New Brunswick

Gary Miller quits Dennis Oland's legal team as murder retrial begins

One of Dennis Oland's defence lawyers is stepping down, just as his retrial for second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father, multimillionaire Richard Oland, gets underway in Saint John today with jury selection.

Prominent Fredericton lawyer, who is being replaced by Michael Lacy of Toronto, cites benefit of fresh eyes

Gary Miller, who has represented Dennis Oland for the past seven years, said he will follow the case 'with keen interest.' (CBC)

One of Dennis Oland's defence lawyers is stepping down, just as his retrial for second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father, multimillionaire Richard Oland, gets underway in Saint John today with jury selection.

Gary Miller, who has represented Dennis Oland from the beginning and is one of the most prominent and experienced criminal defence lawyers in New Brunswick, is being replaced by Michael Lacy of Toronto.

"It's not real complicated," Miller told CBC News. "I generally think that it's a good idea to get a fresh set of eyes on a retrial, pure and simple."

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A jury found Oland guilty in December 2015, but the New Brunswick Court of Appeal overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial in October 2016, citing an error in the trial judge's instructions to the jury.

The other members of his defence team on retrial include Alan Gold of Toronto, and James McConnell of Saint John, who were both involved in the first trial.

The Crown prosecutors are P.J. Veniot, Derek Weaver and Jill Knee.

Miller, 70, of Fredericton, said he could think of only one other case in his 41-year career where he represented a client at both trial and retrial.

Am I looking forward to sinking my teeth into something else? You betcha.- Gary Miller, defence lawyer

"And that was a relatively straightforward one-issue case," heard by a judge and jury at the first trial and by a judge alone on retrial.

"It wasn't this kind of case where there's issues all over the place," he said without elaborating.

Miller said he remained on the Oland defence team throughout the summer to give Lacy an opportunity to "get up to speed" and will participate in the jury selection, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. AT at Saint John's Harbour Station, but his involvement going forward will be "peripheral … at best."

"Am I looking forward to sinking my teeth into something else? You betcha."

He will continue to follow the case "with keen interest," he added.

'Intensely familiar with the file'

Lacy, who trained under Gold and has worked with him on various cases during his 20-plus-year career, said he has worked on Oland's case since the original trial, although he has not appeared in court.

"My work on the appeal required me to get up to speed on all of the trial evidence and to become intensely familiar with the file. I have continued to work on the file since then in various ways," he said in an emailed statement.

"From my initial involvement in the case I was of the view that justice would only be served if Dennis was acquitted. I look forward to [continuing] to work with the other members of the team to achieve that end."

Toronto-based lawyer Michael Lacy has done some appellate work in New Brunswick. Earlier this year, he represented Wilbur Dedam, the former chief of Esgenoôpetitj First Nation. (CBC)

Lacy, of law group Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP, has worked on many homicide trials and appeals, including the case of Toronto police Const. James Forcillo, who is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to allow him to appeal his attempted murder conviction in the 2013 shooting death of Sammy Yatim, 18.

In April, the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed Forcillo's appeal and opted to uphold his six-year prison sentence.

Earlier this year, Lacy helped win a new trial for former Esgenoôpetitj First Nation chief Wilbur Dedam on sexual assault charges dating back to the 1970s.

Dedam was sentenced in 2016 to nine years in prison after a jury found him guilty of six sex crimes against three girls, but the New Brunswick Court of Appeal overturned his convictions, citing violations of the Criminal Code of Canada and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms during his trial.

'Tremendous amount of work'

Lead defence lawyer Alan Gold said he's very familiar with Michael Lacy's abilities and is grateful he was available to join the defence team for the retrial. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)

Gold said he's grateful Lacy's schedule allowed him to join Oland's defence team for the retrial, describing him as "a real asset to share this very substantial workload that we have for this very, very serious case."

Miller also "remains a valuable asset" to the defence team and will be available to consult on the case on an "as-needed basis," said Gold.

"He simply felt that the day-to-day work in court everyday was becoming too much. It's extremely taxing, not to mention the preparation you have to do each evening."

"I mean this is, as legal proceedings go, this is as large and demanding a legal proceeding as lawyers encounter," said Gold.

The Crown prosecutors and Saint John Police Force have "devoted thousands and thousands and thousands of hours" to the case, he said.

"So there's dozens and dozens and dozens of things that Dennis' lawyers have to prepare for court and for the jury."

"There is just a tremendous amount of work."