A man on trial for a head-on collision that resulted in the the death of a woman has delayed court proceedings by firing his lawyer.
Dustin Dennis Zinter, 40 at the time charges were laid, was involved in the Nov. 10, 2015 accident on a curve at Yellow Point Road, where Ladysmith’s Heidi Barbara Plato, 51, was killed after their pickup trucks crashed. Police said Zinter fled and was found by investigators a short distance from the scene. He is pleading not guilty to dangerous driving causing death, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and refusing to provide a breath sample.
During the B.C. Supreme Court trial in Nanaimo, it was stated Zinter had been on his cellphone while going through the road curve when he swerved into the other lane, hitting Plato’s vehicle. Some witnesses had reported smelling alcohol on Zinter’s breath.
Nick Barber, Crown counsel, had wrapped up his case Thursday and Stephen Taylor, Zinter’s legal counsel, was set to present Friday, but was fired shortly after the day’s proceedings began. Taylor isn’t the first lawyer to be fired by Zinter, who previously released Bobby Movassaghi.
Barber stated Zinter had e-mailed him at 6 a.m. with a large amount of material. Barber didn’t view it, but printed it and placed it in a sealed envelope and told Taylor at 8 a.m. about what transpired.
Zinter told Judge Robin Baird that he felt “betrayed” by Taylor and was never provided with disclosure reports. He questioned the condition of Plato’s tires, her vehicle’s calipers and the point of impact. Baird granted an application to have Roger Williams, a mechanic who had testified earlier, return for further testimony. Williams said the tires and calipers were in good condition.
Zinter sought to have his own reconstructionist report compiled and adjourn the case 90 days, which Baird ultimately denied. In addition, both vehicles have been destroyed.
Baird scolded Zinter, stating it was very late in the trial to bring up his concerns. He reminded Zinter that the case had been on the docket a long time.
Baird gave Zinter until Monday to present new counsel and K.S. Garcha, a lawyer Zinter said was considering representing him, was contacted for comment, but didn’t immediately respond.
When asked why he waited so long to express his concerns, Zinter said nobody would listen to him. He also said it was because of respect for the legal system.
“With these guys, they want you to respect the system as much as you can. Don’t bully, don’t make any waves … why a lawyer is telling me what I do and don’t know about mechanics I have no idea, but they seem to have an opinion about it. I don’t agree with it,” said Zinter.
Taylor said it is unusual to get fired after Crown presents and he was caught off-guard.
“I had a meeting with my client yesterday that went extremely well,” said Taylor. “It ended at 4 p.m., we parted ways and I was expecting some material, an e-mail, from him this morning. It didn’t arrive and I arrived to find that he was somehow displeased and this matter has been simmering for some time, the accident reconstruction, but since the vehicles were destroyed long ago, there’s little to be gained.”
Plato’s family and friends said they would wait until the trial’s conclusion before commenting.
The trial will resume Monday, June 25.