Judge set to decide on questioning for Aron Psychiatrists are doing court-ordered assessment

September 26, 1997|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

A Montgomery County circuit judge will decide today how far state psychiatrists can go in questioning Ruthann Aron about her alleged schemes to kill her husband.

Aron's lawyers do not want the doctors performing the court-ordered assessment of her mental condition to question her about April 25, the day prosecutors say she fed Dr. Barry Aron a bowl of homemade chili laced with prescription drugs.

Aron pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and attempted murder arising from that accusation and not criminally responsible to charges of solicitation to commit murder alleging she tried to hire a hit man to kill her husband and Baltimore lawyer Arthur G. Kahn, who once testified against her.

Her doctors have diagnosed her as suffering from severe depression, and this month she was transferred to the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup for a state evaluation.

Yesterday, prosectors asked Judge Paul A. McGuckian to alter some of the terms of the court order, arguing that the provisions would hamper the ability of doctors at Perkins to make an accurate and timely report.

They want the judge to bar Aron's lawyers from sitting in on her sessions with hospital staff and to permit doctors to talk to her about the alleged poisoning.

Susan R. Steinberg, an assistant attorney general, said judges shouldn't tie the hands of mental health professionals trying to carry out their assignment.

"The court wouldn't think of telling a surgeon how to diagnose and how to operate on a patient. Nor should it here," she said.

Dr. Dennis Barton, the director of pretrial services at Perkins, testified that it is important to question Aron about the alleged poisoning because it came five weeks before she was arrested on charges of trying to hire a hit man.

"We need to know her thinking in the relationship between the two events and her relationship with her husband," he said.

Barton also said the presence of Aron's lawyers during sessions would be a "detriment" because they would "detract from and shift the focus of the interview."

Defense lawyer Judith R. Catterton said the court must shield her client from questions about the chili incident because it -- and Aron's plea -- are separate from the charges and plea in the alleged murder-for-hire plot.

Allowing state doctors to question Aron about an alleged event that has nothing to do with the issue of criminal responsibility might give prosecutors information they otherwise might not know, she said.

Pub Date: 9/26/97

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