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Oland 'shattered' main pillars of Crown's case: Hicks

Dennis Oland proved to be a highly effective witness in his own defence, tearing down the major arguments in the Crown’s case, Toronto criminal lawyer Christopher Hicks tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Oland, 51, testified over three days at his trial for the second-degree murder of his father, Richard Oland. The elder Oland, a wealthy New Brunswick businessman, was beaten to death in his Saint John office by an assailant wielding a hammer-like weapon on July 6, 2011 in Saint John, N.B.

The defence rested its case on Tuesday.

“It was beneficial and even necessary that Dennis testify. He was unshaken in his testimony during the prosecution’s cross-examination," says Hicks, partner with Hicks Adams LLP.

“He has effectively shattered the main pillars of the prosecution’s allegation that he murdered his father — money, the cellphone and the brown jacket.”

During cross-examination, Oland denied the Crown’s allegation that he purposely lied to police by saying he was wearing a navy jacket when visiting his father rather than the brown one he did wear. The brown jacket was later found to have four small bloodstains on it and Richard Oland's DNA, The Canadian Press (CP) reports.

Oland also failed to tell police that he actually went into his father's office three times on the afternoon of July 6, 2011, roughly over a one-hour period. He had mentioned only two visits.

During his testimony, Oland insisted they were simply mistakes, oversights caused by the stress and shock of the day, says CP.

"We were distraught,'' he said, referring to the Oland family learning about the death.

“The prosecution asserted that it was on this third visit that Dennis killed his father, which Dennis effectively denied, pointing out there was no blood on the logbook he retrieved during his last visit, which was later seized by police,” says Hicks, who is not involved in the case and comments generally.

The soft-spoken investment adviser told the court that he had asked his employer — CIBC Wood Gundy in Saint John — to help him get through a “cash crunch'' caused largely by spousal and child support payments, and a monthly instalment he was struggling to pay his father for an earlier, $500,000 loan.

The prosecution suggested Oland bludgeoned his 69-year-old father to death in a fit of rage triggered by his personal money problems, CP reports. The Crown also alleged Oland was troubled by his father’s ongoing extramarital affair.

“Although Dennis missed the occasional monthly payment, this was not an issue between them on his visit to Richard’s office on July 6, 2011,” says Hicks, who has decades of experience in defending clients accused of homicide.

“Nor was Richard’s affair a topic of discussion during the visit. Father and son had a mutual interest in family genealogy and lineage. That was the sole topic of conversation. There was nothing said about money or an affair that would have caused Dennis to fly into 'a rage’ and murder his father.”

During examination from his defence team, Oland told the court he was incapable of murdering anyone, let alone bludgeon his father to death. The murder weapon, along with Richard Oland’s cellphone, have never been recovered.

“He did not leave the office with his father’s cellphone nor did he bring and later leave with a weapon capable of inflicting the lethal wounds suffered by his father,” says Hicks.

"He has testified that he is not ‘monster’ and would not murder anyone, let alone his father. Richard was a difficult man, but he was 'a good father.'"

The investment adviser was charged in 2013, and convicted in a jury trial in 2015, but the verdict was set aside on appeal, and the new trial ordered. Oland has steadfastly maintained his innocence in the slaying of his father, a former executive of the family-owned Moosehead Breweries Ltd., Canada's oldest independent brewery.

“Dennis knew he didn’t have to testify but was doing so to clear his name,” says Hicks. “He had the advantage of being well-prepared from his first trial about the prosecution’s major themes and has calmly rebutted them.”

Justice Terrence Morrison visited the crime scene Tuesday at the request of the defence. Crown and defence lawyers, Dennis Oland, and a sheriff also participated in the visit.

“The defence wanted the trial judge to see the dimensions of Richard’s office, and what is a very compact crime scene,” Hicks says.

“It will help him to better appreciate the defence position that the perpetrator of such a violent crime would have considerable blood splatter on them when they left the office, which Dennis did not. The defence would also want to highlight the alleged mismanagement of the crime scene by Saint John police.”

The retrial is now adjourned until May 9, when the Crown and defence will give closing arguments. There won't be a verdict in the trial, which is before judge alone, until mid-June or later, CP reports.

- with files from The Canadian Press

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