Accused in fatal Cedar hit-and-run fires lawyer, irks judge in bizarre day in court

By Ian Holmes
June 22, 2018 - 5:42pm Updated: June 22, 2018 - 11:28pm

Dustin Zinter fired his lawyer and unsuccessfully tried to delay his ongoing fatal hit-and-run trial. Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

Dustin Zinter, 41, is accused in a fatal hit-and-run in Cedar in November, 2015. Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — A man accused of a fatal 2015 hit-and-run in Cedar fired his lawyer before being ripped into by a judge during a bizarre day in court in Nanaimo.

Dustin Dennis Zinter, 41, faced an hour-long grilling from the Honourable Justice Robin Baird after firing his lawyer, high-profile defence attorney Stephen Taylor, on Friday morning and then requesting an adjournment. The Crown already presented and rested their case in the B.C. Supreme Court trial.

Zinter outlined various concerns about his counsel, including a claim he hadn't seen some evidence against him and the lack of an accident re-constructionist report.

“Is there some reason (why) you're bringing this up now that the Crown has closed its case from all of their witnesses?” Justice Baird said.

Zinter, briefly representing himself, then lobbied for a 90-day adjournment in order to secure accident reconstruction evidence from a forensic analyst.

The request was met with a swift and stern response from Baird.

“I'm not playing a pig in a poke and giving you 90 days to come back and tell me you've fallen flat.”

Zinter continued to campaign for an adjournment, which consistently drew dismissive responses from Baird, who noted the case was scheduled on the docket for months.

Baird also referenced how Zinter previously disrupted the judicial process by firing another lawyer just prior to a previously scheduled trial last August.

Heidi Plato, 51, was killed on Nov. 10, 2015 when her truck was hit by another pickup on Yellow Point Rd. near Cedar Rd.

During his brief stint as his own representative, Zinter questioned the condition of Plato's truck, theorizing a caliper and her tires were faulty.

Baird agreed to recall an experienced mechanic to testify, who stated the caliper in question and Plato's tires were in good working order.

“I've had by way of response nothing but the speculation that comes from theories of his own imagining,” Baird told Court about Zinter's claims.

The adjournment application was then formally denied.

Baird instructed Zinter to return to court Monday with an assurance he would have a willing and available lawyer, calling for the trial to resume “right away.”

“I'll tell you one thing that isn't happening Mr. Zinter, this thing is...not limping off into the undetermined future."

Zinter told Court a Burnaby-based lawyer may take on his case.

He pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing death, refusing to provide a breath sample and leaving the scene of an accident.

The case included testimony from a responding firefighter, who described how Zinter's breath and body smelled heavily of alcohol before he ran off after the crash. A paramedic testified that he eventually spotted Zinter hiding on a Cedar farm before he was arrested.

The Crown also contended Zinter was on his phone at the time of the fatal crash.


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