Decision on where to hold accused killer delayed again

Published: Sep. 24, 2019 at 6:40 AM EDT
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Will an accused killer wait for trial at a treatment facility or behind bars? That's the decision a judge has to make for Aita Gurung.

Police say Gurung killed his wife with a meat cleaver and attacked his mother-in-law in Burlington in 2017.

A court-ordered psychiatrist said Gurung was suffering from schizophrenia at the time. A state psychiatrist reviewed the decision and also found Gurung experienced psychotic behavior.

Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George dropped the charges this past May, saying the state did not have evidence to show Gurung was sane at the time.

Gurung was in the custody of the Department of Mental Health since October 2017-- until two weeks ago.

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, raised concerns the insanity defense was being used too often and called on Vermont's attorney general's office to evaluate the decision-- and the charges were refiled.

Now, Gurung's lawyers want him in a treatment facility but the attorney general's office says he should be behind bars.

Our Dom Amato was at Tuesday's hearing, where there was another delay in the decision because they simply ran out of time.

We're told a bed at a Middlesex treatment facility will be held for another day if it's needed.

The defense says it is. Attorney Sandra Lee argues Gurung has been improving under the care of the Department of Mental Health. A doctor who treats patients at the facility in Middlesex says Gurung has been following his treatment plan but does remain at a high risk of suicide.

Now, the attorney general's office says Gurung poses a risk of flight and a danger to the community. Prosecutors argue that the level of care if Gurung were to go to jail is similar to that in a mental health treatment facility. They also bring up that the security of the Middlesex facility is slightly less than the Vermont Psychiatric Hospital. Prosecutors asked about the possibility of Gurung being allowed into the community for outings and pointed to a screener interview in which Gurung said he would likely hurt somebody if provoked.

Ultan Doyle/Vermont Attorney General's Office: Is it fair to say if he did go back to the Middlesex facility, at some point in the future he could participate in outings in the community?

Dr. Allison Richards/Vermont Psychiatric Hospital: That would be a possibility.

While it would be a possibility in the future, Dr. Richards says that would not happen under Gurung's current treatment plan. Richards also says she has worked with Gurung for almost two years now and she says he has never presented himself as a violent person and has not expressed thoughts of harming others to her, only harming himself.

While a decision was supposed to be made Tuesday, it will now most likely come on Wednesday.

We expect there will be another witness, this time from the Department of Corrections.