Dennis Oland murder trial jury summonses being mailed to 3,000
Several people already asking to be excused from jury duty this fall
Up to 3,000 Saint John-area residents have received summonses for potential jury duty in Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial this fall in the 2011 death of his father.
The summonses do not indicate that it's for Oland's trial and Department of Justice officials have declined to confirm that it's for his case.
But the summonses are for Sept. 8 at Harbour Station and state that it's for a 65-day trial.
The court had said in February that 65 days would be set aside for Oland's trial, that jury selection would begin on Sept. 8 and that it would take about four days.
Although a venue had not been selected at that time, officials had indicated the courthouse would not be big enough to accommodate all of the potential jurors required and had mentioned Harbour Station as a possibility.
Up to 1,500 potential jurors were expected to be summonsed — five times the normal jury panel.
Crown prosecutor John Henheffer had recommended the additional potential jurors, just to be "on the safe side," due to the widespread publicity about the case, and any possible conflict of interest with potential jurors who may have connections to people involved in the case.
"I don't want to have our sheriffs running out on the street" to get other potential jurors because too many are excused, Henheffer had said.
Court officials have since decided to send summonses to 3,000 people — 10 times the normal jury panel — for fear 1,500 would not be a large enough pool from which to select 12 jurors, two alternates and two additional jurors.
Oland, 46, is accused of killing his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland, whose body was discovered in his uptown office on July 7, 2011.
Dennis Oland was ordered in December to stand trial, following a preliminary inquiry that took 37 days and stretched out over six months. Preliminary inquiries are designed to test the strength of the prosecution's case.
In fact, so many people have been showing up that the sheriffs have set up a special table at the courthouse entrance, where they can take the potential jurors aside to explain their security procedures and answer questions.
Anyone who receives a summons can apply to the sheriff to be relieved from jury duty within five days of receiving the notice.
"Remember that jury duty is an important civic responsibility and you must have a good reason for asking to be excused," the website for the New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench states.
"The sheriff will review your application and may or may not grant your request."
Under the Jury Act, some of reasons people can be excused include:
- The person has served on a jury within the five years preceding the summons.
- The person is aged 70 or older.
- The person is unable to understand, speak or read the official language in which the proceeding is being conducted.
- The person suffers from a physical, mental or other infirmity that is "incompatible with the discharge of the duties of a juror."
- Jury service would cause "severe hardship" because the person provides care to a child under the age of 14, a person who is infirm or elderly, or a person who is mentally incompetent.
- Jury service would cause "serious and irreparable financial loss" because the proceeding is expected to last 10 or more days.
Jurors paid $40-$80 a day
Jurors in New Brunswick are normally paid $40 per day, but if the trial lasts longer than 10 days, the fee increases to $40 for each half-day and $80 for each full day, starting on Day 10.
Those lucky enough to work for an employer with generous benefits might receive their regular wages, but most jurors get nothing more than a guarantee — mandated by law — that their job will be there when they get back to work at the end of the trial.
Jurors may also be paid compensation for meals and travel expenses.
If the sheriff refuses someone's request to be excused, that person can appeal to any judge before the date on which the person is summoned to attend for jury selection.
Otherwise, they must attend jury selection at the place and time indicated on the summons and may appeal to the presiding judge.
Anyone who fails to appear may be held in contempt of court and be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.
Oland's trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 16 and run until Dec. 18.
Two pre-trial hearings were already held in March and May, and another one is being held this week. Details about those pre-trial hearings is subject to a publication ban.
Oland will only officially enter a plea when he appears before the judge and jury.
He was arrested on Nov. 12, 2013, more than two years after his father's death, and charged the following day.
Oland spent six nights in jail before being released on a $50,000 surety posted by his uncle Derek Oland, the executive chairman of Moosehead Breweries Limited.
He is living in the community under conditions, including that he maintain his residence in Rothesay and advise police of any change of address or any travel outside New Brunswick. He was previously ordered to surrender his passport.
Oland's extended family has stood by him from the beginning, maintaining his innocence.