FREDERICTON — One of the most sensational murder cases in Canadian legal history will be back in the spotlight on Monday as jury selection begins for the retrial of Dennis Oland in the bludgeoning death of his millionaire father, Richard Oland.
The verdict from Oland’s 2015 murder trial was set aside on appeal in 2016 and a new trial ordered. The second trial will start in much the same way as the first, with over a thousand prospective jurors called to a Saint John sports arena where the process of choosing a jury will begin.
It could be time consuming given the intense publicity surrounding the murder of prominent Saint John businessman Richard Oland in 2011; the arrest and laying of the second degree murder charge against his only son, Dennis, in 2013, and then a very long and closely watched jury trial in 2015.
Nicole O’Byrne, a law professor at the University of New Brunswick, said it should be possible to find impartial jurors — the required 12 and at least two alternates — despite the high-profile nature of the case.
“The question for prospective jurors is: having heard what you have heard and knowing what you know about this case, do you still have an open mind to examining the evidence as presented to you in a trial, in an impartial way? They should be able to find 14 people,” O’Byrne said in an interview.
Richard Oland, a member of the well-known Maritime beer-making family and a former executive at the family’s Moosehead Brewery, was found dead in his Saint John office on the morning of July 7, 2011. His secretary found the 69-year-old businessman lying face down on the floor in a pool of blood.
His skull had been shattered by over 40 blows from a weapon that was never found.
Dennis Oland, 50, an investment adviser in Saint John, has always said he is innocent of the crime. The Oland family, especially his mother Connie and his uncle Derek, chairman of Moosehead, are steadfast supporters of Dennis and have stated publicly that the police made a mistake in charging him with Richard’s murder.
Dennis Oland became the only suspect within hours of his father’s body being found. He is the last known person to have seen Richard Oland alive and visited with his father in the office where he was found dead on July 6, 2011 — the day the killing is believed to have happened.
Oland maintains his father was alive and well when he left him that evening. Police and prosecutors have said Oland killed his father “in a rage.”
He remains free on bail.
“Despite the notoriety, the number of appeals and the fact that there is a second trial, in fact, legally, it is not that interesting a case,” O’Byrne said.
“By that I mean the defence argument is he didn’t do it. There is no elaborate defence, no claims of mental disorders or intoxication or any of those things which we spend months teaching our first year criminal law students about. The simplest defence is ‘You’ve got the wrong person.’ At that level, Oland isn’t that interesting.”
O’Byrne said where the case does get interesting is in the complex and costly legal manoeuvring by Oland’s defence team, including Toronto criminal lawyer, Alan Gold.
There have been countless motions, hearings and voir dires as well as several appeals, including one over bail that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada where defence arguments were upheld.
O’Byrne said the average person watching the Oland case unfold is justified in thinking there seems to be more justice for people with more money.
“Dennis Oland hasn’t had any special treatment or any special procedures or anything,” she said. “But it really sheds light on the fact the system is very expensive and hard to navigate.”
Chris Morris, The Canadian Press