A former suburban Houston police officer was set to be executed on Tuesday for hiring two people to kill his ex-wife nearly 30 years ago.
Robert Fratta, 65, is to be given a lethal injection for the November 1994 fatal shooting of his wife, Farah, amid a contentious divorce and custody battle over their three children.
Prosecutors say Fratta masterminded the murder-for-hire plot in which a middleman, Joseph Prystash, hired the shooter, Howard Guidry. Farah Fratta, 33, was shot twice in the head by Guidry in the garage of her home in the Houston suburb of Atascocita. Robert Fratta, who was a Missouri City public safety officer, has long claimed he was innocent.
Prosecutors said Fratta repeatedly expressed his desire to see his wife dead and asked several acquaintances if they knew anyone who would kill her, telling a friend, “I’m just going to kill her, and I’ll do my time and when I get out, I will have my children,” according to court records. Prystash and Guidry were also sent to death row for the murder.
Hours before Fratta’s scheduled Tuesday night execution at Huntsville State Penitentiary, the United States Supreme Court denied his lawyers’ appeal.
Fratta’s attorneys had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the execution, arguing that prosecutors had withheld evidence that a trial witness had been hypnotized by investigators. They say it caused her to change her initial memory that she had seen two men at the scene of the murder as well as a fleeing driver.
“It would have undermined the state’s case, which hinged on only two men committing the act and depended on the connection between Fratta and the two,” Fratta’s attorneys wrote in their appeal to the Supreme Court.
Prosecutors argued that the hypnosis produced no new information or new identifications.
Fratta is also one of four Texas death row inmates who have filed a lawsuit to stop the state prison system from using what they claim are stale and dangerous execution drugs.
Following a Tuesday hearing in the lawsuit, Civil Court Judge Catherine Mauzy in Austin issued a temporary injunction preventing the state prison system from using what she believes is likely expired and medically compromised pentobarbital. – the drug that Texas uses in its lethal injection.
Mauzy’s order conflicted with last week’s edict from Texas’ highest criminal appeals court that barred him from making orders in the trial that would end any executions. The appeals court overturned its injunction later on Tuesday. Lawyers for the inmate then filed suit in the Texas Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court and lower courts have previously dismissed appeals from Fratta’s attorneys who sought to review claims that insufficient evidence and faulty jury instructions were used to convict him. His attorneys also argued unsuccessfully that a juror in his case was biased and that ballistics evidence did not link him to the murder weapon.
Last week, the Texas Board of Pardons and Pardons unanimously declined to commute Fratta’s death sentence to a lesser sentence or grant a 60-day reprieve.
Fratta was first sentenced to death in 1996, but his case was overturned by a federal judge who ruled that his co-conspirators’ confessions should not have been admitted into evidence. In the same ruling, the judge wrote that “trial evidence showed Fratta to be selfish, misogynistic and vile, with a ruthless desire to kill his wife.”
He was retried and sentenced to death in 2009.
Andy Kahan, director of victim services and advocacy for Crime Stoppers of Houston and who helped Farah Fratta’s family during the case, said he planned to attend the execution, keeping a promise he would made to Farah Fratta’s father, Lex Baquer, who died in 2018. Baquer and his wife raised Robert and Farah Fratta’s three children.
“I don’t expect anything out of Bob that would show any type of confession or any type of remorse, because it’s always been about him,” Kahan said.
The execution will be a way for the children “to keep moving forward in their lives and at the very least they won’t have to think about him anymore. I think that will play a big part in their healing,” he said. declared.
Fratta would be the first inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the second in the United States. Eight more executions are scheduled in Texas later this year.