Thursday, October 6, 2011

Harris County, TX: Texas Court of Appeals denies relief for death row inmate in wife’s murder for hire

A former police officer and Atascocita resident twice sentenced to death in the murder for hire of his wife has lost his appeal with the Texas Court of Appeals in a decision filed Wednesday, Oct. 5.
Robert Alan Fratta, now 54, first received the death penalty for plotting the 1994 fatal shooting of his wife, Farah, in 1996. Fratta was granted a new trial in 2009 after 13 years on death row when a Harris County jury again sentenced him to die, starting the appeals process all over again. Yesterday, the Texas Court of Appeals, however, found Fratta’s proposed 32 points of error during his latest jury trial without merit.
“This is the first step post-conviction that will hopefully finally lead to justice for the Baquer family,” said Andy Kahan, city of Houston crime advocate, referring to the victim’s family. “Seeking justice has been a long, arduous journey for them. It’s still a long way from setting an execution date, but this sets the wheels in motion.”
Fratta was convicted of hiring Joseph Prystash and Howard Guidry to murder his estranged wife in November 1994. The couple was undergoing lengthy and hostile divorce proceedings at the time of Farah’s death. On the night of the murder, Fratta created an alibi for himself by taking his children to a bible study class in Humble while Guidry gunned Farah down in the driveway of her Atascocita home. Prystash acted as the getaway driver in the plot.
The Texas Appeals Court noted that in his appeal, Fratta “did not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence of guilt” presented at trial. In his appeal, Fratta argued the trial court allowed hearsay testimony as well as evidence of his sexual deviance he claimed prejudiced jurors against him. One juror, Fratta and his attorney alleged, was prejudiced in favor of the death penalty and should not have been selected. Fratta further claims that, when one of his trial attorneys became the center of a probe during the trial, the resulting conflict of interest prevented him from receiving adequate representation.
Fratta’s points of error were rejected on all 32 counts.
Guidry and Prystash were also sentenced to die in the case and remain on death row.

No comments: