Judge Skeptical of Request to Move Trial of Driver in Crash That Killed Five | Off Message

Judge Skeptical of Request to Move Trial of Driver in Crash That Killed Five


Steven Bourgoin, left, with defense attorney Bob Katims, center - SARA TABIN
  • Sara Tabin
  • Steven Bourgoin, left, with defense attorney Bob Katims, center
Print media still matters.

A defense motion to move the trial for Steven Bourgoin, accused of killing five teens in an intentional head-on car crash in 2016, was derailed Thursday because Judge Kevin Griffin couldn't access online stories about the case on the Burlington Free Press website.

Bourgoin's attorneys, Bob Katims and Sara Puls, submitted examples of media coverage of the case to argue that a fair and impartial jury could not be found in Chittenden County. But Griffin said Thursday he could not complete a thorough examination of the evidence because he was stymied by the Free Press' subscription paywall.

Hair and beard long and unkempt, Bourgoin stared down at the table before him during much of the hearing. The defendant, who has gained weight during his time in custody, did not speak to the judge but talked quietly with his lawyers. Bourgoin intends to offer an insanity defense.

The judge gave the defense until June 11 to hand over printed copies of the articles in question, in addition to further evidence they wish to submit.

But Griffin made it clear to the defense team that he does not consider the amount of media coverage a sufficient reason to move the case. Rather, the attorneys must prove there has been prejudicial or erroneous coverage that might taint a jury pool.

"I think that's evidence we need to see for the change-of-venue motion," Griffin said, adding he had "real questions about the basis" for the motion.

The judge also expressed skepticism that residents in other counties would not have heard about the case, which got international media coverage. He contended that the large pool of potential jurors in Chittenden County would give the sides a better shot at seating an unbiased jury than in a less populated county.

In the meantime, the discovery portion of the case continues. A trial could begin this fall. After the hearing Thursday, Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George said family members of the victims have asked that the trial not fall on or too near the October 8 anniversary of the crash.

George said the case is proceeding apace. Prosecutors have conducted depositions of dozens of firefighters, police officers and other first responders to the crash scene. George said her team would head to Boston in July to depose David Rosmarin, the defense's expert on insanity.

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