Limits on Aron questions dropped Montgomery judge says psychiatrists can't be restricted

September 27, 1997|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

A Montgomery County circuit judge ruled yesterday that state psychiatrists evaluating Ruthann Aron may ask her any questions they want about her alleged schemes to kill her husband and without her lawyers present.

Judge Paul A. McGuckian lifted restrictions in a Sept. 8 order issued by another Montgomery circuit judge that sent Aron to the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup for a 60-day evaluation.

Judge S. Michael Pincus had granted a request from Aron's lawyers to allow them to be present during the evaluation and to prevent hospital staff from discussing with their client what she did on April 25, the day prosecutors say she fed Dr. Barry Aron a bowl of homemade chili spiked with prescription drugs.

"We're pleased Judge McGuckian vacated the order and is allowing the doctors to do their jobs," said Montgomery County State's Attorney Robert Dean. "The order put hurdles in the way of doctors that weren't appropriate."

Susan R. Steinberg, an assistant attorney general, said the hospital staff will begin immediately to evaluate 600 pages of prosecution evidence and a report from Aron's doctors and conduct interviews with Aron, her family and other people who had contact with her.

"We will try to get it done by the Oct. 27 trial date, but it's a lot of reading material and subject to problems scheduling interviews," Steinberg said. "We will have to determine whether she suffers from a mental disorder, and if so, if it affected her ability to recognize and live within the law."

Aron pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and attempted murder arising from the April 25 incident and not crimi-

nally responsible to charges of solicitation to commit murder alleging she tried to hire a hit man in June to kill her husband and Baltimore lawyer Arthur G. Kahn, who once testified against her.

During arguments before McGuckian Thursday, defense lawyer Judith R. Catterton urged him to protect 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.

Catterton said open-ended questioning about April 25 might give prosecutors information about the other case that they otherwise would not know.

But in his ruling, McGuckian agreed with prosecutors: "A defendant should not be allowed to pick and choose what questions to answer in a not criminally responsible evaluation, nor should courts proscribe questions which can and cannot be asked by the evaluation team. Both such actions would distort a mental evaluation."

Pub Date: 9/27/97

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