REF-L-BourgoinDay10-0520_web – Brattleboro Reformer
By Mike Donoghue, Reformer correspondent
BURLINGTON — A Burlington psychiatrist testified Friday that he believes the wrong-way driver that killed five Central Vermont teen was not criminally insane during a two-vehicle crash on Interstate 89 in Williston 2 years ago.
Dr. Paul Cotton said he based his findings on a 4-hour interview with Steven D. Bourgoin, 38, of Williston on Dec. 1, 2018, at the state prison in Springfield where he was held without bail.
Three other doctors who had limited access to Bourgoin while being treated for life-threatening injuries at the UVM Medical Center in the days immediately after the crash also said they did not see anything they thought would support an insanity defense.
Bourgoin was speeding in his northbound 2012 Toyota Tacoma when it slammed into a southbound 2004 Volkswagen Jetta carrying the five teens about 11:55 p.m. Oct. 8, 2016 in Williston, police reported. They said Bourgoin had various drugs in his system during the crash.
Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury; Janie Chase Cozzi, 15, of Fayston; Liam Hale, 16, of Fayston; Mary Harris, 16, of Moretown and Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown died in the fiery crash. They were enroute home from a concert in South Burlington.
Bourgoin has denied the five counts of second degree murder. He also has pleaded not guilty to two subsequent misdemeanor charges: aggravated operation of a Williston Police cruiser without permission by taking it from the accident site and later reckless driving of the police vehicle by crashing it into the first crash scene.
Friday was expected to be the final day of testimony, but Cotton’s testimony for the prosecution went to about 4 p.m. Judge Kevin Griffin, after a bench conference with the lawyers, told the jurors that cross examination by Bourgoin’s defense team would go beyond 4:30 p.m., the court closing time, and sent them home.
The 10 women and six men on the jury panel will return at 9:15 Monday morning. Four alternates will be picked before the final 12 retire to the jury room for deliberations.
The state must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but the defendant using an insanity defense only has to show it by a preponderance of the evidence – more likely than not.
Before Cotton’s testimony continues, Judge Griffin plans to meet with lawyers from both sides at 8:30 Monday morning to go over his proposed explanation of the law that he expects to provide the jury.
Defense lawyer Bob Katims, who is assisted by Public Defender Sara Puls, is anticipated to cross examine Cotton on Monday in an effort to undercut the testimony he provided on Friday about Bourgoin, who graduated from Rutland High School, where he played football.
“He was not insane, in my opinion, at the time of those offenses,” Cotton told the jury. He said it was his belief that Bourgoin lacked the mental disease or defect that is one of the two prongs needed for an insanity defense.
The defense while presenting its case had two expert psychiatrists testify that after multiple lengthy examinations they each believed Bourgoin was insane at the time of the crimes. Dr. David Rosmarin of McLean Hospital, an affiliate of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. was the first to rule Bourgoin was insane at the time of the crash.
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The prosecution hired Dr. Reena Kapoor of Yale University to try to rebut his testimony, but she found after nearly 13 hours of interviews over 3 days Bourgoin was insane.
The other three doctors to testify on Friday were Dr. Roger Knukal, Dr. Steve Runyan and Dr. Suzanne Kennedy from the UVM Medical Center.
“Every head injury is unique,” Knukal said about Bourgoin’s facial fractures. But he also thought Bourgoin was being evasive
“He was making a choice note to answer,” said Knukal, who noted some patients aren’t always forthcoming.
Knukal said that after chatting with Bourgoin the night of Oct. 13, he was surprised to see the defendant motionless when he was wheeled into a hospital conference room converted into a temporary courtroom so he could be arraigned on the criminal charges.
Runyan said he could find no mental defect or disease.
When States’s Attorney Sarah George asked about any sense of delusion, paranoia, psychosis or mania, Runyan each time, “None whatsoever.”
When Puls tried questioning Runyan, it got a little contentious. Puls had to cut him off on answers that were unresponsive. At times he started answering before Puls finished asking the question.
At one point, Judge Griffin, said, “Doctor. Wait for the question.”
Kennedy said she saw Bourgoin for about 15 to 20 minutes on Oct. 16, 2016, a week after the fatal crash. He said he had been placed in four-point restraints in his bed because of his behavior, but did not think he had a mental disease or defect.
The only other rebuttal witness on Friday was State Police Detective Sgt. Eric Jollymore from the computer technology division.
Jollymore testified about studying Bourgoin’s computer and tablet in the days leading up to the crash. He testified that he did not find evidence to support claims by Bourgoin that he had researched topics that were possibly linked to the special government mission that he thought he was secretly being drafted to participate.
Under questioning by the defense, Jollymore did acknowledge Google was accessed 45 times and Wikipedia 21 times between Oct. 4 and Oct. 7, 2016.
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