HOUSTON (AP) — A former Houston suburban police officer was due to be executed Tuesday for hiring two men to kill his ex-wife almost 30 years ago.
Robert Fratta, 65, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection in connection with the November 1994 death when his wife Farah was shot dead amid a contentious divorce and custody battle over their three children.
Prosecutors allege that Fratta orchestrated a contract killing plot in which go-between Joseph Pristash hired shooter Howard Guidry. Farah Fratta, 33, shot Guidry twice in the head in the garage of her home in the Houston suburb of Atascochita. Robert Fratta, a public safety officer for the city of Missouri, has long pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors said Fratta repeatedly expressed a desire to see his wife dead and asked several acquaintances if they knew anyone who would kill her, telling one friend “I’ll just kill her and I’ll serve my time and when I get out, u I will have children,” the court record says. Pristash and Guidry were also sent to death row for the murder.
Fratta’s lawyers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay an execution scheduled for Tuesday evening at a state prison in Huntsville, alleging that prosecutors withheld evidence that investigators hypnotized a witness. This is said to have caused her to change her initial memory of seeing two men at the scene of the murder, as well as a runaway driver.
“It would undermine the state’s case, which depended on only two people committing the crime, and depended on tying Fratta to both,” Fratta’s lawyers wrote in their Supreme Court appeal.
The prosecutor’s office argued that hypnosis did not provide new information and new identification.
The Supreme Court and lower courts have previously rejected appeals by Fratta’s attorneys who attempted to renegotiate the claims, arguing that insufficient evidence and faulty jury instructions were used to convict him. His lawyers also argued unsuccessfully that one of the jurors in his case was not impartial and that the ballistic evidence did not link him to the murder weapon.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Parole last week unanimously refused to commute Fratta’s death sentence to a lighter sentence or grant a 60-day reprieve.
Fratta is also one of three Texas death row inmates who have filed a lawsuit to stop the state’s prison system from using expired and unsafe drugs for executions. Last week, the Texas Superior Court of Criminal Appeals barred a civil court judge from issuing any writ in the suit. The hearing was scheduled for Tuesday.
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 be admitted as evidence. In the same ruling, the judge wrote that “forensic evidence showed that Fratta was selfish, misogynistic and mean-spirited, with a heartless desire to kill his wife.”
In 2009, he was retried and sentenced to death.
Andy Kahan, Director of Victim Management and Advocacy for Crime Stoppers of Houston, who assisted Farah Fratta’s family during the case, said he plans to witness the execution, keeping a promise made to Farah Fratta’s father, Lex Backer, who died in 2018 . Backer and his wife raised three children, Robert and Farah Fratt.
“I don’t expect anything from Bob that shows any recognition or any remorse, because everything has always revolved around him,” Kahan said.
Execution will be a way for children to “get on with their lives and at least they won’t have to think about it anymore. I think it will play an important role in their healing,” he said.
Fratta will be the first prisoner to be executed this year in Texas and the second in the United States. Eight other executions are scheduled in Texas later this year.