Jury tries again today for verdict

A Montgomery County jury, its apparent good humor defying speculation of a deadlock, returns this morning to continue trying to decide whether Ruthann Aron was mentally ill when she sought out a hit man last summer to kill her husband and a lawyer she hated.

Most of the 10 women and two men were smiling at 4:30 p.m. yesterday when Circuit Judge Paul McGuckian sent them home with instructions to return at 10:30 a.m. today.

During more than six hours of deliberations in the seventh-floor jury room in Rockville, jurors sometimes could be heard laughing. In the afternoon, they asked for a fan, and the air conditioning was turned up as temperatures outdoors reached 70 degrees.

The jury has now deliberated more than 20 hours since Tuesday morning. Defense AttorneyBarry Helfand takes that as a sign that jurors could reach an agreement after all. Earlier, he had suggested they might be unable to reach a unanimous verdict. “They must not be deadlocked,” Mr. Helfand said last night. “It’s obvious that they care very much about what they are doing.”

If the jury should deadlock, Deputy State’s Attorney I. Matthew Campbell said a new trial would be scheduled as soon as possible, maybe as early as June.

The issue is the mental condition of Mrs. Aron, 55, the wealthy Potomac developer and former U.S. Senate candidate, last June when police tape recordings detail her plans to kill her husband, Dr. Barry Aron, and lawyer Arthur Kahn, whom she blamed for her election defeat.

The jury was selected Feb. 25 and was in court 16 days to hear testimony from 47 witnesses, including police, psychiatrists, psychologists, Mrs. Aron’s mother, Dr. Aron, Mr. Kahn and other associates.

On Wednesday, Judge McGuckian read instructions about jury deliberations to the jurors. Yesterday, he advised, “I know you have been working very hard. Sometimes it helps to step back and approach a problem differently.”