Doctors counter Bourgoin insanity defense in fatal crash
BURLINGTON — A Burlington psychiatrist testified Friday that he believes the wrong-way driver that killed 5 Central Vermont teen was not criminally insane during a two-vehicle crash on Interstate 89 in Williston 2 years.
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.
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 when questioned.
"He was making a choice not 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.
The defense is attempting to show that Bourgoin was criminally insane at the time.
Two witnesses took the stand during the half-day session on Thursday. Judge Kevin Griffith said he needed to preside in drug court in the afternoon so the jury was sent home shortly after noon.
The founder of a company that handles cellular geo-location mapping, analysis and training testified about the whereabouts of Bourgoin's cellphone on the days leading up to the crash.
Sy Ray, the founder of ZetX Corp. in Arizona, testified about the technology that allowed him to lock in the travels of a cellphone assigned to Bourgoin.
"The records are the records," the retired police homicide detective said. He said he could not say for sure that Bourgoin had the phone at the time of the track.
Ray appeared to confirm earlier statements attributed to Bourgoin that he destroyed and/or threw away his cellphone the night before the crash. Ray said the phone's signal went dead at 8:42 p.m. and was never heard from again.
He also appeared to confirm reports that Bourgoin had indicated he went to McDonald's in Essex to get a pumpkin muffin the night before the crash. He texted McDonald's about a job that evening.
Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Cari Crick, who works in the technology division, testified about a long list of phone calls and text messages that Bourgoin received in the week leading up to the crash.
Deputy State's Attorney Susan Hardin had Crick note the various calls from Pay Pal, Capital One Bank and other possible entities seeking to collect money from Bourgoin, who had expressed frustration about his low pay at Lake Chaplain Chocolates in Williston.
Police have said Bourgoin was in a downward spiral with financial issues, including foreclosure and utility shutoffs in the days and weeks leading up to the crash. Many of the texts reflected he was up to 2 or 3 in the morning.
Among the calls was one to Todd Taylor on Oct. 7 about 5:43 p.m., Hardin said. When asked if she knew who Taylor was, Crick said she did.
"Todd Taylor, Todd Taylor," responded Crick, breaking into song like the radio commercial for the Colchester lawyer, who specializes in bankruptcy.
On cross examination, defense lawyer Robert Katims asked if she was aware of lawsuits for illegal robo calls. Crick said she knew there had been a news conference in South Burlington this week talking about the annoyance they cause,
There also was testimony about Bourgoin connecting with his old brother, Kevin, who is a coach with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. He also reached out to an old classmates Chris Whitney, who had worked with actor Ryan Reynolds.
Bourgoin said he was focused on increasing his visitation rights with his daughter.
"In the end she is all that matters."
Hardin and State's Attorney Sarah George have four more witnesses, including Dr. Paul Cotton, a psychiatrist. The state hopes to use him to offset the testimony of their initial expert and a defense expert, who both testified Bourgoin was insane.
Judge Griffin told the jury the testimony could end Friday. The judge said closing arguments and his explanation of the law coming on Monday.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.