Dennis Oland retrial set to hear first defence witness on Tuesday
The retrial of Dennis Oland for the second-degree murder of well-known Saint John businessman Richard Oland is set to resume on Tuesday, with the defence expected to call its first witness.
Oland is accused in the bludgeoning death of his 69-year-old father, who was found dead in his office in July 2011. Court has been told that the elder Oland suffered about 45 blunt and sharp-force wounds to the head and neck area.
The marathon trial did not sit this week, with the Crown wrapping up its case Feb. 22.
The trial has heard evidence from 39 witnesses, three fewer than the first trial in 2015.
The retrial process began with the lengthy selection of a 16-member jury, but that panel would never hear a witness.
The panel was dismissed after Justice Terrence Morrison declared a mistrial upon learning that a member of the Saint John Police Force wrongly used an internal database during jury selection. The trial is now being heard by Morrison alone.
The actions of police in the investigation continue to be a focal point, as they were in the original trial.
The Crown has called on several officers, including Sgt. Mark Smith, the lead forensic investigator in the case.
Smith, who spent a number of days on the witness stand, admitted that multiple mistakes were made during the preliminary stages of the investigation.
This included allowing officers to enter the crime scene, some much further than he permitted.
The head of the Department of Criminal Justice Studies at the University of New Brunswick says the force deserves credit for admitting it was wrong.
“I think the judge will have to weigh the balance of those mistakes against the quality of the evidence presented as part of that process,” said Mary Ann Campbell.
Much of the evidence presented in the first trial has been repeated by the Crown.
That includes the now-infamous brown sports jacket seized from Dennis Oland. The court heard from a pair of RCMP DNA analysts, who confirmed three spots of blood containing Richard Oland’s DNA were found on the jacket.
Bloodstain expert and RCMP Sgt. Brian Wentzell, another Crown witness, underwent an aggressive cross-examination from the defence, who argued that whoever killed Richard should have been covered in blood.
WATCH: Global News coverage of the Dennis Oland murder trial
The Crown’s final witness was John Ainsworth.
Ainsworth owns the building where the deceased’s Far End Corporation office was located. Ainsworth has told the court he heard thumping noises from the area of Richard’s office between 6 p.m. and around 8 p.m. on July 6, 2011, the night he was believed to have been murdered.
The defence interviewed Ainsworth in October of that year, and he said he heard the noises around 7:30-7:45 p.m. That video would be entered as an exhibit.
Ainsworth would say in retrospect that he couldn’t really say what time it was.
In a combative and tension-filled cross-examination with defence lawyer Alan Gold, Ainsworth admitted to agreeing with the guilty verdict of the original jury, which was quashed by the Supreme Court of Canada on appeal.
He insisted that this did not play a role in his testimony and angrily denied the suggestion that he would not do anything that might help the accused’s defence.
Anthony Shaw, who was with Ainsworth in his Printing Plus office downstairs from the murder scene, testified he heard the noises around 7:30 p.m., when Dennis was known to be kilometres away.
Ainsworth told the court he realized the importance of the timing of the noises when he found out Oland had been murdered. He testified that his original assumption was that Oland had died from natural causes.
The defence says it could be finished calling witnesses by mid-March. This is expected to be followed by a time period for final written arguments from both sides and then time for the judge to make his decision.
It could be late May or early June before a verdict is reached.
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