I-89 wrong-way driver to undergo competency evaluation

Steven Bourgoin

Steven Bourgoin is arraigned in Burlington in October on five counts of second-degree murder after a head-on crash with a car carrying five teenagers. Pool photo by Glenn Russell/The Burlington Free Press

BURLINGTON — The man facing murder charges for the deaths of five teenagers in a wrong-way driving crash on Interstate 89 is scheduled for an evaluation of his mental fitness to stand trial.

Steven Bourgoin, 36, of Williston, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of second-degree murder and additional charges accusing him of stealing and crashing a police cruiser at the scene of the fatal head-on collision last month.

At Bourgoin’s arraignment Oct. 14, defense attorney Robert Katims requested a competency evaluation for his client. Katims did not return calls requesting comment as to whether he will raise competency or insanity as a defense.

The evaluation was originally scheduled for Nov. 10 at Southern State Correctional Facility. It was postponed until Dec. 1 due to a scheduling conflict.

Bourgoin has already undergone a mental health screening ordered by Chittenden County Superior Court Judge James Crucitti. A document in Bourgoin’s case file appears to indicate evidence of some type of mental illness.

A Williston police officer who had previous interactions with Bourgoin and a close friend have both said Bourgoin has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Crucitti ordered that screening before Bourgoin’s arraignment, anticipating that his competency to stand trial would be at issue.

State law allows a judge to order a competency evaluation even if neither the prosecution nor the defense requests it. The preliminary screening is intended to give the court more information when deciding whether to request a full evaluation.

The new evaluation will be conducted by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Paul Cotton. Its purpose will be to establish whether Bourgoin is “mentally competent to stand trial” or whether he was “insane at the time of the alleged offense,” according to court papers.

Bourgoin has been held at the Springfield prison without bail since he was discharged from the University of Vermont Medical Center after being treated for his injuries from the crash.

If either side disagrees with Cotton’s findings, it can request a second psychiatric evaluation. The issues of competency and insanity also could be litigated further after the court makes its determination.

The next step in the case will likely be a status conference sometime after the evaluation is completed.

Morgan True

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