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DA asks judge to reject motions from Pitt researcher accused in poisoning

| Friday, June 6, 2014, 5:09 p.m.

The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office asked a judge to deny 80 motions to suppress evidence made by the attorneys for the University of Pittsburgh researcher accused of fatally poisoning his wife with cyanide, according to court documents filed on Friday.

Assistant District Attorney Lisa M. Pellegrini argued that Robert Ferrante, and his attorneys do not have standing to challenge most of the search warrants, subpoenas and affidavits in the case and the ones they can challenge were valid and should not be suppressed.

Autumn Marie Klein, 41, a UPMC neurologist, died on April 20, 2013, three days after she was poisoned. Ferrante, 65, of Schenley Farms is scheduled to stand trial on Sept. 22. A jury from Dauphin County will hear the case.

Ferrante's attorneys Bill Difenderfer and Wendy Williams asked Allegheny Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning to throw out a majority of the evidence collected against their client. They claimed there was not enough evidence to obtain the search warrants and that Ferrante's constitutional rights had been violated.

During their investigation of Klein's death, detectives searched Ferrante's home, offices at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh, email accounts that belonged to him and Klein, computers, phones and his car. Pellegrini wrote in the 86-page response that Ferrante did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy for the items searched and seized by police and that they were connected to the investigation.

In response to the challenge of the search of Ferrante's car, Pelligrini wrote that the judge who signed the search warrant “made a practical, common-sense determination that there was a fair probability that evidence of Dr. Klein's death by cyanide poisoning would be found in a vehicle driven by the last person to see her conscious, who also had access to cyanide in his laboratory.”

Judge David R. Cashman placed a gag order on the case meaning attorneys on both sides would not comment.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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