- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A jury chosen from the surrounding community will hear the case against a western Pennsylvania medical researcher accused of having killed his neurologist wife with cyanide.

Attorneys for Dr. Robert Ferrante asked Allegheny County President Judge Jeffrey Manning on Tuesday to vacate his earlier order to bring in a jury from another county for his criminal homicide trial.

Authorities allege that the 65-year-old University of Pittsburgh researcher laced an energy drink with cyanide before giving it to his wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, 41, in April 2013. She died three days later.

A jury was to be chosen in Dauphin County and bused in because of extensive pretrial publicity in the Pittsburgh area. But the judge said Tuesday that the case hadn’t drawn the same level of “community outrage” as some other recent high-profile cases, referring to Richard Poplawski, who was convicted in the 2009 slayings of three police officers, and Richard Baumhammers, who was convicted of killing five people in a 2000 shooting rampage that targeted ethnic minorities.

Manning earlier in the year polled the county jury pool three times and found that of 224 potential jurors, 130 had read or heard about the case and 80 had formed a fixed opinion. He said in May that he was reluctant to bring in an out-of-town jury due to the expense, but felt it was appropriate.

Defense attorney William Difenderfer said he had advised his client to withdraw his motion for an outside jury, and Ferrante said he was satisfied that a panel of jurors without fixed opinions on the case could be found in Allegheny County.

Ferrante was charged in July after authorities alleged that he had purchased more than a half-pound of the poison using a university credit card two days before Klein fell suddenly ill, even though the toxin isn’t related to his research. Detectives also alleged that they found evidence that Ferrante had done computer searches five days after his wife died to learn whether treatments Klein received after falling suddenly ill would have removed poison from her system.

Defense attorneys have said that a test by a different laboratory has called into question the cause of death, saying a blood sample “was negative for cyanide as a cause of death.”

Ferrante and his attorney have said that he denies any involvement in his wife’s death and remains “devastated” by her loss.

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