Dennis Oland murder retrial cost New Brunswick taxpayers $930K

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Dennis Oland, 51, was found not guilty last Friday of killing his father more than eight years ago. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

Dennis Oland’s murder retrial cost New Brunswick taxpayers nearly $930,000 so far, figures obtained by CBC News reveal.

That’s on top of the more than $637,000 expense of his first trial in 2015 and appeal in 2016.

Meanwhile, the court-related costs to the Saint John Police Force came to $7,561 in overtime for the retrial and $2,405 in overtime for the first trial.

Last Friday, New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Terrence Morrison found Oland, 51, not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, multimillionaire Richard Oland.

“There are too many missing puzzle pieces to form a coherent portrait of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Morrison said.

Public Prosecution Services has 30 days to decide whether to appeal.

Prosecutors plan to “carefully study and review” Morrison’s reasons for judgment before making a decision, according to a statement issued on Friday.

The retrial costs provided by the Department of Justice and Office of the Attorney General are not the final total. Some of the expenses incurred during the retrial, which lasted 44 days spread over four months, are still making their way through accounting, a spokesperson said. It’s unclear when those figures will be available.

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$120K in jury fees

Of the costs to date, “jury fees” represent nearly $120,000.

Although the retrial proceeded by judge alone, it was originally slated to be heard by judge and jury. Morrison declared a mistrial on Nov. 20 after it was discovered a Saint John police officer had conducted “improper” background checks on prospective jurors.

Morrison discharged the 14 jurors and two alternates before they heard any evidence and the trial proceeded by judge-alone instead.

The jury fees are related to the jury selection process, including the rental of Harbour Station, the city’s largest arena, to accommodate the more than 1,000 prospective jurors who responded to the thousands of summonses mailed out last summer.

It took approximately 12 hours to divide those prospective jurors into smaller groups and assign them dates to appear in court for the actual selection process, which lasted three days. Two weeks had been set aside.

Other jury-related expenses included meals, snacks and beverages, parking and juror fees.

P.J. Veniot led the prosecution team, which also included Crown prosecutors Derek Weaver and Jill Knee. (CBC)

The biggest retrial expense listed is about $490,000 for “outside legal counsel.”

That was for retired Crown prosecutor P.J. Veniot, who headed up the three-member prosecution team.

Veniot, the former senior regional Crown prosecutor for northeastern New Brunswick, also served as lead Crown prosecutor at Oland’s first trial. He was pulled out of retirement to replace John Henheffer, who had to step aside for health reasons just weeks before the first trial was scheduled to begin.

His expenses include travel, accommodations and meals.

Public prosecutions staffing/backfill accounted for $177,820 of the retrial costs.

Richard Oland, 69, of the prominent Moosehead Breweries family was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)

Witness fees came to $52,567.

“Various equipment/stationary/travel/other” costs totalled $51,888.

A further breakdown shows that total includes:

  • Travel and lodging: $22,003.
  • Office supplies and equipment: $10,291.
  • Other fees: $9,878. The bulk of that, about $7,825, was for forensic accounting fees this year.
  • Parking: $6,106.
  • Food and water: $3,607.

Registrar/clerk expenses totalled $37,500.

Justice Terrence Morrison, right, who is based in Fredericton, presided over Dennis Oland’s judge-alone retrial. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)

The retrial figures do not include the expenses of the judge, who was brought in from Fredericton to hear the case.

Court of Queen’s Bench justices are under federal jurisdiction, so Morrison’s expenses, such as travel, accommodations and meals, are the responsibility of the federal government.

The Office of the Commissioner of Federal Judicial Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for information.

The provincial government costs for Oland’s first trial and subsequent appeal included:

  • Outside legal counsel: $247,816.
  • Jury fees: $205,220.
  • Public prosecutions staffing/backfill: $105,687.
  • Witness fees: $51,907
  • Sheriff overtime: $14,990.
  • Various equipment/stationery/travel/other: $8,210
  • Sheriff travel/overhead: $3,732.

Richard Oland’s secretary discovered his bludgeoned body on the floor of his investment firm office at 52 Canterbury St. (CBC)

The body of Richard Oland, 69, of the prominent Moosehead Breweries family, was discovered face down in a pool of blood in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011.

His son was the last known person to have seen him alive during a visit to his office the night before.

A key piece of evidence in the Crown’s case against Oland was the brown sports jacket he wore when he visited his father, which was later found to have four small bloodstains on it and DNA matching his father’s profile.

No weapon was ever found.

The jury at Oland’s first trial found him guilty in December 2015, but the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick overturned his conviction in October 2016 and ordered a new trial, citing an error in the judge’s instructions to the jury.

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