New Brunswick

'How dare you': Dennis Oland defence accuses witness of tailoring evidence

A man who heard thumping noises coming from Richard Oland's office on the night he was killed acknowledged Friday he believes Dennis Oland is guilty, but denies it's affecting the truthfulness of his testimony.

Crown closes its murder case against Oland in 2011 bludgeoning death of father, defence begins March 5

John Ainsworth was cross-examined by Dennis Oland's lead defence lawyer Alan Gold on Friday. (CBC)

A man who heard thumping noises coming from Richard Oland's office on the night he was killed acknowledged Friday he believes Dennis Oland is guilty but denied it's affecting the truthfulness of his testimony.

John Ainsworth, who was working downstairs from the victim's office on July 6, 2011, initially told Saint John police he heard the noises around 8 p.m., and later told a private investigator hired by the Oland family that it was between 7:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.

But Ainsworth testified at Oland's second-degree murder retrial Thursday, and at Oland's first trial in 2015, that he couldn't pinpoint a time.

He could only say it was sometime between 6 p.m., when his friend Anthony Shaw stopped by his printing shop, and 8:11 p.m., when a customer sent a time-stamped fax.

During an intense cross-examination Friday, lead defence lawyer Alan Gold accused Ainsworth of altering his account to fit when the accused was visiting his father at his office to "get him convicted."

"Do you agree that your position is, you refuse to commit in any way at all to anything that might be helpful to Dennis Oland's defence?"

"How dare you!" Ainsworth fired back.

"I want to see justice done, period," he said. "I have nothing against Dennis … I don't know the man and I'd hate to see him wrongfully go to jail."

Crown closes case

Dennis Oland's defence team will begin presenting its evidence on March 5. (CBC)

The heated exchange marked the close of the Crown's case against Oland. The retrial is scheduled to resume on March 5 at 9:30 a.m., when the defence will begin presenting its evidence.

Gold has said Oland will testify in his own defence, as he did at his first trial.

Oland, 51, is being retried for second-degree murder in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father.

He is the last person known to have seen the multimillionaire alive when he visited him at his office at 52 Canterbury St. on July 6, 2011, between around 5:35 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

The body of the 69-year-old was found in his investment firm office the next morning, face down in a pool of blood. He had suffered 45 sharp- and blunt-force injuries to his head, neck and hands. No weapon was ever found and his iPhone was the only item that went missing from the crime scene.

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

A jury found his son guilty, but the New Brunswick Court of Appeal overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial, citing an error in the trial judge's instructions to the jury. He is being retried by judge alone in Saint John's Court of Queen's Bench. Friday marked Day 39 of the retrial, which started on Nov. 21.

The Crown alleges Oland's deepening debt was a possible motive. He was "on the edge financially," overspending by an average of $14,000 a month in the months leading up to his father's death. His credit card and line of credit were both over limit, and his latest $1,666.67 interest-only payment on the $500,000 he had received from his father had bounced.

"This was the financial burden carried by Dennis Oland when he went to visit his father," Crown prosecutor Jill Knee said during opening statements.

A key piece of evidence in the Crown's case against Oland is the bloodstained brown sports jacket Oland wore when he visited his father.

Four of the stains found on the brown sports jacket Oland wore when he visited his father were confirmed to be blood and the DNA extracted from them matched his father's profile with a certainty of one in 20 quintillion. (Court exhibit)

The Hugo Boss jacket, which was dry cleaned the day after Oland was questioned by police, had four small confirmed bloodstains on it — two on the right sleeve, one on the upper left chest and one on the back, in the centre, near the hem.

On Friday morning, the retrial watched the videotaped testimony of a DNA expert from Oland's first trial.

The late Thomas Suzanski, who worked for the RCMP's forensic lab in Ottawa, ​concluded the chances the DNA extracted from three of the bloodstains did not belong to the victim were one in 20 quintillion.

The DNA obtained from the fourth bloodstain didn't meet the RCMP's minimum requirement for processing.

Suzanski could not say how the blood or DNA got on the jacket or how long it had been there, but testified the DNA likely came from blood, rather than another source, such as saliva or sweat.

Timeline crucial

The timing of the thumping noises Ainsworth and Shaw heard is also crucial to the case against Oland. In hindsight, both men believe the noises they heard were the sounds of the killing.

The defence has submitted time-stamped security video of the accused shopping with his wife at a drug store and country market across town in Rothesay around 7:38 p.m.

Earlier in the retrial, Shaw testified his "best guess" of the timing was about 7:30 p.m.

On Friday, Ainsworth said his initial 8 p.m. estimate came from Shaw. "I asked him what time it was because I didn't remember," he said.

I'm not trying to mislead you, I'm trying to clarify.- John Ainsworth

Ainsworth said he was under the impression at the time that the victim had died of a heart attack. Once he learned it was a homicide, he realized the timing "was really critical" and gave it more thought, he said.

But Gold argued Ainsworth knew it was homicide by Oct. 27, 2011, when he told the private investigator during a sworn videotaped statement that the noises were at "approximately 7:30, or quarter to eight."

"I'm not trying to mislead you, I'm trying to clarify," said an indignant Ainsworth.

Gold continued to press for a narrower time range, but Ainsworth was unwavering.

"​In retrospect, I realize I didn't really know" the time, he said. "I couldn't be that accurate."

"I've been suffering with it for eight years. You think it doesn't bother me? Profoundly so, but I don't know."

Praise for jury

Gold asked Ainsworth if he thinks Oland is guilty. Ainsworth paused, then asked Justice Terrence Morrison, "Can I plead the fifth?"

"We don't have that here, sir," said Morrison.

"I concur with the determination of the original jury," said Ainsworth. "I respect what they determined."

Gold showed the court some of Ainsworth's social media postings, including one on a media website on Dec. 19, 2015 — the day Oland was found guilty.

"The jury deserves the greatest respect for their time, effort and insight," Ainsworth wrote.

On Facebook he posted, "​Toasting … justice being served equitably saving face for the judicial system by respecting the findings of a jury and providing some sense of justice for Richard.

Gold also asked Ainsworth about an alleged conversation he had with a man in November about his upcoming testimony.

"You told Butch that in your opinion, [Oland's] as guilty as sin, you're 100 per cent sure he's guilty," suggested Gold.

Ainsworth said he didn't recall that specific conversation.

"Have you said that to other people?" asked Gold.

Ainsworth said he might have "to a friend or two."

"We're not allowed to surmise stuff relative to what has transpired in the news? Wow. OK. Big brother on us now?"

The defence planned to file a so-called KGB application — to have a previous inconsistent statement admitted into evidence for the truth of its contents.

After taking a short recess, lead Crown prosecutor P.J. Veniot agreed to have Ainsworth's videotaped statement to the private investigator entered into evidence, rather than go through a voir dire hearing.

It will be up to the judge to determine the "ultimate reliability" of the statement, he said.