Ferrante jury finishes day’s deliberations without reaching verdict |

Ferrante jury finishes day’s deliberations without reaching verdict

James Knox | Trib Total Media
Robert Ferrante (center), 66, makes his way to the courtroom for his homicide trial Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014, at the Allegheny County Courthouse.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Dr. Cyril Wecht leaves the courtroom after testifying in the Robert Ferrante homicide trial Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, at the Allegheny County Courthouse.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Dr. Cyril Wecht speaks to the media after testifying in Robert Ferrante's homicide trial Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, at the Allegheny County Courthouse.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Dr. Cyril Wecht speaks to the media after leaving Judge Jeffery Manning's courtroom after a morning of testifying in the Robert Ferrante trial Wednesday Nov. 5, 2014 at the Allegheny County Courthouse.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Robert Ferrante's defense attorney William Difenderfer speaks to the media at the Allegheny County Courthouse on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014.

Robert Ferrante either intentionally killed his wife or is “the unluckiest man in the world,” Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini told jurors Thursday during her closing argument.

The prosecution’s evidence against Ferrante — including Internet searches for “cyanide poisoning,” his purchase of the fatal poison two days before his wife collapsed and a test that showed a lethal amount of the substance in his wife’s blood — “all just has to be coincidence,” Pellegrini said.

“Or else: guilty.”

Ferrante, 66, a University of Pittsburgh researcher, is accused of killing his wife, noted UPMC neurologist Autumn Marie Klein, by slipping her a fatal dose of cyanide. Klein, 41, collapsed inside the couple’s Oakland home April 17, 2013, and died three days later at UPMC Presbyterian.

The Allegheny County jury of eight men and four women deliberated for six hours Thursday, finishing at 7 p.m. Deliberations are to resume Friday morning.

Ferrante’s trial before Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning began Oct. 23 and included testimony from medical experts for the prosecution and defense and from Ferrante himself.

Pitt law professor John Burkoff said observers shouldn’t take anything away from Ferrante’s decision to testify.

“It’s the defendant’s choice. It’s not the lawyer’s choice,” Burkoff said. “His defense counsel can and did advise him one way or the other, but the defendant doesn’t have to listen.”

Testifying in one’s defense, Burkoff said, has its pros and cons. Ferrante might not have come off as credible, but the jury could have interpreted not testifying as Ferrante having something to hide.

“When we hear of these alleged criminal acts, we would like to hear from the person accused,” Burkoff said.

Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket, court staff, lawyers, family members and the media packed Manning’s courtroom for closing arguments.

Defense attorney William Difenderfer urged the jury to look past what he called “headlines.”

“This case is about whether or not my client intentionally murdered his wife,” Difenderfer said. “Don’t go jumping to conclusions because it may not be what you think. … The prosecution has taken headlines, and they’re asking you to fill in the gaps.”

Medical experts who testified for the defense, including Dr. Cyril Wecht, the famed Pittsburgh forensic pathologist, disregarded a positive result for cyanide in Klein’s blood from Quest Diagnostics because it conflicted with another test done by NMS Labs in suburban Philadelphia. They said the symptoms Klein experienced could have been caused by a number of things, including an irregular heartbeat — or cyanide poisoning.

Jurors listened intently while Pellegrini reviewed the evidence investigators collected against Ferrante, including the Google searches leading up to and in the days following Klein’s death, and his fingerprints on the bottle of cyanide. Pellegrini said the one question she had was why Ferrante didn’t wait and poison his wife during a planned weekend getaway at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort a few days later. The closest hospital to Nemacolin is several miles away and is not a Level 1 trauma center as UPMC Presbyterian is.

“He was one blood test away from getting away with the perfect murder. If he had done it at Nemalcolin, he would have gotten away with murder,” she said.

Difenderfer said Ferrante and Klein planned the Nemacolin trip to rejuvenate their marriage. They went on a family vacation to Puerto Rico in March 2013 and continued trying to have a second child in early April 2013.

“If you’re going to leave somebody, does it make sense that before we break up I want to have your kid again?” Difenderfer said.

Pellegrini called Ferrante “brilliant” but a “master manipulator.”

“He is brilliant. People liked him. That’s what makes this crime so diabolical. He’s a master manipulator. He shows one side here; he shows one side there,” she said.

Adam Brandolph and Bobby Kerlik are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach Brandolph at 412-391-0927 or [email protected]. Reach Kerlik at 412-320-7886 or [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.