Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ruthann Aron: A Deadly Campaign

The Other Side of the Coin

Even though the mental health specialists that testified for the defense presented compelling evidence supporting Ruthann's mental instability, other experts claimed that her mental problems didn't necessarily mean she wasn't criminally responsible for her crimes. Professor Barry Gordon, a behavioral neurologist at John Hopkins University, testified that Ruthann's attention to detail during the planning of the murders was proof of her ability to function at a high level, throwing into question the defense's argument that she was functionally impaired.

Gordon's testimony was followed by that of a psychiatrist for the state's Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, who suggested that Ruthann's "mental illness and any mild brain damage were insufficient to fit the definition of 'not criminally responsible' under Maryland law," Shaver reported. The state psychiatrist, Dr. Christiane Tellefsen, claimed that people affected by a serious mental illness would often "sound confused" or "rambling." The fact was that Ruthann did not exhibit such characteristics, evidence that further weakened the defense's case.

After the testimony of several other psychologists who squabbled over Ruthann's interpretation of ink blot tests, the battle of the mental health experts in the courtroom finally ceased. After fifteen days of testimony, the jury began deliberations. Their job was to sort out all the psychiatric terms and medical data in order to determine whether Ruthann was in fact criminally responsible for hiring a hit man to murder her husband and Kahn. The deliberation process would not go as smoothly as hoped.

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