Daughter of Dennis Oland's defence lawyer was a producer of CBC documentary The Oland Murder
Revelation raises questions about journalistic judgment in 4-part series airing on CBC
A co-producer of a major documentary series on the Richard Oland murder case broadcast by the CBC is the daughter of Dennis Oland's lead defence lawyer, CBC News has learned.
The revelation casts a new light on the unprecedented access that the documentary team had to Dennis Oland and his defence team, including top criminal lawyer Alan Gold.
It also raises questions about journalistic judgment, given that series co-producer Caitlin Gold Teitelbaum is Gold's daughter.
CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices (JSP) says the corporation's news operations will "refrain from any involvement with stories in which a member of our immediate family (including in-laws) has a strong stake."
It adds that when a conflict is unavoidable, news managers and the journalist "will develop a protocol to protect the integrity of our journalism."
The Oland Murder, a four-part series that began airing on CBC Television on March 4, was not produced by CBC News employees but was commissioned by the corporation and produced by an independent production company, Seven Knots Media Inc.
Even so, lead producer Deborah Wainwright told a court last year that she would adhere to the same standards as CBC journalists.
"Am I correct to say that you don't consider yourself to be a journalist?" Crown lawyer Kathryn Gregory asked Wainwright, during a hearing on whether she could use audio recordings of Dennis Oland's two trials.
"I'm not a journalist, but for this project I'm adhering to the Journalistic Standards and Practices of the CBC," Wainwright replied. "I'm following the JSP for this project."
Gold Teitelbaum is listed as co-producer "Caitlin Gold" in the credits of the documentary, which tells the story of the July 2011 murder of Richard Oland and the prosecution of his son Dennis for the crime.
Dennis Oland was convicted by a jury in his first trial in 2015 but, following an appeal of that decision, was acquitted by Justice Terrence Morrison at a retrial last July.
Wainwright did not respond to a request left on her voicemail.
CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson said Friday in an emailed statement that the CBC was not aware of the family relationship before now, but the documentary "met all of our JSP guidelines," and "we have final say over the creative."
Gold Teitelbaum "provided the producers with unprecedented access to the defendant, as well as his defence team," Thompson said.
"She received an associate producer credit as a courtesy and while we acknowledge the family connection could be perceived as a conflict of interest, Caitlin had no editorial input."
Thompson's response contradicts Wainwright's account of how the team got access to the Oland family.
She told CBC's Information Morning Fredericton earlier this week that the family was "a little leery at first" but eventually agreed.
"I think perhaps the timing was right, and the fact I was from the other side of the country maybe seemed like I came with less of a bias," Wainwright said.
"I didn't know the Olands. I didn't know anything about New Brunswick, so I think I came with an open mind."
Wainwright did not reveal in that interview that her co-producer's father was Oland's defence lawyer.
In a Facebook post last month, Gold Teitelbaum described the project to friends as a three-year "journey" for her and "a wild ride," adding it was finally ready for air.
"Congrats Cait!" wrote one friend. "Does the best criminal defense lawyer in Canada (who shall remain nameless) make an appearance?"
Gold Teitelbaum replied with three heart emojis.
She did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent via Facebook, and by mid-Friday afternoon the post about the series was no longer public on her page.
Stephen Kimber, who teaches journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax, said the CBC should be transparent about the Gold connection.
"It is an important issue for viewers to know when they see the documentary … that there was this personal connection," he said. "Then they are in a position as an audience to make a judgment about what they think about the legitimacy of all of that. That's the key to me."
Kimber said audience members would "have a hard job" distinguishing between CBC News content and an independently produced documentary, and in any case the corporation owes it to its audience to be up front about the Gold link.
"In this era of fake news, it's really important that all media outlets be as transparent as possible," he said.
"It's that kind of transparency that is, first of all, really important for the audience to know. And secondly from the CBC's point of view, its credibility, which is obviously vital to its function, is called into question if it's not transparent."
While the broadcaster's documentary unit is separate from its news unit, CBC communications and marketing staff contacted CBC News producers in New Brunswick in recent weeks to ask for news coverage of the documentary's release.
Wainwright appeared on the three local Information Morning shows in Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton, N.B., earlier this week to promote the documentary and also spoke to CBC Television in the province.
Two CBC News reporters who covered the trial, Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon and Robert Jones, were interviewed for the documentary without being told about the Gold connection. The series also uses CBC News archival footage.
The Globe and Mail television critic John Doyle gave The Oland Murder a rave review in a column on Monday, calling it "terrific true-crime storytelling."
Doyle noted the production's intimate access to Dennis Oland, his family and his defence lawyers, and said the series raised questions about the prosecution's case.
Wainwright applied to the Court of Queen's Bench last year for access to the court's audio recordings of the two Oland trials.
In her affidavit, she said Oland's defence lawyers had told her they did not object to the request. She said Gold had told her he didn't want her to use Oland's emotional reaction to the guilty verdict in the first trial, and she agreed.
She eventually dropped her request to use the audio.
With files from Hadeel Ibrahim