Jurors likely to receive Aron case today

July 30, 1998|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

Barring any last-minute changes, the Ruthann Aron murder-for-hire trial is poised to go to the jury today, four weeks and several dozen witnesses later.

Aron's lawyers held out the option yesterday of calling one more witness this morning and indicated that Aron might take the stand -- although they noted it was doubtful.

As of late yesterday, Montgomery Circuit Judge Vincent E. Ferretti Jr. and lawyers on both sides were making final HTC preparations for closing arguments at 9: 45 a.m.

When the jury gets the case, its core task will be to decide one primary issue: whether mental illness was to blame when the Potomac developer and one-time U.S. Senate candidate contracted the killings of her husband and another man.

Aron was arrested June 9 last year approximately one week after police were tipped off that she was interested in hiring a hitman, and hours after she dropped $500 toward a $10,000 contract on her husband's life at a Gaithersburg hotel.

She has pleaded not criminally responsible, the equivalent of an insanity defense.

Police evidence includes 15 secretly recorded tapes of Aron discussing the job with an undercover detective and their go-between, photographs of her in apparent disguise emerging from the hotel and literature she had purchased with instructions on how to hire a hitman and make a silencer.

Little time is likely to be spent determining whether Aron actually engaged in the scheme. The defense acknowledges it, and jurors have heard Aron's voice on the tapes instructing her contact that she wants people dead or their names "in the obits."

When the door closes behind jurors, their attention likely will focus on the complicated testimony of 10 psychiatrists and psychologists who have lined up on opposite sides of the case with vastly different opinions about Aron's mental health.

Defense doctors say Aron, 55, suffers from serious, long-standing mental disorders that were responsible for her conduct leading up to her arrest.

The prosecution's medical team says Aron faked symptoms on her psychological tests and suffers from less serious disorders that did not influence her ability to know right from wrong.

She targeted her husband, Dr. Barry Aron, because he wanted a divorce and she feared it would interfere with her aspirations for a seat on the Montgomery County Council, prosecutors said. She wanted attorney Arthur Kahn dead as revenge for his role in a bitter civil suit against her, they said.

Aron's first trial ended March 30 in a hung jury, which voted 11-1 to convict.

If found guilty on the two murder-solicitation charges, Aron could receive a sentence ranging from probation to consecutive life terms.

As the testimony wound down yesterday, prosecutors called several witnesses who had spent time with Aron in the days and weeks before her arrest, including Montgomery County Sheriff Raymond M. Kight.

They agreed that she seemed to be her normal self -- social, friendly, congenial, working the crowd at political functions -- and they noticed no signs of tension between Aron and her husband.

Kight said he sat next to Aron at a retirement dinner for a police colleague in early May. The Arons, he said, "seemed like what I would call an item. They were obviously very close."

Jim Newton, who had become Aron's campaign manager three months before, spoke with Aron apparently moments before her arrest. The call came hours after she had dropped the money in Gaithersburg and immediately after a round of golf she played with friends afterward.

"She sounded the way she always did," Newton said.

Pub Date: 7/30/98

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