Judge reserves decision until mid-July in Dennis Oland murder trial
Dennis Oland heads from the Law Courts as he continue his testimony in Saint John, N.B., on March 7, 2019. (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- The Crown and defence in a high-profile New Brunswick murder trial agree there was a lack of direct evidence, but they differ on how that should be viewed by the judge.
Lawyers wrapped up their closing arguments Thursday in the retrial of Dennis Oland on a charge of second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his wealthy father in Saint John.
Richard Oland was struck more than 40 times with a hammer-like weapon in July 2011, leaving his skull cracked in several places. Deep cuts on his hands suggested he tried to protect himself from his attacker. The weapon was never found.
Alan Gold, Dennis Oland's lawyer, told Court of Queen's Bench Justice Terrence Morrison the Crown's case is based on circumstantial evidence, and there are pieces that don't fit.
It is human nature to "distort the facts in order to establish a proposition of guilt," he said, but the Crown is asking the judge to make inferences from the lack of direct evidence.
In his closing remarks, Crown prosecutor P.J. Veniot said he would not be asking the judge to draw inferences if he had solid evidence of everything. He said it is a case about the evidence in its entirety and how it fits together.
"It's about a father and son, one wealthy and one not," Veniot said. "It's not about tunnel vision or confirmation bias ... despite what the defence would have you believe."
The Crown has suggested the younger Oland's financial problems were a motive, but Gold said that is speculation.
He told the judge that a significant section of the Crown's written submission to the court is based on the theory that Dennis Oland was driven by "financial despair." He called that an overreach, a search for a motive in an effort to identify the killer.
Gold said there's no evidence to show that finances were even discussed when Oland visited his father's office on the day of the murder. "The only direct evidence is the accused's testimony to the contrary," Gold said.
The trial heard that a brown jacket worn by Dennis Oland when he visited his father had tiny bloodstains and Richard Oland's DNA on it. Oland told police he had been wearing a navy blazer on that day, and the brown jacket was taken to be dry cleaned the day after Richard Oland was found dead in his Saint John office.
But Gold said there was no proof showing his client tried to deceive police.
The Crown's case also focused on Richard Oland's missing iPhone and evidence that it pinged with a tower to the east of the city after Dennis Oland travelled in that direction. Gold told the court that the Crown produced nothing to prove that the son took the phone.
Gold also used his closing statements to highlight what he called a poor police investigation. He said police "failed to adequately process the scene" and "overlooked third parties."
Dennis Oland sat quietly in the court Thursday, listening attentively to the presentations. The court was full of his relatives and friends of the family.
Veniot said the 45 blows suffered by Richard Oland went well beyond what was needed to kill him. "This was a crime of passion. This was personal," he said. "This was not a random killing by a crackhead."
Dennis Oland alone was responsible for the murder, he added.
The lawyers' oral statements Thursday were in addition to lengthy written briefs presented to the court.
Oland was initially charged with the second-degree murder of his father in 2013. He was convicted in a jury trial in 2015, but the verdict was set aside on appeal and a new trial was ordered. The second trial has been heard by judge alone.
Justice Morrison noted that few murder trials a heard before a judge alone, and few are this complicated. As a result he has reserved his decision until July 19.