Man convicted in deadly wrong-way crash faces sentencing Monday

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Monday, the man convicted of killing five teenagers in a wrong-way crash will face a judge as sentencing begins for Steven Bourgoin. And the families of the victims will get to tell the judge what they want to see happen.

Our Cat Viglienzoni spoke with a legal expert about what we can expect.

In May, two-and-a-half years after a head-on crash on Interstate 89 that left Mad River Valley teens Mary Harris, Liam Hale, Cyrus Zshau, Eli Brookins and Janie Cozzi dead, a jury convicted the driver responsible, Steven Bourgoin, of five counts of second-degree murder. Each carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life.

Sentencing is where the families will get a chance to tell the judge about their children and what they think should happen to the man who killed them.

Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George expects four of the five families to make statements, as well as a couple of victims from Bourgoin's second crash. Then, she will recommend a sentence.

Legal analyst Jerry O'Neill expects that emotional testimony will speak for itself.

"This one is not one where it's a mystery what's going to happen," O'Neill said.

Where the strategy gets less clear is how the defense will make its case for mercy.

"I think it will be very interesting to see what defense lawyer Bob Katims does as it relates to trying to establish reasons why the judge should not impose the maximum sentence or sentences here," O'Neill said. "I think because that has to be his focus. He knows there's at least 20 years is going to be the sentence his client is facing. And how does he try to back away from life without parole."

O'Neill says the defense will likely point to psychiatric testimony from trial to make a case to Judge Kevin Griffin that Bourgoin had diminished mental capacity the night of the crash and shouldn't be behind bars for life.

Jerry O'Neill: He certainly could do that.
Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: Is it likely?
Jerry O'Neill: It's very hard to judge. Judge Griffin is a very smart, thoughtful man. He will look at it, I'm sure he will agonize over the decision, and he will make in the context of that-- all the information that's available to him-- what he believes to be the right decision.

What's unclear is whether we will hear from Bourgoin himself. He didn't speak at trial and doesn't have to at sentencing either. O'Neill says that's something Katims will discuss with his client ahead of time.

"He will probably make that decision beforehand, and it may be that he develops a written statement that Mr. Bourgoin reads or that Bob Katims reads in his stead," O'Neill said.

It's not clear how long the sentencing will take. It's possible that depending on how many people speak, it might not wrap up until Tuesday.

Our Cat Viglienzoni will be in court on Monday to tell you what happens. She will bring you the testimony and the sentence when it's handed down.

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