The retrial of Dennis Oland for the alleged murder of his father cost New Brunswick taxpayers more than $931,000 so far — bringing the total cost for the province’s prosecution of Dennis Oland to more than $1.5 million.
The details have been obtained by Global News. and include costs associated with staffing, juror fees, witness fees, outside legal counsel and overtime for sheriffs.
Oland was accused of murdering his father, 69-year-old Richard Oland, the head of the family-owned Moosehead Breweries.
Richard Oland was discovered in a pool of blood in his Saint John investment firm office on the morning of July 7, 2011. A medical expert testified Oland had suffered 45 sharp- and blunt-force injuries to his head, neck and hands.
Oland was first charged in 2013 and was found guilty in the first murder trial in 2015 but the decision was set aside on appeal in 2016 and a new trial ordered.
The cost for the first trial and Oland’s subsequent appeals came to $633,030, according to the New Brunswick Department of Justice.
On Friday, Justice Terrence Morrison of the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench told a packed courtroom that there were too many “missing puzzle pieces” to prove Oland’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt during the retrial.
“More than suspicion is required to convict a person of murder. Probable guilt is not enough,” Morrison said.
The province’s public prosecution service has 30 days to appeal Morrison’s decision. The service will use that time to “carefully study and review” the judgment.
But the new figures paint a costly picture of the 44-day-long retrial.
It’s important to remember that the $931,000 in fees are not the total, some expenses occurred during the retrial are still being processed.
WATCH: ‘Dennis Oland did not kill his father’ Defence lawyer speaks after not guilty verdict
Juror fees for a trial by judge-alone
Although the Oland retrial concluded before judge-alone it was originally set to proceed before a judge and jury.
The jury selection process started in October 2018.
The $119,608 in juror fees for the retrial are mostly related to the jury selection process and rental of the space at Harbour Station, which was used to house the more than 1,000 people who answered a jury summons.
Other costs associated with juror fees include jury fees, juror parking and food/catering services for jurors.
But a mistrial was declared on Nov. 20, by Morrison after it was discovered that a Saint John police officer used a police database to track all interactions would-be jurors had with police.
Some of that information was then passed along to the Crown during the jury selection process.
It’s a process that is known as jury-shopping and a 2012 Supreme Court of Canada decision restricted police to checking only for criminal convictions.
As a result of the mistrial, the retrial continued in front of Morrison-alone.
The biggest expense for the retrial was $492,527 for “outside legal counsel” covering the meals, lodging and travel for P.J. Veniot, who led the three-person prosecution team.
Venoit was the lead Crown prosecutor for Oland’s original trial. He was pulled out of retirement to replace John Henheffer, who stepped aside due to personal health reason ahead of the first trial only weeks before it was set to begin.
Public prosecutions staffing and backfill accounted for $177,820 for the retrial, witness fees came to $52,567 and registrar/clerk expenses totalled $37,500.
Various equipment/stationery/travel/other during the retrial cost the province $50,862.
The retrial figures do not include the expenses of Morrison, who oversaw the case and was brought in from Fredericton to hear the case.
The Court of Queen’s Bench are under federal jurisdiction and any expenses would’ve been covered by the federal government.
WATCH: Dennis Oland leaves court after being found not guilty in father’s murder
Questions remain over future investigation of Saint John Police force
As prosecutors mull a possible appeal of the retrial’s decision, questions remain over a review of how the Saint John Police Force handled the investigation into the murder.
The force’s actions came under scrutiny during the original murder trial of Dennis Oland in 2015.
The investigation examined an alleged series of missteps by Saint John police — including a failure to properly secure the crime scene.
Justice John Walsh, in his charge to the jury at the 2015 trial, noted that police failed to prevent too many people from accessing the crime scene, to keep anyone from using the washroom on the second floor of the office building before it was tested and to ensure the back door wasn’t touched.
On Tuesday, Jennifer Smith, the executive director of the New Brunswick Police Commission, said they will complete the review once “all of the criminal proceedings” are completed. That means they must wait until the public prosecution service decides whether they will file an appeal.
“The Commission will take the time needed to review the entirety of the information and as the incident occurred eight years ago, there have been two trials, a number of related public documents, and a change in senior leadership at both the Saint John Police Force and the New Brunswick Police Commission, all of which adds to an already complex investigation and court proceedings,” said Smith, in an emailed statement.
“The Commission is dedicated to safeguarding the public interest in policing and it is critically important that we are taking the appropriate steps which will include engaging in discussions with the Saint John Police Force and the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners as to their current position on the original request, what actions they have taken to address their handling of complex investigations, and plan for a way forward.”