Dennis Oland’s defence accuses police, Crown of ‘confirmation bias’ in murder case

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Dennis Oland’s defence accuses police, Crown of ‘confirmation bias’ in murder case

by - 3 min read

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Dennis Oland’s defence accused Saint John police and the Crown of falling victim to “confirmation bias” in the closing arguments of his murder retrial Thursday, and cautioned the judge against doing the same.

Alan Gold argued police immediately focused on Oland as the likely killer of his father, Richard Oland, after the multimillionaire’s body was discovered in 2011, and viewed all evidence through that prism, giving importance to facts that supported that view and dismissing those that didn’t.

It’s human nature to “distort facts in order to establish a proposition of guilt,” said Gold. “This is how our minds work.”

“In our respectful submission, this case provides fertile ground for that to occur.”

Oland, 51, is being retried in Saint John’s Court of Queen’s Bench by judge alone on second-degree murder. In 2016, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal overturned his conviction, citing an error in the trial judge’s instructions to the jury.

Gold argued police and the Crown dismissed the statement of Anthony Shaw, who said he heard thumping noises coming from the victim’s office around 7:30 p.m. on the night he was killed because it didn’t fit their pre-existing theories.

Dennis Oland, the last known person to have seen his father alive when he visited him at his office that night, had left around 6:30 p.m., the trial has heard.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)

The court has also seen timestamped security video of Oland shopping with his wife at 7:38 p.m. in Rothesay, which is about a 15- or 20-minute drive from the city.

John Ainsworth, who was with Shaw that night and testified the thumping noises could have happened as early as 6 p.m., should not be believed, argued Gold, because his time estimate was the same as Shaw’s for three months until he realized that helped Oland’s case, the lawyer alleged.

The Crown is expected to begin its closing arguments this afternoon and answer any lingering questions from Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Terrence Morrison. Two days have been set aside.

Both parties filed detailed post-trial briefs with the court last month, but the documents are not being made public until oral arguments are complete.

Trial took 4 months

Oland’s retrial began last November and the presentation of evidence took 44 days spanning four months.

The court heard from the last of 61 witnesses in March and has been adjourned since then to give the lawyers time to prepare their summations.

Morrison has said he doubts he’ll deliver his decision before June 7 — one month shy of the eight-year anniversary of Richard Oland’s death.

The body of the 69-year-old was found face down in a pool of blood in his investment firm office the morning of July 7, 2011.

He had suffered 45 sharp- and blunt-force injuries to his head, neck and hands. No weapon was found and the only item missing was his cellphone.

The Crown alleges the motive was money, and contends Oland was “on the edge financially,” overspending by about $14,000 a month with his credit maxed-out and income as a financial adviser shrinking.

A key piece of evidence in the Crown’s case is the brown Hugo Boss sports jacket Oland was wearing the night his father was killed. It was later found to have four small bloodstains on it — two on the right sleeve, one on the upper left chest and one on the back, in the middle, near the hem.

The DNA extracted from three of the stains matched his father’s profile. The chances the DNA did not belong to Richard Oland were of one in 20 quintillion, the trial heard. By comparison, the estimated world population is only between seven and eight billion.

Experts could not say how the blood got on the jacket or how long it had been there.

The final communication received by the victim’s missing cellphone before it went silent was transmitted by a cell tower near Renforth wharf in the neighbouring community of Rothesay, where Oland told police he stopped on his way home from visiting his father.

A jury found Oland guilty in December 2015 and he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years. He served about 10 months before the appeal court quashed his conviction and released him on bail.

Oland, who continues to live in the community under conditions, has maintained his innocence from the beginning and members of his extended family have stood by him.

This story originally appeared on CBC

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