Aron retrial set for July 6 Case involves charges of murder for hire

1st trial had hung jury

Husband an alleged victim

Ex-Senate candidate to be tried afterward on poisoning charge

June 18, 1998|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Ruthann Aron's summer home will be the spacious, but Spartan Courtroom One in Montgomery County.

The former U.S. Senate candidate and Potomac businesswoman is to be retried on murder-for-hire charges beginning July 6. The court proceedings are expected to run into August in Rockville.

Then after a short break, Aron will be tried on charges she attempted to poison her husband.

Unlike most summer reruns, the so-called hit man trial will have some new players: Circuit Judge Vincent E. Ferretti Jr. and defense lawyers Charles M. Cockerill and Harry E. Trainor Jr.

And, it appears the hours will be more laid back. Ferretti said yesterday he most likely would not have court Fridays.

But it won't be a vacation for Aron's lawyers.

For the second time in as many weeks, Ferretti declined to postpone the trial.

Cockerill and Trainor argued unsuccessfully yesterday that they have not had enough time since being hired in mid-May to review the 3,700 pages of transcript from her first trial, which ended in a hung jury.

They also said their client is under "the added stress" of intense media scrutiny and being sued by her husband for $7.5 million. Dr. Barry Aron filed a civil suit June 5, claiming his wife's alleged attempts on his life have caused him severe mental anguish.

Ruthann Aron, 55, is accused of hiring an undercover police officer posing as a hit man last summer to kill her husband and a lawyer, Arthur G. Kahn, who testified against her in a civil lawsuit.

Aron will be tried separately on attempted murder charges. She is accused of poisoning her husband's bowl of homemade chili with prescription drugs.

She has pleaded not criminally responsible -- Maryland's version of the insanity defense -- to the murder solicitation charges and not guilty on the attempted murder charges.

Aron's first murder-for-hire trial lasted from Feb. 25 until March 30, as her defense team sought to prove that mental illness prevented her knowing right from wrong. The prosecution portrayed her as cold and calculating, introducing audiotape evidence of her arrangements to make the killings appear to be accidents.

Aron replaced her first team of lawyers May 15 after deciding she would seek a new trial rather than enter a guilty plea.

Her new lawyers' request for a delay to Aug. 10 was denied. Ferretti, who took on the case after the original judge had a scheduling conflict, said he believed Aron could get adequate representation.

Ferretti said he is preparing for another four-week trial by having 800 Montgomery County residents screened for the jury pool.

After eliminating people with scheduling conflicts, prepaid vacations and child care problems, 200 potential jurors will be called July 6.

Pretrial motions will be held July 7, with opening arguments July 8.

Ferretti said Aron's trial on attempted murder charges will follow the murder solicitation trial by two weeks.

Pub Date: 6/18/98

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