Steven Bourgoin’s defense team isn’t denying that he drove the wrong way on I-89 near Williston on October 8, 2016, or that he crashed into a car full of teenagers, killing all five. Or that he then stole a police cruisrer and led troopers on a chase, causing other crashes and injuries.
“It’s hard to even think about those five taken from life, their families,” said Bourgoin’s attorney Robert Katims. “It’s not just. It’s unthinkable,”
But, on day one of Bourgoin’s trial for second-degree murder, Katims tried to establish an insanity defense, telling jurors that Bourgoin had become especially untethered from reality before the crash.
“In the days before the crash, he became more and more delusional, thinking he was seeing or getting some sort of messages about a government mission he was to participate in. Or perhaps he had inadvertently stumbled upon something on the internet that he wasn’t supposed to see and he was in danger,” said Katims.
Katims said Bourgoin saw messages in traffic lights, in songs on the radio, on walls at the University of Vermont Medical Center where he sought meantl-health treatment before the crash.
Bourgoin doesn’t remember the crash itself, Katims said, only the aftermath.
“He doesn’t see children there at all,” the attorney said. “He sees what he thinks are mannequins with breathing appartuses on them. He thinks ‘this is a set up.'”
Meanwhile, prosecutors called ten witnesses Monday — nine of whom either saw Bourgoin driving the wrong way or pulled over to help after the crash.
Prosecutors played a 911 call in which a witness can be heard saying, “Man I hope they get ’em before they hurt somebody.”
Keith Porter was in a vehicle that pulled over to help and said he spoke with Bourgoin.
“He just says ‘I don’t know what happened. I just lost control,” testified Porter, who suffered a broken toe and other minor injuries when Bourgoin crashed a stolen police cruiser into vehicles that had stopped for the wrong-way crash.
“I only had time to basically lay down on the highway and I expected to not survive,” Porter told jurors. “I just thought, ‘This is how it’s going to go.’ I remember hoping it would be quick.”
Susan Jaynes is a nurse practitioner and one of two medical professionals who stopped to assist the victims.
In emotional testimony, she testified that as she administered CPR to Mary Harris, a 16-year-old from Moretown who was thrown from the car, she tried to honor the girl’s passing.
“[E]ven though there was this whole emergency scene going on, I felt incredibly aware and almost a real obligation to be just super present to the fact that I didn’t know who was in the vehicle next to us but I knew that life was passing and I feel very strongly that the passing of all life is sacred and I felt a real obligation to just hold space because that’s really all I could do.”
The state will call more witnesses Tuesday.