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  •   Psychologist Testifies Aron Not Faking

    Ruthann Aron
    Ruthann Aron

    By Paul Valentine
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, March 12, 1998; Page B05

    A psychologist, seeking to rebut prosecution assertions that Montgomery County politician Ruthann Aron tried to appear "crazy" as a defense against murder-for-hire charges, testified yesterday that Aron "is not faking."

    Jack Spector, a clinical neuropsychologist, told a county Circuit Court jury that he put Aron through several memory and other tests, "and she is not malingering."

    Earlier, prosecutors had contended that Aron, 55, an unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate and onetime county Planning Board member, methodically schemed to hire a gunman to kill her husband, Barry, and a Baltimore lawyer, and that after she was caught, she exaggerated or faked responses on psychological tests to avoid criminal responsibility.

    The wealthy Potomac developer is accused of taking out a $20,000 contract last spring on the lives of both Barry Aron, a urologist, with whom she has had a bumpy marriage, and lawyer Arthur G. Kahn, who testified against her in a bitterly fought libel lawsuit stemming from her Senate campaign in 1994.

    She is charged with two counts of solicitation to commit murder. Her attorneys have acknowledged that she attempted to hire a hit man but contend that because of a range of mental disorders, she cannot be held criminally responsible.

    Defendants going that route under Maryland law must prove not only that they suffer a mental disease or disorder but also that they consequently lack a substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of their conduct or are unable to conform their conduct to the requirements of the law.

    As a result, the Aron trial, now in its 10th day, has been dominated by psychiatric testimony, with doctors asserting that she suffers from ailments and psychological setbacks, including depression, bipolar disorder, physical brain damage, borderline personality disorder and sexual abuse by her father.

    Prosecutors say the scenario, unencumbered by psychological problems, is much simpler: Her decision to seek a hit man was triggered by years of marital conflict and infidelity, culminating with her husband's demand in 1997 for a divorce, a move prosecutors said Ruthann Aron felt would jeopardize her ambitions to run for County Council this year.

    In testimony yesterday, Spector said Aron's response time on some of the malingering-detection tests was inconsistent with that of deliberate fakers in control tests. On other tests, he said, "she gave a genuinely critical appraisal of each question."

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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