Judge allows Ferrante to write to daughter

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 12:09 p.m.

A University of Pittsburgh researcher charged with fatally poisoning his wife with cyanide can write a letter to his young daughter, an Allegheny County judge ruled on Wednesday.

Dr. Robert Ferrante, 65, is accused of poisoning his wife, Autumn Marie Klein, 41, a UPMC neurologist, on April 17, 2013. Paramedics found Klein collapsed in the couple's Schenley Farms home. She died in UPMC Presbyterian three days later.

Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman signed a consent order filed on behalf of Klein's parents, Lois and Charles Klein of Towson, Md., who have custody of Ferrante's daughter, Cianna, 7. Klein's parents agreed to the arrangement.

The order instructs Ferrante to give the letter to his lawyers, who will give it to Cianna's therapist, Dr. Claire A. Freeland. She will review the letter within 48 hours, determine whether it's appropriate and if so, give Cianna a copy during a counseling session.

Lawyers for both sides will then determine whether Ferrante can have further contact with his daughter.

The judge overseeing Ferrante's pending trial, meanwhile, polled potential jurors about their knowledge and opinions of the case.

President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning asked a room of potential jurors whether they read, heard or saw anything about the case and whether they had formed an opinion regarding Ferrante's guilt or innocence.

Of 67 people polled, 50 indicated they read or heard something about the case. Of those, 35 said they had formed an opinion on Ferrante's guilt or innocence.

Ferrante sat at a table in the jury room in the courthouse with his attorneys, William Difenderfer and Wendy Williams, and across from Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini.

A test in February yielded more ambiguous results. Of 78 people polled then, 36 indicated they read or heard something about the case, and 13 of those said they had formed an opinion on his guilt or innocence.

A third poll is planned for Monday.

The last time a jury from outside Allegheny County heard a case in Pittsburgh was June 2011, when jurors from Dauphin County sentenced Richard Poplawski to death for killing three Pittsburgh police officers in an ambush at his Stanton Heights home two years earlier.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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