Saint John's police investigation of Richard Oland's murder remained in the spotlight on Tuesday when lawyer lawyer Dennis Oland grilled four other officers about their actions at the crime scene the day the body of the victim who was struck was found.
The court heard two officers among the first arrived at 52 Canterbury St on the morning of July 7, 2011.
Both of them entered the office of a bloodied victim without wearing any protective equipment, but they both testified that they were trying to avoid stepping on any blood, not touching anything and repeating their steps.
Oland, 50, is being tried again for second-degree murder in the death of his multimillionaire father. The 69-year-old businessman suffered more than 40 blows on his head, neck and hands.
The jury found Oland guilty in December 2015, but the New Brunswick Appeals Court overturned the verdict in October 2016 and ordered a new trial, citing an error in the court judge's instructions to the jury.
The judge's own re-trial, which began on November 21, had heard at least 19 officers attend the crime scene at the hour after the body was found. Const. Duane Squires, who guarded the scene, testified under a cross-examination Friday that behind, he "might do something different."
Const. Don Shannon testified Tuesday his first priority when he responded to a delivery call at 8:54 a.m. from a man who was unconscious and not breathing, was to determine the condition of the victim and what help he needed.
He ran up the stairs to the second floor office and about two meters from his body faced down to the floor when he saw "lots" of dry blood, he said.
That's when the focus quickly changed to see if there were other people in the office, he told the courtroom. He said he stepped around a pool of blood and remained close to the wall to avoid proof contamination, because he was trained to do it at the police academy.
Acting Sgt. Stan Miller, who arrived a few minutes later, was recognized under a cross-examination by the defense that he entered the bloody office after he learned the victim had died and the office had been cleared.
He was only in the office for "seconds" before he came out and did not believe he was stepping in the blood but admitted he could not say that for sure.
Officers don't remember their shoes being tested for blood.
During Oland's first trial in 2015, the court heard about the impression of partial shoes allegedly in the blood, which were forensic. Mark Smith initially thought it might have been made when the body was removed but then realized, after reviewing the crime scene photos, that the pattern had existed before deletion.
The back door was opened by someone before being tested
The hearing also heard from Const. Shanda (Eleuterio) Weir and Const. Ben MacLeod about the back door of the building, which is located on the second floor from the front of the building but exits on the ground floor because the building is built on a hill.
Defense believes that it will be the preferred exit from "killers or murderers" because it is the most hidden route. However, the court heard that it was not tested for forensic evidence, the court had heard.
Weir said that after making sure the victim's BMW was pulled into the police garage as evidence, he was assigned to provide scene security on the second floor of the foyer, starting at around 2:45 a.m.
The back door, which other witnesses said had closed that morning, opened when he started at the foyer and was still open when he left at around 6:15, he said. He told the defense he did not know who opened it.
MacLeod, Weir's relief in providing security scenes in the lobby, said the back door opened when he was there too. It was a warm night and he said he often sat or stood in the doorway to catch fresh air for about 12 hours of his shift.
The video shows the possibility of a back door escape route
On Friday, the Oland defense lawyer played a video to illustrate how a murderer or murderer could escape using the back door.
The video was not shown to the jury at Oland's first trial in 2015 and was not officially put into evidence until Tuesday. But Judge Judge Terrence Morrison agreed to witness the imposition of the debate, which was created by the defense with the help of a law student.
It shows the person behind the building walking to the right, going up above the small garage in the alley, climbing the low retaining wall to the grassy backyard, turning left along the narrow hallway between the two buildings, opening the wooden gate at the end and going out to Germain Street.
"That is a possible escape route – you agree with that right?" The main defense attorney, Alan Gold, asked the Squires, one of the first officers at the scene that morning.
"Sure," answered the Squires.
"Isn't it difficult to go up above those two heights?" pressed gold.
"No," answered the clerk.
Crown Prosecutor Jill Knee objected to the defense video, and recorded it in 2014 – three years after Oland was killed.
He argued it was unclear whether it represented the area at the time, citing as an example a pile of debris which made it easier for law students to climb above the garage.
Knee said the video had no probative value and was very detrimental.
But Gold believes the Squires make it "sound harder than it should be" for someone to escape using that route and accuse the Crown of trying to minimize the significance of the back door.
The Crown withdrew its objection to the video put in evidence on Tuesday.
Families are encouraged for police investigations to continue
The Oland family issued a statement Monday demanding that the New Brunswick Police Commission immediately resume its investigation into the police handling of the case.
The investigation was postponed in 2016 awaiting the results of criminal proceedings.
The family said there was no reason that the examination could not continue now because the retrial was carried out by a judge alone, without a jury.
"We believe that the findings of such an investigation will support the conclusion that the investigation was filled with mistakes and Dennis should never have been prosecuted," read a statement signed by his mother, Connie, Lisa's wife, and the family of her uncle Derek Oland, executive chairman of Moosehead Breweries Limited.
Oland family lawyer Bill Teed has urged the commission to reactivate its review of troop investigations in the summer of 2017 on behalf of the accused mother and victim's widow, Constance (Connie) Oland, the newly released court document shows.
The reason stated by the commission for delaying the review, to ensure that it did not affect his son's ongoing criminal proceedings, was "flawed," Teed argued in a July 6 letter, previously under a ban on publication, for commission chairman Ron Cormier.
"The quality or absence of a police investigation and still a life problem and if your investigation confirms many of the shortcomings that are suspected only will ensure that justice is done for Dennis Oland and his family," Teed wrote.
He noted that it could be years before the criminal process ended and if a commission investigation was postponed until then, the quality of his investigation would "definitely suffer," he said.
Commission lawyer Robert Basque retaliated five days later, saying there would be "finally" an examination of troop behavior in relation to ground investigations.
The meeting is scheduled to be continued on Wednesday at 9:30 in the morning. It is estimated that it will last four months.