HOUSTON – A former Houston-area police officer was executed Tuesday in a prison in Huntsville, Texas, for hiring two people to kill his ex-wife nearly 30 years ago.
Robert Fratta, 65, received a lethal injection for the shooting death of his wife, Farah, in November 1994, amid a controversial divorce and custody dispute over their three children. He was pronounced dead at 7:49 pm local time, 24 minutes after he received a dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital.
Fratta organized the murder-for-hire plot in which a go-between, Joseph Prystash, hired the attacker, Howard Guidry.
Farah Fratta, 33, was shot twice in the head by Guidry in the garage of her home in the northeast suburb of Atascocita of the Houston metropolitan area.
FORMER OFFICER WAS EXECUTED TUESDAY AT HUNTSVILLE PRISON
Robert Fratta, who was a police officer in Missouri City, has long claimed he was innocent.
Prosecutors said Fratta had repeatedly expressed his desire to see his wife dead. Prystash and Guidry were also sentenced to death for the murder.
Fratta’s lawyers have asked the US Supreme Court to halt the scheduled execution at Huntsville State Penitentiary, arguing that prosecutors withheld evidence that a trial witness had been hypnotized by investigators.
They claim that this led her to change her initial memory of seeing two men at the crime scene, as well as a hit-and-run driver.
“This would have undermined the case for the State, which was contingent on only two men committing the act and contingent on linking Fratta to both,” Fratta’s lawyers wrote in their appeal to the Supreme Court.
Prosecutors have argued that the hypnosis did not produce new information, nor new identification.
The Supreme Court and lower courts have previously rejected appeals by Fratta’s lawyers seeking to review the claims arguing that insufficient evidence and faulty jury instructions were used to convict him.
This case redefined the role of spiritual advisors in executions.
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.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously refused last week to commute Fratta’s death sentence to a lesser sentence or to grant a 60-day reprieve.
Fratta was also one of three Texas death row inmates who had sued to stop the state’s prison system from using what they say are expired and unsafe execution drugs.
Fratta was first sentenced to death in 1996, but his case was overturned by a federal judge who ruled that the confessions of his accomplices should not have been admitted into evidence. In the same ruling, the judge wrote that “the trial evidence showed that Fratta was selfish, misogynistic and vile, with a cruel desire to kill his wife.”
Three hours after the US Supreme Court gave Alabama officials the go-ahead to execute convicted gunman Alan Eugene Miller, the execution was stayed for time and medical reasons.
He was retried and sentenced to death in 2009.
Andy Kahan, director of victim services and advocacy for Crime Stoppers of Houston who has helped Farah Fratta’s family through the case, said he plans to witness the execution, keeping a promise he made to Farah Fratta’s father, Lex Baquer, who died in 2018. Baquer and his wife raised the three children of Robert and Farah Fratta.
“I don’t expect anything to come out of Bob that shows some kind of admission or some kind of remorse because everything has always revolved around him,” Kahan said.
Fratta is the first inmate to be executed this year in Texas and the second in the US. Eight more executions are scheduled in Texas in 2023.