New Brunswick

Dennis Oland's jury at murder trial calls it a night

The jury at Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial in Saint John will spend another night sequestered in a hotel after failing to reach a verdict on Thursday.

Jurors will remain sequestered until they reach unanimous verdict on whether accused killed his father

Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Walsh told the jurors they must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Dennis Oland is guilty of killing his father to convict him of second-degree murder. (Andrew Robson sketch)

The jury at Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial in Saint John will spend another night sequestered in a hotel after failing to reach a verdict on Thursday.

The jurors have spent about 17 hours deliberating, weighing the accused's guilt or innocence in the 2011 death of his father, prominent New Brunswick businessman Richard Oland.

Deliberations will resume at the Saint John Law Courts building on Friday at 9 a.m. AT.

Dennis Oland, 47, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, Richard Oland. (CBC)
There are only two possible verdicts: guilty of second-degree murder, or not guilty.

The decision by the eight men and four women of the jury must be unanimous.

They have not yet come out to ask Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Walsh any questions, or to seek any clarifications.

Walsh urged the jurors during his instructions on Wednesday to "make every reasonable effort" to reach unanimity, based on the evidence they've seen and heard in the courtroom, and their common sense.

"Your goal should be to reach an agreement that matches the individual judgment of each juror," Walsh said. "You must not agree, however, only for the purpose of returning a unanimous verdict."

If they cannot come to a consensus, known as a "hung jury," Walsh said they must advise him in writing. "I will discuss what has happened with the Crown and defence counsel. We will then return to the courtroom to see what we should do next," he said.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
Usually in cases of a hung jury, the judge declares a mistrial and discharges the jurors. It's then up to the Crown to decide whether to pursue a new trial.

Oland's trial, which started on Sept. 16, is one of the longest criminal trials in New Brunswick history.

Forty-seven witnesses have testified and 236 exhibits have been entered into evidence, including crime scene photos, forensic results, financial reports and cell tower maps.

​The jurors spent about 11½ hours deliberating behind closed doors on Thursday before adjourning for the night around 8:30 p.m. AT.

They put in about 5½ hours on Wednesday.

'You must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that his guilt is the only rational conclusion that can be drawn from the whole of the evidence.- Justice John Walsh

They will remain sequestered — cut off from any contact with family and friends — until they can reach a verdict, or inform the judge they are unable to.

Oland, 47, is accused of killing his father on or about July 6, 2011. He was the last known person to see the multimillionaire alive during a meeting at his investment firm office in uptown Saint John that night, when they discussed family genealogy.

The victim's bludgeoned body was discovered in the office the next morning, lying face down in a pool of blood with 45 blunt and sharp force injuries to his head, neck and hands. He was 69.

No weapon was ever found and the only item that went missing from the crime scene was the victim's iPhone.

Justice John Walsh spent about 10 hours giving his detailed instructions to the jury. (Andrew Robson court sketch)
"The manner of Richard Oland's death and whether or not there was an obvious incidental crime purpose for the attack, could be relevant on the issue of identity," Walsh told the jurors.

"This evidence together may lead you to infer that this was not a random killing and that the killer or killers was or were in a state of rage at the time of the attack. However, that is entirely up to you to consider."

Walsh spent about 10 hours reviewing the evidence with the jurors on Tuesday and Wednesday, and instructing them on how to apply the law to the evidence.

"In order for you to find Dennis Oland guilty of the offence charged on the basis of circumstantial evidence, you must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that his guilt is the only rational conclusion that can be drawn from the whole of the evidence."

Some of the issues the judge highlighted for the jurors to consider included:

  • Are the three small blood stains found on Oland's brown sports jacket, and the DNA extracted from the stained areas, which matched his father's profile, from the murder, or something else?
  • Were the noises a witness heard coming from the victim's office around 7:30 p.m. or 7:45 p.m. on the night in question — when Oland is seen on security video shopping with his wife in Rothesay — related to the slaying, and is the witness's time estimate reliable?
  • Did the victim stop answering all calls and text messages from his mistress at 6:44 p.m. — around the time Oland left the office that night — because he was already dead, or for some other reason?
  • Did Oland attempt to mislead police or make an honest mistake when he told them he was wearing a navy blazer that night, when security video and witness testimony showed he was actually wearing a brown jacket?

Money a motive?

The Crown has suggested the accused's money problems as a possible motive, describing him as being "on the edge" financially, spending well beyond his means, with his line of credit and credit card both maxed out.

His father had "considerable wealth," with investments worth about $36 million, but "was not the type of man to simply give things away, even to his own family," said Walsh, summarizing the Crown's case for the jury.

The Crown contends Oland had "nowhere left to turn" but his father, raised his "dire financial straits" with him that night, and the discussion "did not go as the accused had planned."

"You do not need to find that Dennis Oland had a motive in order to find him guilty of the offence charged," Walsh said.

"It is just part of the evidence — one of the many things for you to consider."

The defence argues Oland's financial problems were nothing new and there was no evidence found on his computer or cellphone of financial desperation or any pre-existing feelings of antagonism or animosity with his father over finances or any other issue.

Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, but parole eligibility can be anywhere between 10 and 25 years.

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