BURLINGTON — Steven Bourgoin, convicted in May on five homicide counts for a horrific wrong-way fiery crash on Interstate 89 that killed five Central Vermont teens, will not be getting a new trial.
Vermont Superior Court Judge Kevin Griffin, in a 37-page decision released Monday, said he found no legal grounds for him to set aside the verdicts or to order a new trial. The decision was dated Saturday.
The case now moves to sentencing later this month. A two-day sentencing hearing for Bourgoin, 38, of Williston is planned for Aug. 26 and 27 before Griffin rotates out of Chittenden County.
Bourgoin faces the potential of 20 years to life on each homicide charge.
The defense had maintained Bourgoin was criminally insane when he drove his northbound 2012 Toyota Tacoma into a southbound 2004 Volkswagen Jetta on I-89 in Williston about 11:55 p.m. Oct. 8, 2016.
The defense, in a 29-page post-trial motion, argued the prosecution failed to introduce sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdicts beyond a reasonable doubt.
The state countered the jurors heard more than enough testimony about Bourgoin’s behavior to rule that he understood his criminal conduct the night of the crash. It included witnesses both before and after the crash.
Defense lawyers Robert Katims and Sara Pols had written they would provide additional information or arguments on some of the legal issues at a future hearing. Griffin’s ruling appears to end that chance at the trial court level and will apparently be heard on appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court.
The judge also rejected a separate motion filed under seal — and withheld from the public for several weeks — seeking a new trial. The defense lawyers maintained in that motion Griffin met privately with the jury after the trial and that secretive conversation made him unable to rule fairly on the new motions.
Griffin said assertions about his conduct by the defense did not constitute violations of the Judicial Code as claimed by Katims and Pols.
Griffin, in rejecting the sealed motion, did agree to allow the document to be made public.
He also rejected the defense’s argument the cases should be tossed out because the prosecution dismissed four unrelated serious charges — two first degree murder counts and two attempted first-degree murder cases — because they were using the insanity defense.
Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George said she did not believe she had enough evidence to rebut the insanity defenses. Now Attorney General T.J. Donovan is reviewing those cases.
The defense said George withheld those controversial dismissals until 9 days after the Bourgoin verdicts because some of her reasoning was based on rulings by doctors the state either tried to discredit or support at trial.
The crash killed: the driver, Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown, and his passengers Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury; Janie Chase Cozzi, 15, of Fayston; Liam Hale, 16, of Fayston and Mary Harris, 16, of Moretown. They were headed home from a concert in South Burlington.
Their car rolled over in the median and burst into flames after the crash. Harris was ejected, while the others were found in the car.
Bourgoin, who was wearing a seatbelt, later jumped into a Williston Police cruiser, fled south on I-89, made a U-turn, and returned to the scene. Bourgoin collided into the wreckage of the first crash and was ejected from the cruiser.
He remains in prison.