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  •   Aron Jury Recesses After Eight Hours

    By Katherine Shaver
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, March 25, 1998; Page B04

    A Montgomery County jury recessed last night after deliberating for eight hours and failing to reach a verdict in the murder-for-hire trial of former politician and millionaire Potomac developer Ruthann Aron.

    The jury of 10 women and two men, which reconvenes this morning, is trying to decide whether Aron should be held responsible for trying to hire a hit man to kill her husband, urologist Barry Aron, and Arthur G. Kahn, a Baltimore lawyer.

    After two hours, the panel sent a note to Circuit Court Judge Paul A. McGuckian asking for a definition of "mental disorder" and a copy of the statute that spells out the legal test for "not criminally responsible," Maryland's version of the insanity defense.

    Jurors also asked for a copy of a transcript of the trial. McGuckian granted the request but soon changed his mind when prosecutors said jurors would get bogged down in the six-inch-thick document containing more than 3,729 pages.

    Defense attorneys have conceded that Aron, a former Montgomery planning board member and a U.S. Senate candidate in 1994, ordered the slayings. However, they argued that she cannot be held responsible because she suffered a serious mental disorder that affected her reasoning and self-control.

    Prosecutors said Aron is a sane criminal with a "garden-variety" motive: vengeance against a husband who threatened to divorce her on the eve of her campaign for the Montgomery County Council and a lawyer she accused of destroying her Senate bid.

    While the jury deliberated, Aron spent the day in her lawyer's office with her mother, Frieda Singer, according to defense attorney Barry H. Helfand. Helfand said he believes the panel is focusing on the question of criminal responsibility. "I'd like to think they're being conscientious and thoughtful," he said.

    If the jury finds Aron not criminally responsible, she would be committed to a state psychiatric hospital for an unspecified time. If found responsible, she could face up to 36 years in prison, prosecutors said.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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