New Brunswick

Dennis Oland murder case won't be reviewed by Supreme Court

Dennis Oland's second-degree murder case will not be reviewed by Canada's top court, and instead will proceed to a retrial in New Brunswick's Court of Queen's Bench.

With top court's dismissal, date for new trial will be scheduled in New Brunswick's Court of Queen's Bench

Dennis Oland, who served about 10 months in prison, has been free on bail since Oct. 25, pending his new trial. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Dennis Oland's second-degree murder case will not be reviewed by Canada's top court, and instead will proceed to a retrial in New Brunswick's Court of Queen's Bench.

The Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday dismissed requests by both the Office of the Attorney General and the defence to review the overturning of Oland's conviction in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, multimillionaire Richard Oland.

The three-justice panel did not provide reasons for its decision.

"Our limbo is over and we can now move on to the next step," said lead defence lawyer Alan Gold, referring to the new trial ordered by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal last fall when it quashed Oland's conviction.

Prosecutors had requested leave to appeal that decision to the top court, hoping to have the jury's guilty verdict reinstated, while the defence was seeking an acquittal instead of a retrial.

"Obviously it was stressful sort of not knowing what was going to happen. Now the situation has been clarified, and so a lot of that stress has been removed and everyone now knows what the next step is going to be ... Dennis is obviously relieved," said Gold.

"A new trial is now a sure thing in the sense that it's going to take place, the Crown can't take it away from us, so now we'll be busy getting ready for the new trial."

Alan Gold said the defence team is 'working hard,' getting ready for Dennis Oland's retrial. (CBC)
Assistant Deputy Attorney General Luc LaBonté offered no comment on the Supreme Court's decision, other than to say the Crown will "abide by the decision … and prepare for the new trial."

Although the Crown is not obligated to pursue the new trial ordered by the Court of Appeal, it "absolutely" will be, said LaBonté.

A date for the new trial will now be scheduled in New Brunswick's Court of Queen's Bench, likely for sometime in 2018.

Oland, 49, was convicted in December 2015 and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years.

He served about 10 months before the New Brunswick Court of Appeal overturned his conviction and released him on bail, citing an error in the trial judge's instructions to the jury about Oland's so-called post-offence conduct.

The brown sports jacket seized from Dennis Oland's bedroom closet had four small bloodstains on it and DNA matching his father's profile. (Court exhibit)
Oland told Saint John police he was wearing a navy blazer when he visited his father at his investment firm office on July 6, 2011, but video surveillance and witness testimony showed he was actually wearing a brown sports jacket, later found to have four small bloodstains on it and DNA matching his father's profile.

The Court of Appeal ruled the trial judge should have instructed the jurors to disregard Oland's incorrect statement in weighing his guilt or innocence unless they had independent evidence it was a lie concocted to conceal his involvement in his father's death.

"Dennis is back in the same position he was many years ago when he was first charged — he's presumed innocent and it's now a matter of public record that his first trial, where he was convicted was tainted by reversible error," said Gold.

Judge-alone request possible

Asked whether the defence will seek a judge-alone trial rather than judge and jury, or request change of venue given the publicity surrounding the case, Gold said he's "not in a position to comment" on those issues yet.

"Everything is under consideration," he said.

About 5,000 people were given summonses as prospective jurors for Oland's first trial. It was one of the largest jury pools in New Brunswick history and larger than some of the most high-profile cases across Canada, including Luka Magnotta, Robert Pickton and Paul Bernardo.

Normally, only about 300 people are summonsed for trials in New Brunswick.

The Criminal Code stipulates all homicide cases are to be heard by a judge and jury, but the defence or Crown can request a judge-alone trial. The other party must consent and its decision cannot be appealed.

The Crown does not intend to request a trial by judge alone, said LaBonté.

Retrial could be shorter

No hearing to schedule the new trial date has been set yet, but it could be as soon as Aug. 8, which is the court's next motions day, said Gold.

It's unclear how much time will need to be set aside for a new trial, he said.

"A lot of things have been crystalized obviously — witnesses have been heard, issues have been clarified. So a new trial often has no resemblance to the first trial, and that could well be true in this case."

Oland's first trial lasted about three months, making it one of the longest criminal trials in New Brunswick history.

Gold said he "wouldn't be surprised" if the new trial is shorter. "New trials generally are."

"Both sides may feel they should do things differently," and there could be "some new issues," he said.

Prosecutors are "preparing for the same length" as the first trial, but "hoping" some of the previous rulings in the case will help shorten the amount of time required, said LaBonté.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)

New Brunswick Court of Appeal Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau has previously said he expects a second trial would be "considerably shorter" than the first, which lasted about 50 days, "given the work done as well as the experience and knowledge acquired by the police, counsel and the judiciary, and bearing in mind this court's unqualified endorsement of the trial judge's evidential rulings that were contested on appeal."

There could also be agreed statements of fact between the parties, avoiding the need for some of the witnesses to testify.

Oland continues to live in the community under court-imposed conditions until his new trial.

The Supreme Court receives about 600 applications for leave to appeal each year and only about 80 are granted — those it deems to be of national importance.

The three-member panel, consisting of Justices Michael Moldaver, Suzanne Coté and Malcolm Rowe, had been considering the leave applications since June 12.

The body of Richard Oland, 69, was discovered lying face-down in a pool of blood in his office on July 7, 2011. He had suffered 45 blows to his head, neck and hands. No weapon was ever found.

His son was the last known person to see him alive, during his visit to the elder Oland's office the night before.

Dennis Oland's extended family has maintained his innocence from the beginning.