Chief judge reserves decision in Oland's latest bid for freedom pending appeal
Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, March 7, 2016 7:23AM EST
Last Updated Monday, March 7, 2016 5:45PM EST
FREDERICTON -- Dennis Oland's lawyer launched a fresh bid Monday to have his client become the first convicted murderer in New Brunswick history to be released on bail pending appeal, arguing such a move would not undermine confidence in the justice system.
Toronto lawyer Alan Gold noted Oland's fine character, his deep roots in the community and the support of his family, which has already agreed to post a $400,000 surety if he is released.
"There's no suggestion there'd be any further offences or any likelihood of any breaches of bail conditions so that the public safety aspect is not a concern," Gold told the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.
Oland, 48, was sentenced last month to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years for the second-degree murder of his millionaire father Richard Oland, whose family is well known for founding Moosehead Breweries.
Justice Marc Richard of the New Brunswick Court of Appeal said Oland was not a danger to the public, but he said that's not a good enough reason to grant him bail pending the appeal. The judge said confidence in the justice system would be undermined if Oland was released.
On Monday, Gold told a three-member Court of Appeal panel Richard's decision should be overturned because the judge erred by suggesting bail should only be granted in exceptional circumstances.
Gold, citing rulings in similar cases, said exceptional conditions -- including the recanting of witness testimony, perjury, and admission of fresh evidence -- were not automatically required to grant bail for someone convicted of second-degree murder.
"It wasn't a necessary condition in every case," he told the panel.
Gold said Dennis Oland's conviction was considered closer to manslaughter on the spectrum of murder cases, and he reminded the three justices that his client's parole ineligibility period was the lowest it could be at 10 years.
As well, he said his client has always maintained his innocence.
During his submission, Gold rehashed key elements of the case, including evidence about strange sounds coming from Richard Oland's office, text messages from his mistress and blood spatter evidence that he said was misinterpreted by the jury.
"It has the hallmarks of an unreasonable verdict case," he said.
Gold said the Crown's "complex and convoluted" case rested almost entirely on circumstantial evidence.
"The case was a puzzle," he said, adding that there was virtually no evidence to support the Crown's argument that Dennis Oland killed his father in a rage because he refused to help his son escape from a financial mess.
"There was an astonishing absence of evidence," he said. "This was not a killing over money"
As well, Gold suggested the police took a very narrow view of their investigation from the start.
"It took two years for the authorities to charge (Oland) although (he) was the suspect from the day the murder was discovered," Gold told the court. "In that regard, the recognized phenomenon of suspect tunnel vision cannot but be a concern."
The lawyer said the jury's verdict was unreasonable.
Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau challenged Gold at one point, saying that if the evidence was so weak, the defence could have asked for a directed verdict, but it didn't.
As well, the chief justice asked Gold why the defence team didn't ask the trial judge to re-instruct the jury, considering flaws Gold highlighted Monday.
Gold said: "Some things went by us."
Crown lawyer Kathryn Gregory said no new evidence had been put before the court. She also dismissed Gold's claim that Richard had relied unduly on the presumption that the jury's verdict was reasonable.
"We trust in the jury system," she told the court.
Drapeau said the panel would reserve its decision until a later date.
However, Drapeau made it clear that the court would like to see the appeal dealt with as soon as possible. To expedite matters, he set a tentative date for a week-long hearing to begin on Oct. 18 in Fredericton.
The body of Richard Oland was discovered face down in a pool of blood in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. He had suffered 45 blows to his head, neck and hands.
No murder weapon was ever found.
Dennis Oland was convicted in December. His mother Connie and wife Lisa have issued statements saying Oland has been wrongly convicted and they are confident the appeal of the bail decision will be granted.