Texas Executes Former Police Officer Robert Fratta: A man who used to be a police officer in a suburb of Houston was put to death on Tuesday for hiring two people to kill his ex-wife nearly 30 years ago during a tough divorce and custody battle.
Robert Fratta, who was 65 years old, was given a lethal injection at the state prison in Huntsville for shooting and killing his wife, Farah, in November 1994. At 7:49 p.m., 24 minutes after the powerful sedative pentobarbital started flowing into his arms, he was pronounced dead.
Fratta’s spiritual adviser, Barry Brown, prayed over Fratta for about three minutes before the execution began. During that time, Fratta was strapped to the gurney in the death chamber and had intravenous needles in both arms.
Brown put his prayer book on the pillow next to Fratta’s head and rested his right hand on Fratta’s right hand. He asked for prayers for “broken hearts” and “people who have grieved and will grieve in the days to come.” He told God, “Please be kind to Bobby.”
When the warden asked Fratta if he had a last word, he said, “No.” As the drugs that kill started to work, Brown went back to praying, and Fratta closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and then snored loudly six times. Then nothing moved at all.
Prosecutors say that Fratta was in charge of the murder-for-hire plot, in which a middleman, Joseph Prystash, hired Howard Guidry. Guidry shot 33-year-old Farah Fratta twice in the head in the garage of her home in the Houston suburb of Atascocita. Robert Fratta, a Missouri City public safety officer, had said for a long time that he was innocent.
The punishment was put off for more than an hour while the U.S. Supreme Court, the Texas Supreme Court, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals heard the last of a bunch of last-minute appeals.
Fratta’s lawyers said that prosecutors didn’t show evidence that a trial witness had been hypnotized by investigators, which caused her to change her original story about seeing two men and a getaway driver at the murder scene.
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Prosecutors said Fratta had said many times that he wanted his wife to die. He also asked several people he knew if they knew anyone who would kill her. According to court records, he told one friend, “I’ll just kill her, do my time, and then I’ll have my kids.” For the murder, Prystash and Guidry were also put on death row.
Fratta was also one of four Texas prisoners on death row who sued to stop the state’s prison system from using what they say is old and dangerous drugs to kill people.
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Fratta’s lawyers tried to get the Supreme Court and lower courts to look at claims that he was wrongfully convicted because there wasn’t enough evidence and the jury was given wrong instructions.
The Supreme Court and lower courts turned them down. His lawyers also tried to prove that a juror was not fair and that ballistic evidence didn’t link him to the murder weapon, but they were unsuccessful.
Last week, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously turned down Fratta’s request for a lesser sentence or a 60-day reprieve. Fratta was first sentenced to death in 1996, but a federal judge overturned the verdict because confessions from Fratta’s accomplices shouldn’t have been used as proof. In the same decision, the judge wrote that “trial evidence showed Fratta to be egotistical, misogynistic, and vile, with a heartless desire to kill his wife.”
In 2009, he tried again and was given a second death sentence. Andy Kahan, in charge of victim services and advocacy for Crime Stoppers of Houston, said that Farah Fratta’s father, Lex Baquer, who died in 2018, raised Robert and Farah Fratta’s three children with his wife.
Kahan, Bradley Baquer, Fratta’s son, and Zain Baquer, Farah’s brother, were among the people who saw Fratta die. As they stood at a window to the death chamber, Fratta never looked at them or acknowledged them.
“In 1994, when he hired someone to kill his ex-wife, Bob was a coward,” Kahan said after the execution. “After more than 28 years, he was still a coward tonight. When he had a chance to try at least to make peace with his son, who he knew was watching, he didn’t take it.
“He still chose to be a coward and run away. He could have just said, “Sorry.” Fratta was the first prisoner to be executed in Texas this year and the second in the country. In Texas, there are plans for eight more executions later this year.
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