On eleventh day, closing arguments made in Bourgoin trial

Local News

All arguments have been made and a 12-person jury is about to start deliberating the fate of Steven Bourgoin.

On its eleventh day, Chittenden County’s top prosecutor, Sarah George, and Bourgoin’s lead attorney, Robert Katims, made their final pleas to the jury on what they believe they have proven in this case.

Bourgoin is charged with second-degree murder for the deaths of five Mad River Valley teenagers in October 2016.

He’s also accused of stealing a police cruise and crashing into his destroyed truck. Several people were injured.

Friends of the teenagers and their families crowded the courtroom Monday in anticipation of the closing arguments.

First, the jury heard hours of tense exchange between Katims and Dr. Paul Cotton, the forensic psychiatrist the state hired to prove Bourgoin was sane at the time of the crash.

Bourgoin is putting forth an insanity defense.

Katims tested Dr. Cotton on not only the facts of the case, but also his methodology.

“You didn’t ask to speak with any of his family members?” asked Katims.

“Correct,” answered Dr. Cotton.

“You didn’t ask to get any releases so you could view any of his medical records?” asked Katims.

“That is correct,” said Dr. Cotton.

“You didn’t request any additional materials prior to writing your report?” asked Katims.

“Yes,” answered Dr. Cotton.

Dr. Cotton determined Bourgoin was sane at the time of the crash and diagnosed him with adjustment disorder.

Dr. Cotton said Bourgoin did not have a mental disease that affected his thinking on October 8, 2016 when he drove the wrong way and crashed into the five teenagers: Mary Harris, 16, of Moretown; Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown; Liam Hale, 16, of Fayston; Janie Cozzi, 15, of Fayston; and Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury.

The defense presented two psychiatrists, Dr. David Rosmarin and Dr. Reena Kapoor, last week who determined Bourgoin was insane.

Unlike those psychiatrists, Dr. Cotton only examined Bourgoin one time and for four hours.

However, Dr. Cotton’s examination was in December 2016 and he said it would not have been helpful to reexamine somebody years later.

Drs. Rosmarin and Kapoor examined Bourgoin in 2018.

On Monday, Bourgoin told Judge Kevin Griffin he would not be testifying.

From there, the attorneys began their closing arguments.

“Nothing about any of these deaths was natural. But for Mr. Bourgoin’s conduct on the night of October 8, 2016, none of these deaths would have occurred,” said Sarah George, Chittenden County state’s attorney.

George split her closing arguments into two parts.

During her first presentation, she focused on the details of the crash: the injuries suffered by the teenagers, Bourgoin’s speed, the turning of his steering wheel, etc.

“The state has proven in each of these charges that Mr. Bourgoin was aware of every decision he made and he ignored the risks of each of those decisions,” she said.

Then, Katims spoke to the jury for an hour.

“Whether someone is insane at the time of the crime doesn’t hinge on the enormity of the tragedy and there’s no doubt that this case involves sadness beyond comprehension. These children should not have died driving home from a fun night at a concert. It’s not just. It’s not fair. It’s nothing but a complete and utter tragedy,” he said.

From there, Katims focused on Bourgoin and his mental state in October 2016.

“He wasn’t suicidal. He wasn’t rageful. He was psychotic,” Katims said.

He then walked the jury through all the evidence he, his team and forensic psychiatrists have presented.

Katims argues Bourgoin is telling the truth when he tells psychiatrists of delusions he was experiencing. He thought he was on a secret government mission, he says.

“All of this only makes sense through the eyes of psychotic Steven Bourgoin. There’s no reasonable explanation for any of this behavior other than what Mr. Bourgoin tells you. You can’t make this up,” he said.

In George’s second presentation, she focused on Bourgoin’s sanity.

She repeated the phrase “this is the evidence,” to show what she believes the facts show, rather than theories from the defense.

“He has a history of making violent threats and then playing them off as not being serious with little understanding of how those threats impacting other people. He has a history of losing control,” she said.

The jury will be given its instructions Tuesday morning by Judge Kevin Griffin.

In order for Bourgoin to be convicted, the state must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt that” he committed a crime.

The state does not have to offer or prove a motive.

To be found not guilty by reason of insanity, the defense must prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that he was insane, that means a greater than 50% chance that he was insane.

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