By Kevin Bissett, THE CANADIAN PRESS
SAINT JOHN, N.B.: Dennis Oland has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years for the second-degree murder of his father.
Oland’s lawyer pleaded Thursday that the judge consider his client’s children in setting the sentence.
Defence lawyer Gary Miller provided Justice John Walsh with character references from Oland’s family saying he was needed and loved and is a good caregiver. He said the case doesn’t require more than the minimum of 10 years before parole eligibility.
“I beg your lordship, give him the kind of sentence that allows him to get home to his family as soon as possible,” said Miller during the hearing in the Saint John courtroom.
Oland declined an offer from the judge to offer his own comments earlier in the day.
Before handing down the sentence, Walsh said a pre-sentence report described Oland as a well-educated, 47-year-old man with no previous criminal record. He also said Oland told a parole officer that he can’t feel remorse because he is innocent.
“This was a family tragedy of Shakespearean proportions,” Walsh said.
A jury found Oland guilty of Richard Oland’s murder in December following a trial that lasted four months and captured widespread public attention.
A conviction on second-degree murder carries a life sentence with a range of parole eligibility set between 10 and 25 years. All 12 jurors recommended that Oland have no chance of parole for 10 years.
But Crown lawyer Patrick Wilbur said the brutal nature of the elder Oland’s death called for a sentence more than the minimum 10 years required under the law. He called for between 12 and 15 years in jail before parole eligibility.
Richard Oland’s body was found face down in a pool of blood in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. He had suffered 45 blunt and sharp force blows to his head, neck and hands, although no weapon was ever found.
Sheriffs had to turn most supporters away from attending Thursday’s hearing after a lineup formed in front of the courthouse before the sentencing.
However, members of the Oland family were seated in the front row of the hearing and close 100 people were crammed into the rows behind.
Walsh was given 73 character reference letters, 10 of which the Crown objected to, during the morning hearing.
The judge told the defence lawyers it was offensive that some of the character references used their letters as Trojan horses to give their personal opinions on the case.
“It’s upsetting to me as a judge that people would do that,” Walsh said, adding the only opinions that count were those of the jury.
“I am not pleased.”
After a break, defence lawyers withdrew seven of the letters, and redacted three more to remove opinions about the verdict. Walsh also placed a provisional publication ban on four letters from Oland’s children.
“I’m concerned about their privacy,” he said.
Oland was dressed in the same brown suit and blue shirt he wore through much of the trial, and he smiled at family and supporters as he entered the courtroom.
After his conviction, Oland’s mother Connie said in statement the family was shocked by the outcome.
An appeal of the conviction has since been filed but no date has been set. A bail hearing will be held Friday in Fredericton as Oland’s lawyers seek his release pending the hearing of the appeal.
The Olands are an establishment family in the history of the Maritimes, having founded Moosehead Breweries although Richard Oland left the family business in 1981.
During the trial, the Crown focused on possible issues of motive including Dennis Oland’s financial difficulties and the knowledge his father was having an affair.
The key piece of evidence for the Crown was a brown jacket worn by Dennis Oland that had a number of small blood stains and also DNA that matched the profile of Richard Oland.
Oland has repeatedly denied any involvement in his father’s death.