Jurors in Aron Trial 'Taking a New Tack'
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 28, 1998; Page B05
A Montgomery County jury failed again yesterday, in its fourth day of deliberating, to reach a verdict in the murder-for-hire trial of politician Ruthann Aron and will return Monday to resume what several courtroom veterans called the longest deliberations they could recall.
In response to a midafternoon note from Circuit Court Judge Paul A. McGuckian asking whether it was "making progress toward resolution," the panel wrote: "We feel we can make progress toward resolution. We are taking a new tack" toward reconciling members' differences.
After deliberating for five hours yesterday -- and heading into their 25th hour overall -- the jurors sent a note to McGuckian saying they wanted to go home at 4:30 p.m. In contrast to most of the month-long trial and first three days of deliberations, when jurors smiled and laughed with each other, most looked grim and said little to each other before they were dismissed.
As the panel began to file out, a female juror asked to speak privately with the judge. The rest of the jury left as McGuckian met for about 25 minutes with the juror in chambers. After the juror left, prosecutors and defense attorneys also met privately with McGuckian for several minutes. They emerged saying they were under a "gag order" and could not speak about the juror's concerns, but they said all 12 jurors would be back Monday.
Defense attorney Barry H. Helfand asked twice yesterday for a mistrial, saying that jurors in the minority could be feeling undue pressure to reach a unanimous verdict and go home. McGuckian denied the motion, and Helfand said he would renew his request every day.
Aron, 55, who is accused of trying to hire a hit man last June to kill her husband and a Baltimore lawyer, spent the day again in Helfand's Rockville office. Her attorneys argued in her trial that, although Aron indeed tried to hire a hit man, she was too mentally ill at the time to be responsible for her actions.
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