Aron knew what she was doing in alleged plot, psychologist says Responsibility for actions shown, he testifies

July 28, 1998|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

Ruthann Aron described herself as a "confused mushball" who was led into the alleged plot to kill her husband last year, according to a psychologist who examined her last fall.

But after listening to her words, reading her mental test results, and considering her motive, psychiatric history and behavior, Dr. Kevin Richards testified that he believed she knew exactly what she was doing.

"These were not disorganized activities," said Richards, a forensic psychologist at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital in Jessup. "These were purposeful activities that were logical and goal-directed."

Richards testified most of yesterday in Montgomery County Circuit Court as Aron's retrial on murder-for-hire charges entered its fourth week. The first trial ended in a hung jury.

The one-time U.S. Senate candidate has pleaded not criminally responsible, that she was too mentally ill to know right from wrong.

A string of defense medical experts last week said that on June 9, 1997 -- the day Aron paid $500 on a $10,000 contract against her husband's life and was arrested -- she suffered from several debilitating mental illnesses. Those disorders included bi-polar manic depression, borderline personality disorder and severe depression.

Aron, 55, suffers from none of those, Richards said yesterday.

He diagnosed her with "adjustment" disorder, depression and anxiety that could have been the result of her arrest or some other incident. He said he found only traits of a personality disorder.

Of eight factors Richards looked at to consider whether Aron should be held criminally responsible, seven indicated that she should, he said.

In her sessions with Richards, the prominent developer described her husband, Dr. Barry Aron, as abusive, and the divorce he wanted as a potential embarrassment and political liability as she prepared to run for the Montgomery County Council. Those concerns gave her a motive, said Richards.

Despite her claims that a friend led her into the plan, he said Aron's voice on 15 secretly recorded tapes of the discussions show her to be alert, articulate, focused and in control.

She was cognizant enough to try to conceal her activities in sophisticated ways by using pay phones, code names and a disguise, he added.

"All the evidence shows she clearly understood the wrongfulness of what she was doing," he said.

"Her past psychiatric history is rather mild at best," he said. "She didn't experience significant disturbances, there was no hospitalization. She had the kinds of prob- lems with which people continue to function."

Aron attorney Charles Cockerill repeatedly questioned Richards about why he did not explore information Aron provided suggesting deeper psychiatric problems.

At many points, Richards testified, he did not believe her statements or felt they were outweighed by other factors.

Pub Date: 7/28/98

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