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, his prayer book on the pillow next to Fratta’s head and his right hand resting on Fratta’s right hand, asked for prayers for “hearts that have been broken … for people who grieved and those who will grieve in days ahead.” He asked God to “be merciful to Bobby.”
Robert Fratta is the 132nd person sentenced to death in Harris County (Houston), Texas to be executed. For context, that is more than any STATE in the country other than Texas itself. https://t.co/uC0ftyvftn @DPInfoCtr #deathpenalty pic.twitter.com/VQUkOTop2g
— Robert Dunham (@RDunhamDPIC) January 11, 2023
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 Howard Guidry was hired by a middleman, Joseph Prystash. 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 a little 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 are old and dangerous drugs to kill people. Also, that case was thrown out late Tuesday.
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 bad instructions. The Supreme Court and lower courts turned them down.
His lawyers also tried to prove that a juror was not fair and that ballistics evidence didn’t link him to the murder weapon, but they were not successful. 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 ruling, the judge wrote that “trial evidence showed Fratta to be egotistical, misogynistic, and vile, with a callous desire to kill his wife.”
BREAKING: State of Texas has executed Robert Fratta for the 1994 murder of his wife Farah. He made no final statement. Spiritual advisor placed his hand over Fratta’s right hand and prayed, then read scripture as lethal drugs were administered. Time of death 7:49 p.m. @KHOU
— Grace White (@GraceWhiteKHOU) January 11, 2023
He was retried and sentenced to death again in 2009. Andy Kahan, who is 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.
“Bob was a coward in 1994, when he arranged the murder for hire of his estranged wife,” Kahan said after the execution. “And 28-plus years later, he still was a coward tonight. When he was offered an opportunity to at least extend an olive branch to his son that he knew was watching this.”
“And he still chose the coward’s way out. He could have said: ‘I’m sorry.'” Fratta was the first prisoner to be executed in Texas this year and the second in the whole country. In Texas, there are plans for eight more executions to take place later this year.
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