Judge declares mistrial in Dennis Oland murder trial, defence says Saint John police to blame
A two-week delay of the second-degree murder trial of Dennis Oland has resulted in a mistrial.
Justice Terrence Morrison said the reason for the mistrial was improprieties in the jury selection process.
WATCH: Alan Gold, the leading defence attorney for Denis Oland, tore into the Saint John police department for mishandling the jury selection process, causing a mistrial to be declared in the second-degree murder trial of his client.
Morrison said the Crown was unaware of what led to the decision. The jury has now been discharged and the trial will resume on Wednesday in front of a judge alone.
“It cannot be helped,” Morrison told the jury as he thanked them for their service.
“Your services are no longer required.”
WATCH: Denis Oland attorney says ‘fortune smiled on us, but it’s a sad smile’
In his decision, Morrison says that Const. Sean Rocca, a member of the Saint John Police Force who sat with the Crown during jury selection, was using the force’s crime management system to screen potential jurors.
The system provided the officer with information regarding any police contact an individual may have had, including whether they were a victim of crime, a complainant, a witness or whether they had been charged or investigated.
Rocca continued to conduct searches on jurors even after they were sworn in.
The Crown reportedly did not know the officer was using the police system to conduct the searches but acknowledge they were “improper.”
As soon as the Crown found out about the searches they instructed Rocca to stop and notified Oland’s defence team.
Alan Gold, the lead attorney for Oland’s defence team, said in a press conference after the mistrial was declared, that his team was unaware of the searches.
It’s a predicament that Morrison notes in his decision is unfair and tainted the jury selection process.
“The conduct of the [Saint John Police Force] will be under scrutiny,” wrote Morrison in his decision.
“The fact that a member of the SJPF was engaged in the searches in question relating to potential jurors’ contact with police amplifies the appearance of unfairness.”
Oland’s defence team laid the blame for the mistrial squarely at the feet of the Saint John Police Force, saying that they acted contrary to previous Supreme Court of Canada rulings.
“The jury process was invalidated and again a gross unfairness was carried out on Dennis and his defence team,” Gold said.
“All Dennis and his family want is a fair trial as soon as possible, without delay.”
Saint John police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The decision to have a trial by judge alone will allow that process to begin on Wednesday, where Oland will have to be re-arraigned and enter his plea.
Then there will be opening arguments and, finally, the retrial of Dennis Oland will get underway.
The shocking development comes more than a month after 16 jury members were selected for what was expected to be a lengthy, four-month trial in Saint John, N.B.
Gold and his team have called for the immediate resumption of an investigation by the New Brunswick Police Commission into the conduct of the Saint John Police.
“Justice demands that full examination should be done as soon as possible,” Gold said.
WATCH: Oland mistrial can be ‘added to the list’ of issues facing Saint John police department
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.
— With files from The Canadian Press
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.