Aron poisoning case in jeopardy Defense contests use of plot testimony

October 04, 1997|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Prosecutors said yesterday they may have to drop charges that Ruthann Aron tried to poison her husband unless they are allowed to use evidence gathered in a second case against her.

Their comments came as a Montgomery County circuit judge decided that the poisoning case should be tried separately from charges that she attempted to hire a hit man to kill Dr. Barry Aron and a Baltimore lawyer.

With a scheduled Oct. 27 trial date drawing near, Judge Paul A. McGuckian heard arguments from Aron's lawyers and prosecutors about scheduling and how evidence from each case would be handled.

Assistant State's Attorney Katherine Savage asked McGuckian to hold the trial on two counts of solicitation to commit murder first and then permit prosecutors to use that evidence at a subsequent trial on the poisoning charges.

The evidence from the murder-for-hire trial would show "motive, intent and perhaps common scheme," Savage said. "If we are denied that, we will need to re-evaluate the poisoning case in terms of whether we want to go to trial at all."

In a written motion, Aron's lawyers argued that the solicitation case is unrelated to the poisoning case, and therefore the evidence and witnesses are not admissible. Further, they noted, their client has entered different pleas that will require different strategies.

The 54-year-old developer and former U.S. Senate candidate has pleaded not guilty to charges that she tried to kill her husband on April 25 with a bowl of homemade chili spiked with prescription drugs. Aron has pleaded not criminally responsible to charges she made a $500 down payment to a hit man in early June to kill Dr. Aron and Arthur G. Kahn, a Baltimore lawyer who once testified against her.

Aron's doctors say she suffers from severe depression and other mental disorders that would have impaired her judgment.

Last month, Aron was transferred from a psychiatric hospital to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup for a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation.

Savage told McGuckian that doctors at Perkins needed until early November to complete their work and proposed postponing the Oct. 27 trial to late November or early December.

Aron's lawyer, Barry Helfand, suggested trying the poisoning case -- which does not hinge on psychiatric testimony -- Oct. 27. Swapping the two trials would give the Perkins staff the time it is requesting, he said.

"The poisoning case is rather clear-cut," he said. "We don't see why we shouldn't go forward with this so we can stay on the same time schedule."

McGuckian said that before making any scheduling decisions, he would hold a hearing Wednesday on the admissibility of evidence, noting that a ruling against the prosecution might eliminate the need for the poisoning trial.

After yesterday's hearing, Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell explained the importance of linking the two cases.

'We have the evidence," he said. "But what was the intent of the person administering the poison? Was it to make the person sick or to deprive him of his life? I think the solicitation evidence indicates the intent."

Pub Date: 10/04/97

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