Former Pitt researcher convicted of poisoning his wife seeks new trial

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Former Pitt researcher convicted of poisoning his wife seeks new trial

Allegheny County Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh.

Allegheny County Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Allegheny County Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Allegheny County Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh.

By Emily Wolfe, Contributing Editor

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A 70-year-old former Pitt neurology researcher who is serving life in prison for poisoning his wife in 2013 has filed a petition requesting a new trial.

Robert Ferrante claims his lawyers provided an ineffective defense in the 2014 trial that led to Ferrante’s conviction for the death of his wife, UPMC neurologist Autumn Klein, from cyanide poisoning. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on the contents of Ferrante’s petition Monday.

Among other complaints, Ferrante’s petition said his defense failed to effectively challenge the idea that Klein died of cyanide poisoning. Additionally, it said the defense should have pursued the option of bringing in a jury from elsewhere, because the high volume of local media coverage made it impossible for a local jury to be unbiased.

Klein was 41 on April 17, 2013, when her husband called 911 and reported that she was displaying the symptoms of a seizure. Paramedics transported her from the couple’s Oakland home to UPMC Presbyterian, where she remained unresponsive for three days before passing away on April 20. Traces of cyanide were found in her blood.

According to the criminal complaint that charged Ferrante with homicide, he asked investigators, “Why would she do that to herself?” when he learned about the cyanide in Klein’s blood. But detectives quickly ruled out suicide, and learned that Klein had made plans to leave Ferrante before her death.

Ferrante was convicted of Klein’s poisoning in November 2014, and is currently serving his life sentence at State Correctional Institution Houtzdale, located around 100 miles east of Oakland.

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