Defence lawyers wrap up case in Oland trial

Oland has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his father

Andrew Vaughan/CP

Andrew Vaughan/CP

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Defence lawyers for Dennis Oland abruptly closed their case Thursday, ending the evidence portion of his second-degree murder trial in the killing of his father.

Gary Miller opened his case last week by telling the jury in the Court of Queen’s Bench that he planned to call Oland’s wife, sister, mother, uncle and one of his family friends.

But after two days of sometimes emotional testimony from Oland about the death of his prominent father, Miller told jurors Thursday morning: “We see no need to call any other evidence and we close our case.”

Oland has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his father, leading businessman Richard Oland. The 69-year-old was found face down in a pool of blood in his Canterbury Street office in Saint John on July 7, 2011. Court was told he was killed the previous evening.

The jury has heard he suffered 45 blunt and sharp-force wounds to his head, neck and hands, though no murder weapon was ever found.

The Olands are an establishment family in the business history of the Maritimes, having founded Moosehead Breweries. Richard Oland left the family business in 1981.

The trial has adjourned until Dec. 14, when the Crown and defence will present closing arguments.

Justice John Walsh told the jury that his instructions will be lengthy, taking more than a full day, and the week they return will be “mentally exhausting and emotionally draining.”

“You will have to concentrate on what the lawyers tell you, and what I tell you, then deliberate,” Walsh said.

The trial is in its 12th week.

The defence called three witnesses: blood spatter expert Patrick Laturnus, forensic computer analyst Geoffrey Fellows, and Oland himself. The Crown called more than 40 witnesses.

Pathologist Dr. Ather Naseemuddin, who performed the autopsy on Richard Oland, described the injuries to his body in detail, including 14 skull fractures.

The jury also heard a detailed description of the hundreds of blood spatter stains at the crime scene and were told the killer or killers would likely have gotten blood on them.

The court was shown a video of Dennis Oland’s interview with Saint John police on July 7, 2011.

During that interview, Oland told Const. Stephen Davidson that his father was a difficult person at times but rose to the occasion and funded his divorce. Oland said he didn’t have any involvement in his father’s death.

“I had no reason to kill him,” he said.

Oland also told police that he visited his father’s office twice on July 6, 2011, and that he had been wearing a navy blazer. Testimony from witnesses and surveillance camera video showed Oland wearing a brown jacket, and it was eventually learned from Oland himself that he went back to the office a third time to retrieve a logbook for his uncle.

The Crown pointed to those inconsistencies when cross-examining Oland, who said at the time of his statement to police he was nervous and in shock.

The Crown also focused on possible issues of motive including Dennis Oland’s financial difficulties and the knowledge that his father was having an affair.

In his testimony, Oland downplayed his finances as a recurring issue in the life of a financial adviser, and said he had not discussed his finances or the affair with this father.

The work of the Saint John Police Department was also under scrutiny, particularly at the crime scene.

The jury was told officers used the back door of the building before it could be fingerprinted. They used a washroom for two days before it could be examined, and some were unaware of what they did with blood-covered gloves after the body was moved.


Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.