Defendant mentally ill, lawyer argues

NEW WESTMINSTER – A Surrey woman on trial for her mother’s murder should be found not criminally responsible because she is mentally ill.

 

That’s the case defence lawyer John Gustafson is presenting this week in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.

 

Gloria Zerbinos, 30, is being tried for second-degree murder in the Nov. 8, 2012 death of her 43-year-old mother Panagiota "Yota" Zerbinos.

 

The victim’s body was found lying on the living room floor of her daughter’s basement suite in Fleetwood with a kitchen knife stuck in her chest.

 

Justice Fritz Verhoeven heard she was stabbed 24 times and had been afraid to be alone with her daughter in the months leading up to her death. The court had already heard testimony that the accused had assaulted her mother on more than one occasion before the homicide.

 

Gloria Zerbinos was arrested in Vancouver on Nov. 10, 2012, inside a Vancouver strip club called No. 5 Orange, where she’d worked as a dancer about

 

a year and a half earlier under her stage name, "Naudia Nice."

 

The court heard that during her statement to police she said she believed her mom was involved in a conspiracy to chloroform her and pimp her out, and that she had to put a stop to it.

 

Psychiatrist Todd Tomita diagnosed Zerbinos with Mixed Personality Disorder, with histrionic and antisocial traits. She also has "features" that can be construed as narcissistic, he added under cross-examination.

 

He noted that access to makeup "was a big issue for her" and when she was not allowed to have it "she was quite upset."

 

The court heard that while in custody Zerbinos claimed an undercover cop was "trying to get rid of her," that guards at the correctional centre for women were poisoning her vegan food, and that a microchip had been put in her head to monitor her movements.

 

"Delusions tend to last weeks and months, not hours and days," Tomita noted.

 

Several psychiatrists and psychologists treated Zerbinos at the forensic psychiatric hospital and the pre-trial centre, where she allegedly assaulted three other inmates. The court heard one doctor found her to be a "very manipulative person."

 

The court also heard reports describing Zerbinos as superficial, fatuous, shallow, glib, and evasive when it comes to things that put her in a negative light. Crown prosecutor Craig Yamashiro asked Tomita if this raises concerns about her credibility.

 

"Reliability, certainly," he said. There is an absence of clinical evidence Zerbinos is faking her symptoms, the judge heard, but one report also noted she quickly learned symptoms of mental illness from other patients to use to her own advantage.

 

Yamashiro asked Tomita if this raised concerns about her reliability.

 

"Yes, if it were true," Tomita replied.

 

The court also heard Zerbinos prefers the psychiatric hospital to jail because food could be brought to her by visitors and that there are open visits there.

 

The trial continues.

 

tom.zytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

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