Lawyers hand Aron's fate to jury after three-week trial

March 24, 1998|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Closing arguments in Ruthann Aron's murder-for-hire trial took all day as prosecutors and defense lawyers tried to distill three weeks of testimony from 47 witnesses into their last, persuasive messages to jurors.

Prosecutors told the 10 women and two men to remember that no matter what her mental disorder, Aron knew what she was doing when she hired a hit man in June to kill her husband and a lawyer.

The proof, argued Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell, is in the 15 tapes of conversations between Aron, a police officer posing as a hit man and their go-between.

But Aron's defense team downplayed the importance of the tapes, saying they show only that Aron committed the crime, but not why. For that answer, they said, the jury should rely on medical experts.

Prosecutors want the jury to find Aron guilty and responsible for her actions, a verdict that could result in a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The defense wants Aron found not criminally responsible for her actions so that she can be committed to a state psychiatric hospital for treatment.

Judith Catterton, one of Aron's lawyers, said her client snapped after a childhood of sexual abuse by her father, a tumultuous marriage that was heading for divorce, and a bitter election defeat at the hands of a political rival.

"She is a caring mother, an emotional person, a moral person," Catterton said. "There is absolutely nothing about Ms. Aron that we know that would lead us to believe she is cold-blooded and calculating."

Campbell dismissed much of the defense's medical testimony as "psycho-babble and fancy words," saying the trial was a soapbox for seven doctors "in search of a diagnosis."

Instead, he reminded the jury that William Mossburg, the go-between, had characterized Aron "as serious as a heart attack."

Campbell castigated defense lawyers' attacks on Dr. Barry Aron, Ruthann's husband and one of her intended victims, for dragging out "every piece of dirt the defendant was able to find for the [defense] team in the nooks and crannies of a marriage of 35 years."

That portrayal drew an indignant response from Barry Helfand, Aron's lead lawyer, who said that despite her attempts to win her husband's affection through breast implants, thigh surgery and a succession of wigs, he had rejected her.

Helfand reminded them to try to think as Aron did and recall her life as they listen to the tapes.

"There was something wrong with her the whole time," he said. "She got pushed."

Pub Date: 3/24/98

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