Truth & Honour by Greg Marquis

Subtitled “The Death of Richard Oland and the Trial of Dennis Oland” this book is due to be released just weeks after the New Brunswick Court of Appeals is to hear Dennis Oland’s appeal of his conviction in late October 2016. Dennis Oland is accused of second-degree murder in the bludgeoning death of his father, Richard Oland in Saint John, New Brunswick back in 2011.

The Evidence

As I removed this hardcover book from its cardboard container I noticed two names gracing the dustjacket. The first was Greg Marquis, UNB professor and most recently the author of the excellently researched book The Vigilant Eye: Policing Canada from 1867 to 9/11 (2016, Fernwood). With such a well-respected author writing about a much-sensationalised murder, I knew the text would be authoritative, informative and, above all, impartial. I was not to be disappointed.

The second name on the cover at the top is that of author and former forensic anthropologist Debra Komar who is quoted as saying about the book:

“A thoughtful, detailed, minute by minute account of a murder that captivated a province…A perfect balance of scholarship and storytelling.”

That summed it up nicely for me since I came to the same conclusion after reading Truth & Honour, for over the years I have become quite distrustful of any sort of news reporting; whether broadcast, online, or in print. As a history buff, I prefer to read about events such as this sometime after the fact, once the all the details and confidential information have been made public and the ordeal, for the most part, is over reminding me of the quote by Joe Murray in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal: “More and more, I tend to read history. I often find it more up to date than the daily newspapers.” To his credit, Mr Marquis does not resort to fabrications or speculations. Not having access to the full police investigation and court files (Mr Marquis does note at the beginning of the book that he did not have full disclosure of the all the facts of this case), he will sometimes make inferences based on the known facts, but no wild speculations are proferred.

The Verdict

As mentioned above, Greg Marquis is a UNB professor hence putting him in a perfect position intellectually (he teaches courses in Canadian and criminal justice history) and physically (for he lives just outside Saint John) and has been closely following the investigation since its inception. Aside from the actual murder and investigation, one also learns much about the Canadian and New Brunswick justice system. Mr Marquis explains why it took so long to examine physical evidence (several federal crime labs were closed by the former federal government, affecting turnaround times), and how a preliminary trial works: all gathered evidence by the prosecutor has to be presented to a  judge who then decides if  there is sufficient evidence to allow a jury to return a verdict of guilty. If so, the case goes to trial. It is details like this that helps one to understand the intricacies of the criminal justice system.He also provides a background of the Oland family for those of us not familiar with this wealthy East Coast family of beer brewers.

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Other interesting facts:

  • to date, this trial had the largest jury pool selection in Canadian history: 5,000 were gathered at Saint John’s Harbour Station arena for the process.
  • the judge assigned to the trial was John (Jack) Walsh, who was also involved (as a Crown prosecutor) in the Allan Legere trial in the early 1990s.
  • New Brunswick has one of the highest conviction rates in Canada for adult defendants (77% in 2010-12)
  • complex methods of interrogation employed by the police (the Reid method taught by the RCMP vs. the PEACE method which is used in Britain).

The only negative about this book is that Nimbus appears to have rushed it into release, bypassing a good proofread. By midpoint in the book, I came across at least six errors, mainly of a missing or incorrect connective word. The most obvious (and humorous) error being the reference to rock icon Bob Seger as “Bon” Seger, either a misspelling or a possible mixing up of names with rock singer Jon Bon Jovi.

Nonetheless, Truth & Honour is highly readable, engrossing and above all, informative. It should prove to be of great interest to true crime enthusiasts, historians and students of criminology and justice systems.

Includes four pages of colour photos, chapter end notes and an index.

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