New Brunswick

Dennis Oland's Supreme Court bail appeal expected to proceed even if moot point

Dennis Oland's bail appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada is expected to proceed on Oct. 31, even if a decision from the New Brunswick Court of Appeal on his second-degree murder conviction makes the hearing a moot point for him.

Murder conviction appeal decision slated for Monday, but bail hearing remains issue of 'national importance'

The Court of Appeal of New Brunswick is tentatively scheduled to deliver its decision on Dennis Oland's murder conviction appeal on Oct. 24, making his request for bail pending appeal hearing on Oct. 31 a moot point. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Dennis Oland's bail appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada is expected to proceed on Oct. 31, even if a decision from the New Brunswick Court of Appeal on his second-degree murder conviction makes the hearing a moot point for him.

The provincial Court of Appeal is tentatively scheduled to rule Monday on whether it will overturn Oland's murder conviction in the 2011 death of his father, New Brunswick multimillionaire Richard Oland.

But the country's highest court will still want to hear his bail appeal, said Toronto lawyer Christopher Hicks, who specializes in murder cases and has been following the Oland file closely.

"They gave leave to it (agreed to hear it) and they're not going to change their minds because of whatever happens to Dennis Oland in the Court of Appeal," said Hicks.

"This is an issue of national importance for them … They want to hear it argued," he said.

The Supreme Court receives about 600 applications for leave to appeal each year. Only about 80 are granted.

"It's an area of law the Supreme Court of Canada has never dealt with before — bail pending appeal, and they want to set down some guidelines," said Hicks.

The Supreme Court has also granted intervener status to the attorneys general of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta and the Criminal Lawyers' Association (Ontario) on the matter.

Defence lawyer Alan Gold has said Dennis Oland's case could 'provide clear guidance' on when bail may be granted pending appeal. (CBC)
Alan Gold, one of Oland's three defence lawyers, confirmed in an email to CBC News he still plans to attend the bail appeal hearing. Gold once won three Supreme Court cases in a single year.

​Oland, 48, has been seeking release pending the outcome of his conviction appeal since Feb. 12, the day after he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years.

His lawyers, Gold, Gary Miller and James McConnell, applied to the Supreme Court of Canada after he was twice denied bail by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.

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.

Oland's lawyers stated in their application that Oland was a "model candidate" for interim release and his case could "provide clear guidance" on when bail may be granted pending appeal. "At present, there is surprisingly no consensus," they wrote.

Could undermine public's confidence

On Feb. 17, Court of Appeal Justice J.C. Marc Richard rejected Oland's bail request, ruling "the confidence of the public in the administration of justice would be undermined" if a convicted murderer were to be released pending appeal.

A three-justice panel that included Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau upheld that decision. Drapeau said he was "duty bound" to do so, but remarked Oland's grounds of appeal of his conviction "appear to be serious."

Oland has been in custody since Dec. 19, when a jury found him guilty following a three-month trial in Saint John's Court of Queen's Bench. The jury reached its verdict after roughly 30 hours of deliberations over four days.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
Oland's defence lawyers contend the verdict was "unreasonable" in the circumstantial case, that the trial judge made errors in his instructions to the jury and errors in allowing some pieces of evidence to be admitted, including Oland's blood-stained brown sports jacket.

​They are seeking to have the Court of Appeal quash the conviction, and either enter an acquittal or order a new trial.

Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau, Margaret Larlee and Kathleen Quigg hope to deliver their decision on Monday at 11 a.m. AT., Drapeau said on Thursday, following a three-day hearing in Fredericton.

Appeal panel 'struggling'

They are "struggling" with the "difficult issue" of Oland's "post-offence conduct," referring to his incorrect statement to police about what jacket he was wearing when he visited his father the night he was killed, Drapeau said.

Oland said he was wearing a navy blazer on July 6, 2011, but video surveillance and witness testimony showed he was actually wearing a brown sports jacket, which was later found to have four small bloodstains on it and DNA matching his father's profile.

The Crown contends it was a "lie" intended to mislead police, but the defence maintain it was an "innocent mistake."

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 blows to his head neck and hands. No weapon was ever found.

His son, Dennis Oland, was the last known person to see him alive.

Oland's family has stood by him from the beginning, maintaining his innocence.