A former Houston police officer was executed Tuesday for hiring two people to kill his ex-wife of nearly 30 years, amid a contentious divorce and custody dispute.
Robert Fratta, 65, received a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the November 1994 fatal shooting of his wife, Farah. He was pronounced dead at 7:49 pm, 24 minutes after the lethal dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital began flowing into his arms.
For about three minutes before the execution began, Fratta’s spiritual advisor, Barry Brown, prayed for Fratta, who was strapped to the burial chamber gurney with intravenous needles in each arm.
Brown, her prayer book on the pillow beside Fratta’s head and her right hand resting on Fratta’s right hand, asked for prayers for “hearts that have been broken… for the people who have suffered and those who will suffer in the days to come”. He asked God to “be merciful to Bobby”.
Asked by the director if he had a final statement, Fratta replied, “No.”
Brown returned to prayer as the lethal drugs began and Fratta, eyes closed, took a deep breath and then snored loudly six times. Then all movement stopped.
Prosecutors say Fratta organized the murder-for-hire plot in which an intermediary, Joseph Prystash, hired the gunman, Howard Guidry. Farah Fratta, 33, was shot twice in the head by Guidry in the driveway of her home in the Houston suburb of Atascocita. Robert Fratta, who was a public safety officer for the city of Missouri, had long maintained that he was innocent.
The punishment was delayed for just over an hour until the last of a flurry of appeals over the last day was approved by the United States Supreme Court and the superior courts of Texas, the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. .
Fratta’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued that prosecutors withheld evidence that a trial witness had been hypnotized by investigators, causing her to change her initial recollection that she saw two men at the crime scene, as well as a getaway driver. .
Prosecutors said Fratta repeatedly expressed his desire to see his wife dead and asked several acquaintances if they knew someone who would kill her, telling a friend: “I will kill her and serve my sentence 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.
Fratta was also one of four Texas death row inmates who filed a lawsuit to stop the state’s prison system from using what they claim are expired and unsafe execution drugs. That process also failed on Tuesday,
The Supreme Court and lower courts have previously rejected appeals by Fratta’s lawyers seeking to review the allegations, arguing that insufficient evidence and incorrect jury instructions were used to convict him. His lawyers also unsuccessfully argued that a juror in his case was not impartial and that ballistic evidence did not link him to the murder weapon.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Probation last week unanimously refused to commute Fratta’s death sentence to a lesser sentence or to grant a 60-day extension.
Fratta was first sentenced to death in 1996, but his conviction was overturned by a federal judge who ruled that the confessions of his co-conspirators should not have been admitted as evidence. In the same ruling, the judge wrote that “the trial evidence showed that Fratta was selfish, misogynistic and vile, with an insensitive 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, said Farah Fratta’s father, Lex Baquer, who died in 2018, raised Robert and Farah Fratta’s three children with his wife.
Kahan, Fratta’s son Bradley Baquer, and Farah’s brother Zain Baquer were among the witnesses who witnessed Fratta’s death. Fratta never acknowledged or looked at them as they stood at a window into the death chamber.
“Bob was a coward in 1994 when he planned to murder his ex-wife for hire,” Kahan said after the execution. “And over 28 years later, he was still a coward tonight.
“And he still took the cowardly way out. He could have said, ‘I’m sorry’.”
Fratta was the first inmate sentenced to death this year in Texas and. Eight more executions are scheduled in Texas later this year.
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