SAINT JOHN, N.B. - A mistrial has been declared in the retrial of Dennis Oland for the second-degree murder of his father, with the jury dismissed over police “improprieties” and the case to be heard by judge alone.
The stunning development comes just over a month after jury selection was completed for the complex trial, which was expected to take at least four months.
Justice Terrence Morrison of the New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench announced the mistrial Tuesday at what was expected to be the start of evidence presentation in Oland's second trial for the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, Richard Oland.
The trial will now continue Wednesday in front of Morrison alone.
Morrison said there were “improprieties” in the jury selection process of which the Crown was unaware.
“It cannot be helped,” Morrison told the 16 jurors as he thanked them for their service. “Your services are no longer required.”
In a statement after the mistrial, defence lawyer Alan Gold said Saint John police overstepped limits on jury investigations.
Gold said the Supreme Court of Canada has made it clear that jurors' privacy “disallowed any police data base searches into the private lives of jurors in order to find out any and all contacts they may have had with the police.”
But Gold said the errors by Saint John police didn't stop there, and asked that a New Brunswick Police Commission inquiry into the force's conduct in the Oland murder investigation, which had been put on hold pending the jury trial, now resume.
“As the defence contended at the first trial, Dennis Oland was charged because of the mistakes, confusion, even bungling actions of the Saint John police who too quickly focused on him and failed to find and follow the clues to the real killer or killers,” he said.
“The New Brunswick Police Commission has many issues to examine about how this case was investigated and how the police decided Dennis was the perpetrator of the crime, within hours of the murder being discovered.”
Oland will now have to be re-arraigned Wednesday and enter his plea. Then there will be opening arguments and, finally, the retrial will get underway.
Dennis Oland, his wife Lisa and mother Connie were all in court for the news, the latest twist in a case that has seen many.
Richard Oland's body was discovered on July 7, 2011, in his uptown Saint John office.
The 69-year-old businessman and former executive of Moosehead Breweries Ltd. suffered 45 blunt and sharp force blows to his head, neck and hands, although no weapon was ever found.
Dennis Oland, his only son, was charged with second-degree murder in 2013 and convicted in 2015 after a trial that heard from nearly 50 witnesses and revealed a case built on what the judge hearing the case called largely circumstantial evidence.
After his 2015 conviction, Dennis Oland sobbed uncontrollably. Family members cried and hugged each other, with many appearing to be stunned by the verdict, which came after about 30 hours of deliberations.
But the jury verdict in that case was set aside on appeal in 2016 and a new trial ordered.
During the first trial, the Crown focused on possible issues of motive, including Dennis Oland's financial difficulties and the knowledge his father was having an affair.
But in his own testimony, Dennis Oland downplayed his finances as a recurring issue in the life of a financial adviser and said he never raised them with his father. He also said the two never discussed his father's affair.
The defence pointed to video that showed Dennis Oland and his wife shopping later on the evening of July 6, 2011, when people working below Richard Oland's office say they believe they heard the sounds of the murder.
The key piece of evidence for the Crown was a brown jacket worn by Dennis Oland that had a number of small blood stains and also DNA that matched the profile of Richard Oland. However, none of the expert witnesses could say how long the blood had been on the jacket or how it got there.
Yet there were some inconsistencies in his story.
Dennis Oland had 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 him wearing a brown jacket, and it was eventually learned from Dennis 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 Dennis Oland, who said at the time of his statement to police he was nervous and in shock.
The family has been steadfast that they believe Dennis Oland is innocent.
“We continue to believe our nephew and cousin Dennis is innocent and we will support him and his family members through the course of whatever legal actions will unfold,” Derek Oland, the executive chairman of Moosehead, said in a 2015 statement.
- By Chris Morris, The Canadian Press