Crown attacks credibility of accused on trial in fatal hit-and-run in Cedar

By Ian Holmes
July 13, 2018 - 7:59pm Updated: July 13, 2018 - 10:16pm

Dustin Zinter denied most statements presented by witnesses during cross-examination of his fatal hit-and-run trial Friday in BC Supreme Court in Nanaimo.Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

Dustin Zinter during a recent break in his BC Supreme Court hit-and-run trial.Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — The man accused of a fatal hit-and-run in Cedar faced a barrage of questions near the end of his BC Supreme Court trial.

Dustin Dennis Zinter, 41, was quizzed by Crown prosecutor Nick Barber during cross-examination, who asked for his recollection of events in the moments before, during and after the crash.

“You knew there was another vehicle involved in this collision,” pressed Barber.

“No I didn't,” Zinter responded, a claim he reinforced repeatedly on Friday.

Earlier in the trial, North Cedar Volunteer firefighter Joe Widdifield testified Zinter was alert, conscious, very apologetic and “kept saying sorry” after the crash.

Zinter tried to start his truck following the wreck, but insisted he wasn't trying to leave.

Zinter pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing death, leaving the scene of an accident and failing to provide a breath sample, following a crash which killed 51-year-old Heidi Plato of Ladysmith.

She was pronounced dead in Cedar after the crash on the evening of Nov. 10, 2015, which nobody witnessed.

Barber referenced testimony from Nanaimo RCMP Cst. Benoit Lanthier, who was with Zinter for six hours after the crash.

“Looking down at my phone, then looked up and saw headlights right before the crash,” Barber told court, relaying statements taken by Lanthier from Zinter at Nanaimo Hospital.

“Again, these are fragmented statements….I don't recall saying that,” Zinter claimed.

Zinter continuously referenced his fragmented memory following the crash, which he said left him disoriented. He also said losing his glasses and breathing difficulties added to his confusion.

Barber said Lanthier, who has handled nearly 100 impaired driving investigations, observed a strong odour of alcohol coming from Zinter.

Barber told court Lanthier then asked Zinter to provide a breath sample and he refused.

“I didn't say that,” Zinter said.

He said several emergency responders asked him questions, adding to his confusion.

Barber also stated Cst. Lanthier overheard Zinter say at the hospital, “I ran away so I could get an excuse for myself.”

Zinter also denied saying that.

Barber asked Zinter about a doctor's testimony at the hospital.

“You told (Dr. Newcombe) that you had drank alcohol before and after the accident, did you tell him that?”

“No, its not true at all,” Zinter said. “I wouldn't say something like that, I didn't drink before the accident.”

Zinter said he drank about a half a mickey of whiskey after the crash. He estimated he wandered about 20 to 40 feet from the crash scene on Yellow Point Rd. near Cedar Rd. but didn't explain how he ended up several blocks away.

Zinter was arrested in the area of Cedar Rd. near Lazy Susan Dr., after being spotted by an ambulance driver, who testified Zinter was hiding.

Zinter denied hiding from the paramedic.

During final submissions, Barber said Zinter was trying his best to misdirect the court.

“His testimony today on the whole should not be believed,” Barber said. “There are many, many inconsistencies that outline fabrications by Mr. Zinter.”

The Crown alleged Zinter was under the influence of alcohol and using his phone when he veered his truck into Plato's lane head-on. Zinter testified Thursday he believed Plato lost control of her truck and “guaranteed” he was in his lane.

The Crown also claimed Zinter was trying to contact his former partner about a minute and 20 seconds before 911 calls reported the crash.

Zinter denied using his phone at the time of the crash, instead stating he pulled over to use it prior to the collision.

The Crown's contention Zinter hit Plato's truck in her lane is based on an RCMP reconstruction report. Judge Robin Baird told Barber he wanted more information about that report.

Zinter constantly announced since firing his lawyer after the Crown presented its case he is “disadvantaged” and “shorthanded”. He often shuffled several piles of paper around, occasionally requesting brief delays to find documents.

He asked judge Baird late Friday for bail to access records at home related to the trial which was denied.

Zinter, sporting a red prison jump suit, sat just a few feet away from several family and friends of Plato, a former longtime legal secretary.

Zinter's bizarre trial included the firing of his lawyer, his arrest for missing a court appearance and numerous adjournment applications shot down by Justice Baird.

Zinter's original trial scheduled for last August was canceled when he fired a different lawyer just before it began.

He will have the opportunity to make final submissions.

Zinter called no witnesses while presenting his case Thursday.

The trial reconvenes on Friday, July 20 at BC Supreme Court in Nanaimo.


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