PROSECUTION NEARS END IN FERRANTE TRIAL [Derived Headline]

By Ward, Paula Reed | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), October 31, 2014 | Go to article overview

PROSECUTION NEARS END IN FERRANTE TRIAL [Derived Headline]


Ward, Paula Reed, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


PROSECUTION NEARS END IN FERRANTE TRIAL

Prosecutors have only one witness left to call in the criminal homicide trial of Robert Ferrante, accused of killing his wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, with cyanide in April 2013.

Five witnesses testified this morning, and the last one, an expert in toxicology, is not available until Monday, so Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey A. Manning sent the jury hearing the case home about 12:30 p.m.

Testimony today concluded with Marla Priestley, a latent- fingerprint examiner for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office, on the stand. She testified that she found a fingerprint on a bottle of cyanide ordered April 15, 2013, by Mr. Ferrante, to be delivered overnight to his University of Pittsburgh lab.

That print, Ms. Priestley said, matched the left thumb of the defendant.

Earlier in the day, Jennifer Janssen, the assistant chief toxicologist for the ME's crime lab, said that by the time she learned that NMS Labs near Philadelphia failed to complete a test to determine the level of cyanide in Dr. Klein's blood, it was too late to have it retested. That was on May 7, 2013. The blood that had been sent for testing was drawn April 18.

"The specimen was 19 days old," Ms. Janssen said. "It had been opened a number of times. It was no longer of value."

Earlier this morning, the prosecution continued to present email evidence culled from Mr. Ferrante's email account. He sent his wife an email April 16, 2013, saying he wanted to accompany her on an upcoming trip to Boston because he thought it would be romantic.

It started, "I'm sorry, Sweetie. You seemed to be in such a great mood up until last evening. I thought it would be such a wonderful idea going to Boston together.

"We have not been back alone there. I thought it might be romantic to go to one of our old restaurants and see the sights," states the email, which Lyle Graber, a detective with the Allegheny County district attorney's office, read into the record this morning on the seventh day of Mr. Ferrante's criminal trial.

The email continued: "I am obviously missing something here. I'm sorry for that."

Mr. Ferrante, 66, is accused of killing his wife with cyanide a day later. The 41-year-old chief of women's neurology for UPMC Presbyterian and Magee-Womens hospitals collapsed at her Oakland home and died three days later.

In the email, Mr. Ferrante then talked about organizing a visit with Dr. Klein's parents around Mother's Day.

"If you would like, I will not go to Boston, and I will stay home [and take care of her parents]," he wrote. "It seems obvious to me now that you want to go to Boston alone."

He signed the message, "Love you [forever and always], Bob."

On Thursday, other emails between the couple were read into the record, reflecting marital strife between the two.

Another witness called today, Thomas McElrath, who was a friend and colleague of Dr. Klein, testified for only six minutes. He said Dr. Klein was supposed to go to Boston in early May for a conference, and that there was an open invitation for her to stay with him at his Boston home, and that Mr. Ferrante was welcome to stay as well.

-- Paula Reed Ward, The Pittsburgh Press

JUDGE REJECTS EMAILREQUEST FROM PAPER

Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini has denied the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's request for an injunction to stop state agencies from permanently deleting emails after five days and request that emails be archived for two years.

In his ruling, issued this morning, Judge Pellegrini found that section 507 of the Right To Know Law indicates that the law is not intended to supersede, modify or rescind any record-retention policy.

Because of that, the Governor's Office of Administration and the Department of Education can continue their internal record- retention policies, which call for allowing each employee the discretion to determine if an email is "transitory"- meaning it has no use as a public record - and permit it to be deleted. …

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