Psychologist doubts Aron defense claim Defendant in hit-man case is deemed unable to testify

July 24, 1998|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

A Johns Hopkins neuropsychologist yesterday dissected comments Ruthann Aron made in setting up an alleged murder-for-hire scheme and said there was no evidence that mental illness or brain dysfunction played a part.

The 15 tape recordings of Aron making plans with a supposed hit man and a go-between are "rare evidence" to show how a person was thinking, talking and feeling at the time of the conversation, said Dr. Barry Gordon.

Gordon was among the first witnesses called after the defense closed its case yesterday in Aron's retrial in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Her first trial ended in a hung jury.

Aron's lawyers said Wednesday that they had given serious consideration to putting her on the stand. But after a short break yesterday morning, they rested their case without calling her. "We just didn't feel she was up to it," said attorney Harry Trainor.

Aron, 55, is accused of hiring an undercover detective she believed to be a hit man in June 1997. The targets were her husband, Dr. Barry Aron, and Arthur Kahn, a lawyer who had opposed her in a civil lawsuit. She has pleaded not criminally responsible, Maryland's version of the insanity defense.

The state's rebuttal witnesses are to include a string of doctors who will dispute the defense case that Aron could not distinguish right from wrong because she suffered from manic depression, borderline personality disorder and brain abnormalities.

"There was no material impairment to her abilities, if that's what was wrong with her," Gordon testified yesterday.

Defense witnesses this week painted a portrait of the prominent developer as unstable emotionally, depressed and out of touch with reality during the spring and early summer last year.

But in testimony for the state yesterday, others said her demeanor was perfectly normal.

Jan Ray, who developed a business relationship and friendship, described Aron as smart and capable with no problem articulating ideas or understanding others.

Arthur Holmes Jr., who served with Aron on the Montgomery County Planning Board, said she appeared her usual self.

Pub Date: 7/24/98

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