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Defense agrees wrong-way I-89 driver is competent for trial

Observer photo courtesy Glenn Russell/The Burlington Free Press Steven Bourgoin is arraigned in a makeshift courtroom Oct. 14 at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.
Observer photo courtesy Glenn Russell/The Burlington Free Press
Steven Bourgoin is arraigned in a makeshift courtroom Oct. 14 at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.

By Erin Mansfield

For Vermont Digger

The man accused of killing five teenagers in a crash on Interstate 89 is on track to stand trial for an alleged quintuple homicide despite a history of mental health issues.

Prosecutors said at a short hearing in Vermont Superior Court on Friday that a doctor who examined Steven Bourgoin found him competent to stand trial. The defense agreed with the finding.

The action means a judge will now decide whether Bourgoin can stand trial. A finding of competency would mean Bourgoin understands the charges against him, not necessarily what he was doing at the time of the accident.

Bourgoin had sought medical help just hours before he drove the wrong way on I-89 and killed five teenagers from the Mad River Valley area on Oct. 9. Bourgoin’s friend said after the accident he has a history of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

He is charged with five counts of second-degree murder, aggravated operation of a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent, and gross negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Before the crash he was charged with domestic assault and unlawful restraint.

Robert Katims, who is representing Bourgoin, did not comment to reporters on his way out of the courthouse. The prosecution declined to comment on whether they were negotiating a plea deal with the defense that would avoid a trial.

Bram Kranichfeld, a deputy state’s attorney for Chittenden County, said competency is different from an insanity plea because competency deals with whether the person can understand what’s going on, and insanity pleas are based on whether the person understood what they were doing at the time of the crime.

“This case is of the highest priority for our office, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure Mr. Bourgoin is held accountable for his actions,” Kranichfeld said.

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Comments (1)

  1. […] and struck eight vehicles, police said. The case, and deaths, made national news. Last Friday, prosecutors said Bourgoin was fit to stand trial in the case, even though he was found to suffer PTSD, anxiety and possibly other mental health […]

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