New Brunswick

Dennis Oland jurors fell victim to circumstantial evidence, appeal alleges

The jury at Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial failed to locate the boundary "which separates permissible inference from impermissible speculation in relation to circumstantial evidence," his defence lawyers argue in written submissions filed with the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.

Appeal of murder conviction in death of father Richard Oland scheduled to be heard Oct. 18-20

Dennis Oland's appeal of his second-degree murder conviction in the 2011 death of his father, Richard Oland, is scheduled to be heard by the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick in Fredericton Oct. 18-20. (CBC)

The jury at Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial failed to locate "the boundary which separates permissible inference from impermissible speculation in relation to circumstantial evidence," his defence lawyers argue in written submissions filed with the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.

"It is important to recognize this was not a case of direct evidence or a situation where acceptance of a particular witness's evidence could reasonably product a conviction," the document states.

"This case was a mystery based upon many different kinds of circumstantial evidence, a case which the trial judge described as 'factually complicated and convoluted.'"

The jurors were "victimize[d]" by "superficially attractive but not cogent" evidence presented by the Crown, the defence lawyers allege.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
Oland's conviction is "the product of legal errors and/or a miscarriage of justice," the 88-page document states.

The appeal of his conviction is scheduled to be heard by New Brunswick's highest court in Fredericton Oct. 18-20. The hearing will be live-streamed on www.CBC.ca/nb.

His appeal of twice being denied bail while awaiting his conviction appeal is scheduled to be heard by the country's highest court in Ottawa on Oct. 31. That hearing will be live-streamed on the Supreme Court of Canada's website.

Serving life sentence

Oland, 48, is currently serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 10 years after being found guilty by a jury on Dec. 19, 2015, in the bludgeoning death of his father, Saint John multimillionaire Richard Oland.

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. He had suffered 45 sharp and blunt force injuries to his head, neck and hands.

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

The blood-stained brown sports jacket seized from Dennis Oland's bedroom closet still had a dry cleaning tag attached to the collar. (Court exhibit)
A brown sports jacket seized from his bedroom closet on July 14, 2011, had four small blood stains on it and the DNA extracted from three of those areas matched that of his father.

The jacket had been dry cleaned about 10 hours after Saint John police told Oland he was a suspect. Oland told police he was wearing a navy blazer that night, but video surveillance and witness testimony showed he was wearing a brown jacket.

The last message received by his father's missing cellphone was transmitted by a cell tower in Rothesay located near the wharf where Oland had stopped on his way home.

No murder weapon was ever found, the jury heard during the three-month trial in Saint John's Court of Queen's Bench last fall.

Judge 'erred in law'

Defence lawyers Alan Gold, Gary Miller and James McConnell, contend the jury's unanimous guilty verdict following approximately 30 hours of deliberations over four days "was not a reasonable one."

They challenge the Crown's "speculative arguments" about Oland's financial problems and alleged anger over his father's extramarital affair with local realtor Diana Sedlacek being motives.

They also contend the trial judge, Court of Queen's Bench Justice John (Jack) Walsh, "erred in law" in allowing the blood-stained sports jacket and other pieces of evidence to be admitted, and in his instructions to the jury.

It is recognized that lay persons who are tasked with adjudicating on guilt or innocence can come to unreasonable results even which a trial is otherwise ostensibly error free.- Dennis Oland's defence submissions

They are seeking to have the Court of Appeal quash the conviction and either acquit Oland, or order a new trial.

"It is recognized that lay persons who are tasked with adjudicating on guilt or innocence can come to unreasonable results even which a trial is otherwise ostensibly error free," their submission states.

"Appellate review for reasonableness serves a critical gatekeeper function to ensure that convictions which a trained judicial officer could not reasonably come to are not allowed to stand."

The defence contends the warrant police had for Oland's brown jacket did not permit forensic testing, that sending it away to the RCMP for testing violated the terms of the detention order requiring it to be kept in the custody of the Saint John Police Force, and therefore violated his Charter right against unreasonable search and seizure.

They also note police failed to turn up any evidence connecting him with his father's missing iPhone.

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