Dennis Oland’s lawyers prepare to seek ‘complete vindication’
Dennis Oland’s second degree murder case soon could be back before the Supreme Court of Canada as his defence lawyers prepare next steps in their bid toward his “complete vindication.”
Buoyed by the court’s decision Thursday that Oland was wrongly denied bail pending his appeal of his murder conviction, his lawyers expect to file more arguments to the country’s highest court next week, seeking an acquittal.
“That material has actually just been completed. It’s on its way to Ottawa. It probably will be filed Monday or Tuesday,” said lead counsel Alan Gold.
“The Supreme Court seems to take about two to three months to decide leave applications, so I think in June we will know whether or not there are going to be further Supreme Court of Canada proceedings.”
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Oland’s conviction in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, multimillionaire Richard Oland, was overturned by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal in October, after he had already served about 10 months in prison.
Errors in judge’s instructions
The appeal court cited errors in the trial judge’s instructions to the jury and ordered a new trial for Dennis Oland, now 49, releasing him until then, saying his presumption of innocence had been restored.
But the Crown filed an application to the Supreme Court in January, seeking a review of that decision, hoping to have the jury’s guilty verdict reinstated.
Gold says the defence team has been busy working on its cross-appeal. He, Gary Miller and James McConnell maintain the guilty verdict was unreasonable and want the Supreme Court to review some of the issues dismissed by the appeal court.
That includes the admissibility of the Crown’s key piece of evidence against Oland — a blood-stained brown Hugo Boss sports jacket, which was seized from his bedroom closet a week after the murder.
The question of the jacket
They argue Saint John police didn’t have the authority to send the jacket for DNA testing and that it should have been excluded as evidence at trial.
The jacket had four small bloodstains on it — on the right sleeve, the upper left chest and on the back in the centre, near the hem, the trial heard. The DNA extracted from three of those stains matched his father’s profile, tests found.
During a pre-trial hearing on the jacket’s admissibility, prosecutors had told the court excluding it would “gut” their case against Oland.
The Supreme Court is not obligated to hear the case. It receives about 600 applications for leave to appeal each year. Only about 80 are granted — those it deems to be of national importance.
There’s no set deadline for the Supreme Court to decide whether it will hear the case. Scheduling of Oland’s new trial has been postponed until it does. If Oland’s retrial proceeds, it’s not expected to be heard until 2018.
Richard Oland died in 2011
The body of Richard Oland, 69, was discovered lying face down in a pool of blood in his investment firm office in Saint John on July 7, 2011. He had suffered 45 blows to his head, neck and hands. No weapon was ever found.
His son Dennis was the last known person to see him alive during a meeting at his office the night before.
A jury found Oland guilty on Dec. 19, 2015, following a three-month trial in Saint John’s Court of Queen’s Bench. He was sentenced on Feb. 12, 2016, to life in prison with no chance of parole for a least 10 years.
Oland requested bail the following day, but was denied by New Brunswick Court of Appeal Justice Marc Richard, who ruled “the confidence of the public in the administration of justice would be undermined” if a convicted murderer were to be released pending appeal.
A three-justice panel of the appeal court that included Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau upheld the bail decision in April 2016, prompting Oland’s defence to appeal to the Supreme Court.
No one convicted of murder in New Brunswick has ever been granted bail pending appeal before, and there have only been 34 cases across Canada in which someone convicted of murder was granted bail, according to Oland’s lawyers.
‘If Dennis Oland were ever convicted again — which of course, you know I have every confidence will not happen … this would tell the appeal court that if he were convicted again, unless something was drastically different, he should be entitled to bail pending appeal again.’ – Alan Gold, defence lawyer
Although Oland won a new trial and was released on bail before his bail appeal made it to the Supreme Court, making it a moot point for him, the court still heard arguments and released its unanimous, precedent-setting decision on Thursday.
“They made it clear that even people convicted of serious offences, if the conditions are right, are entitled to be free while they wait for their appeal to be heard,” said Gold.
“We know that sometimes verdicts aren’t correct, that sometimes you need an appeal court to assess them and see whether they’re correct or not. And while that process takes place, an accused can be at liberty, if there is no risk to the public safety, there’s no risk of their running away, and they have what appears to be a sensible, solid appeal,” he said.
“Technically, you could say that if Dennis Oland were ever convicted again — which of course, you know I have every confidence will not happen, and we look forward to him ultimately being completely vindicated — technically, this would tell the appeal court that if he were convicted again, unless something was drastically different, he should be entitled to bail pending appeal again.”
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