New Brunswick

Judge at Dennis Oland murder trial is a leading legal expert in DNA

The judge presiding over Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial in Saint John is one of the country's foremost experts in the legal application of forensic DNA typing.

Justice John Walsh was among first lawyers to use DNA evidence in 1991 case of serial killer Allan Legere

Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Walsh was one of the first lawyers in Canada to introduce DNA evidence against an accused during the 1991 murder trial of serial killer, Allan Legere. (Andrew Robson)

The judge presiding over Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial in Saint John is one of the country's foremost experts in the legal application of forensic DNA typing.

New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench Justice John (Jack) Walsh was one of the first lawyers in Canada to introduce DNA evidence against an accused about 24 years ago in Miramichi, during the trial of notorious serial killer Allan Legere.
Dennis Oland, 47, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland. (CBC)

Legere, an escaped convict who went on a seven-month killing spree in 1989, was convicted in 1991 of four counts of first-degree murder.

Walsh was part of the prosecution team that secured convictions in all four cases, due, in large part, to the DNA evidence.

The RCMP forensic lab found there was only one chance in 310 million that someone else would match the genetic codes taken from semen samples at the murder scene of sisters Donna and Linda Daughney, and a one in 5.2 million chance at the scene where an elderly woman, Annie Flam, was killed. There was no DNA found at the murder scene of priest James Smith.

Legere unsuccessfully appealed in 1993 and was subsequently declared a dangerous offender, a designation that allows for permanent incarceration.

Dennis Oland is accused in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
A blood-stained brown sports jacket is a key piece of evidence in the Crown's case against him.

The jacket had three small bloodstains on it — on the right sleeve, upper left chest and on the back — and the DNA extracted from those areas matched his father's profile. The chances of it not being the victim's DNA are one in 20 quintillion, a DNA expert has testified.

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the genetic coding found in cells.

Oland, 47, was the last known person to see his father alive during a meeting at his investment firm office on July  6, 2011.

The body of the 69-year-old multimillionaire was discovered lying face down in a pool of blood on his office floor the following morning. He had suffered 45 sharp and blunt force injuries to his head, neck and hands. No weapon was ever found.

Walsh, who was brought in from Miramichi to hear the high-profile case, ​is expected to begin giving his instructions to the jury early next week.

He warned the jurors it could take him up to two days to do so.

Input on DNA warrant and data bank legislation

Walsh was appointed to the Court of Queen's Bench in September 2009, less than a year after being appointed a provincial court judge.

In 2003, while a Crown prosecutor, he received one of the Canadian Bar Association's most prestigious awards — the John Tait Award of Excellence, which honours, recognizes and celebrates accomplishments of public sector lawyers.

DNA extracted from Dennis Oland's blood-stained jacket matched his father's profile, the trial has heard. (Court exhibit)
He was recognized for his "outstanding record" of public service and for being "one of Canada's most recognized legal experts in forensic DNA typing as it applies to criminal law."

In 1998, Walsh was invited to address the federal Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on DNA-related legislation. He had authored a public consultation paper in 1994, which formed the basis for the federal DNA warrant legislation and DNA Data Bank legislation.

Walsh had been seconded to the federal Department of Justice criminal law branch the previous year and worked exclusively in the area of forensic DNA evidence.

He contributed articles and book chapters to legal and scientific publications alike, and offered consultation to police and prosecutors on some of the most serious crimes.

Walsh was admitted to Queen's counsel in 2001. He became a Crown prosecutor in 1987, after practising general law for about a decade.

Walsh, who was born and raised in Miramichi, became a member of the New Brunswick bar in 1977, the same year he obtained his law degree from the University of New Brunswick.

He previously obtained a bachelor of arts degree from St. Thomas University.