Dennis Oland”s lawyer says “mistake” about jacket not a sign of guilt

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FREDERICTON — Dennis Oland”s lawyer says Oland made an honest mistake about what he was wearing the day his millionaire father was bludgeoned to death, and it”s unreasonable for the Crown to suggest he was trying to mislead police.

Alan Gold told the New Brunswick Court of Appeal Tuesday that Oland was not intentionally lying when he told police he was wearing a navy jacket on the day Richard Oland was killed.

The jacket he was wearing, a brown Hugo Boss, was later found to have minuscule blood stains and DNA matching Richard Oland”s profile on it. 

Gold, who is seeking to overturn Dennis Oland”s murder conviction, said there was no indication of guilt because of the fact the jacket was taken to the dry cleaners the day after Oland was questioned by police.

“It”s not even clear he had anything to do with taking the laundry in,” Gold told the court.

“The stains are nearly invisible. (Dennis Oland”s) car wasn”t attempted to be cleaned. When you look at all of the evidence, that is not a reasonable inference and that is our submission.”

Oland”s lawyers allege the trial judge made multiple errors in his instructions to the jury, and say the warrant for Oland”s brown jacket did not permit police to do forensic testing, or send it out of province to the RCMP lab.

Gold said the trial judge should have told the jury that the dry cleaning and erroneous statement to police were not much assistance to them in their deliberations.

He said by not giving that instruction, it allowed for circular reasoning among the jurors.

“The actions that on their face appear innocent … start to look like the actions of a guilty person only if you assume that the accused was the guilty person,” Gold told the three-judge panel.

The small court was filled Tuesday to capacity with reporters, members of the Oland family and interested onlookers.

Dennis Oland, a 48-year-old financial planner, was convicted last December of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for at least 10 years.

Wearing a black pin-striped suit, white shirt and red tie, Oland sat at the back of the courtroom, flanked by a pair of sheriff”s deputies.

Richard Oland was found face down in a pool of blood on the floor of his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. 

The well-known New Brunswick businessman and a member of the family that owns Moosehead Breweries, had suffered 45 blunt and sharp force blows to his head, neck and hands, although no murder weapon was ever found.

The defence also alleges the trial judge erred by admitting cell phone records which purported to show Richard Oland”s missing iPhone “pinged” off a tower east of the city at 6:44 p.m., after Dennis left his father”s office.

During the trial, Anthony Shaw testified that he was at Printing Plus — a business directly below Richard Oland”s office — and heard noises that he believed to be the murder between 7:30 and 8 p.m. on the evening of July 6, 2011.

Gold said that the trial judge told the jury that the time of the ping — an unanswered text message — was inconsistent with Shaw”s testimony.

“In doing so, the learned trial judge denied the appellant the full benefit of the alibi that Mr. Shaw”s evidence provided,” Gold said.

He said if the jury assumed that Richard Oland was already dead, that “torpedoed” Shaw”s evidence.

Security camera video presented at the trial showed Dennis Oland shopping in Rothesay with his wife at the time that Shaw said he heard the noises.

Oland”s lawyers are seeking an acquittal or a new trial. The appeal is expected to last until Thursday afternoon.

Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau said Tuesday that the court would attempt to make its decision as soon as possible.