the grounds that releasing a convicted murderer pending appeal could shake the public's confidence in the justice system.

The defence argues Richard gave too much weight to his opinion that Oland's appeal wasn't virtually assured when considering the public interest.

Under the Criminal Code, bail pending appeal can be granted if the appeal is not frivolous, if the offender is not a flight risk and if detention is not necessary in the public interest.

Richard Oland, 69, was found beaten to death in his Saint John office on the morning of July 7, 2011. He was lying face down in a pool of blood with 45 sharp and blunt force injuries to his head, neck and hands. No weapon was ever found.

​His son, Dennis Oland, was the last known person to see his father alive during a meeting at his investment firm office the night before.

His family has stood by him from the beginning, maintaining his innocence.​