New Brunswick

Crown seeks leave to appeal overturning of Dennis Oland's murder conviction

Crown prosecutors say they will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to review the New Brunswick Court of Appeal's decision to overturn Dennis Oland's second-degree murder conviction in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, multimillionaire Richard Oland.

Decision by Supreme Court of Canada on whether it will hear appeal may not be known until July

Dennis Oland, who was granted bail pending his new trial, will have to wait longer for a new trial date. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Crown prosecutors say they will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to review the New Brunswick Court of Appeal's decision to overturn Dennis Oland's second-degree murder conviction in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, multimillionaire Richard Oland.

Prosecutor Kathryn Gregory revealed the Crown's decision to seek leave to appeal to the country's highest court on Tuesday in Saint John's Court of Queen's Bench.

She did not explain the grounds, but told Justice William Grant the Crown expects to file its application on Jan. 22, 10 days after the New Brunswick Court of Appeal is expected to release its detailed written reasons for its Oct. 24 decision to quash Oland's conviction and order a new trial based on a "fundamental flaw" in the trial judge's instructions to the jury.

A date for Oland's new trial was expected to be set on Tuesday, but scheduling has now been adjourned until after the Supreme Court decides whether it will hear the matter. A decision isn't expected until at least July, the court heard.

The Supreme Court receives about 600 applications for leave to appeal each year. Only about 80 are granted — ones it deems are of national importance.

Oland's defence team anticipates filing a cross appeal, seeking an acquittal instead of a retrial, said Gary Miller, one of his three lawyers.

Defence reviewing new information

Miller also revealed in court Tuesday that the defence team is reviewing new disclosure material from the Crown that didn't come out during Oland's trial in 2015, and indicated they "fully anticipate" requesting further disclosure.

He suggested the new information is related to the Halifax Regional Police investigation into the conduct of a Saint John Police Force officer in connection with the case, but declined to discuss any details outside the courthouse.

Dennis Oland's defence lawyer Gary Miller said he doesn't expect a decision from the Supreme Court on whether it will hear the appeal until around July. (CBC)
"This is something that certainly wasn't anticipated," he told reporters. "It just came out and so we, in exercising due diligence, had to follow up on it, obviously."

Halifax police had investigated allegations Saint John's Deputy Chief Glen McCloskey encouraged another officer not to reveal McCloskey had entered the bloody crime scene. McCloskey was cleared by Halifax police of any criminal wrongdoing.

Gregory asked Grant on Tuesday to set a date for Oland's new trial, despite the pending appeal to the Supreme Court. She indicated the Crown would be ready for trial by September and requested the earliest available date, citing the so-called Jordan decision by the Supreme Court last summer, which set new rules for an accused's right to be tried within a reasonable time frame.

'Clock is ticking'

Superior Court cases now have up to 30 months to be completed, from the time the charge is laid to the conclusion of a trial, while provincial court trials should be completed within 18 months, but can be extended to 30 months if there is a preliminary inquiry.

Although there does not appear to be any clear guidance on how quickly second trials should be held, Gregory told the court "the clock is ticking."

"The responsibility is squarely on the Crown and also on the court to ensure matters proceed as quickly as possible," she said.

"While the accused has a right for trial without delay, there's also the ancillary right of the public that this matter proceed without delay."

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
Miller, however, said the defence would waive any right to a Charter rights claim, as Oland looked on from the front row of the courtroom, sporting a blue sweater, shirt and tie and grey pants for his first court appearance since he was released on bail on Oct. 25.

It's "a bit premature" to set a new trial date, Miller argued.

"We just found out this morning we'll get the decision from the Court of Appeal next Friday. [Prosecutors] have 10 days after that to file [their application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court], which is early February. We have 60 days to file an application to cross-appeal. [Prosecutors] have 30 days to file a response to our application to cross-appeal.

"And then it's going to take a little while for the Supreme Court of Canada to decide" whether it will hear either application, Miller repeated to reporters after the proceedings.

"Predicting when the Supreme Court of Canada is going to decide something is a fool's game," he said. "But, you know, their average is around three months. So if we follow the timetable I've just said, that would take us to July 22."

If that's the case, he told the court, "we would do well to be through the Supreme Court of Canada by 2018."

'Great uncertainty'

The judge agreed with Miller, saying there is "great uncertainty as to how this is all going to unfold."

If a trial date were set, the defence might spend a lot of time preparing for a trial that might never happen, said Grant. "Cost, from the defence point of view, I'm sure is considerable," he said, adding it was something he had to consider.

Grant noted several pre-trial hearings on the admissibility of certain evidence were required for the first trial and took months to complete.

Gregory said no pre-trial hearings have been requested yet and pointed out the Court of Appeal upheld those voir dire decisions.

If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the matter and Oland's defence succeeds in getting those rulings overturned, however, more pre-trial hearings could be necessary, creating further delays.

Prosecutors appeal Dennis Oland decision

6 years ago
Duration 1:39
Crown prosecutors say they will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to review the New Brunswick Court of Appeal's decision to overturn Dennis Oland's murder conviction.
Grant adjourned the scheduling of a new trial date until after a decision is made by the Supreme Court on whether it will hear the applications.

If a new trial proceeds, it is not expected to be heard until 2018.

Asked how Oland feels about the latest developments, Miller said his client "understands that certain things have to be done to do it right ultimately. So, you know, he's dug in for 5½ years, and he continues to show incredible strength."

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, who was the last known person to see him alive during a meeting at his office the night before, was found guilty by a jury on Dec. 19, 2015.

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

Unlike previous court appearances, no relatives were with Oland on Tuesday, but family lawyer Bill Teed sat with him.

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