Damage to brain claimed

Ruthann Aron’s brain was damaged when her husband shoved her during an argument 20 months before she was charged with hiring a hit man to kill her husband and a Baltimore lawyer, a doctor testified yesterday.

“She does” have damage, testified Dr. Lawrence Y. Kline, director of mental health services at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, as defense attorneys try to show Mrs. Aron was not criminally responsible, Maryland’s equivalent of the insanity defense.

Dr. Kline’s testimony was similar to three other psychiatrists and psychologists’ testimonies in the Montgomery County Circuit Court trial. None has yet stated that the wealthy lawyer, developer and politician did not know the difference between right and wrong and could not abide by the law.

Mrs. Aron, 55, was arrested June 9 and charged with hiring an undercover police detective posing as a hit man to kill her husband, Dr. Barry Aron , and Arthur Kahn, a lawyer who had defeated her in a Baltimore lawsuit and testified against her in a slander case after she was beaten in the 1994 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

Yesterday, Dr. Kline said Mrs. Aron told him she was knocked unconscious Oct. 31, 1995, when Dr. Aron shoved her through double doors in their kitchen as they argued about money. She told Dr. Kline about the incident after she was transferred from the Montgomery County jail to Suburban Hospital on Aug. 11.

Dr. Aron, a urologist, testified last week that Mrs. Aron pretended to be unconscious, that he checked her pulse and breathing as she lay on the floor. He also said she pointed a gun at him later that night when he went to her bedroom to apologize.

Earlier yesterday, clinical psychologist Sallyann Amdur Sack testified she conducted six hours of tests on Mrs. Aron, resulting in widely disparate scores.

The tests indicated Mrs. Aron was mentally ill, said Mrs. Sack, and that she was physically, maybe sexually abused as a child. The Rorschach inkblot tests were especially alarming, Mrs. Sack said. When asked what the inkblots meant, Mrs. Aron usually said they reminded her of sex, blood and body parts.

“Don’t you think Mrs. Aron might have a motive to make herself look sicker than she is to gain sympathy?” asked Deputy State’s Attorney I. Matthew Campbell.

But Mrs. Sack said Mrs. Aron could not have responded as she did unless she was the most “fantastic Academy Award actress I’ve seen in my life. She’s not.”

Mr. Campbell asked if Mrs. Aron faked the answers but Mrs. Sack said no, the tests were too complex.

Mrs. Aron’s performance on a test designed to evaluate perception of reality was in the retarded range, Mrs. Sack said.

Patients taking the test are given a picture with missing parts and asked to fill in the blanks. “She couldn’t do it,” Mrs. Sack said.

Mr. Campbell referred to recent publications and developments in psychological tests, including the Rorschach inkblot and Minnesota Multi Phasic Personality Inventory II, but Mrs. Sack said she had not read the material, preferring to rely upon her own experience and expertise to reach conclusions in Mrs. Aron’s case.

Mrs. Sack conceded that there was no strong clue about brain damage in results from the tests she administered. She said she decided Mrs. Aron might have brain damage only after conferring with two or three other psychologists and psychiatrists who had examined Mrs. Aron.

Mr. Campbell pointed out that an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures brain waves, indicated only a “subtle” sign of brain damage.

Dr. Kline said he is among doctors who disparage EEGs. “I don’t agree with EEG,” he said.

Mrs. Sack also said she was not biased in her testimony for Mrs. Aron, although she is paid $200 hourly for her services. Under cross-examination, she also said one reason she did not answer a call for an appointment with Mr. Campbell was because there was no assurance she would be paid.

In a related motion, defense attorney Barry Helfand asked for a mistrial because, he said, psychiatrists from Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center were advising Mr. Campbell about questions to ask defense witnesses.

Mr. Helfand said Perkins’ staff members are supposed to be independent but were acting like aides to the prosecution. Circuit Judge Paul A. McGuckian denied the mistrial motion.