death penalty news—-TEXAS

May 16


Fratta convicted of hiring hit men to kill his wife

Robert Fratta was found guilty in the 1994 murder for hire of his wife
Friday, the 2nd time a Harris County jury has convicted the Missouri City
public safety officer in her death.

Fratta hung his head and shook it when he heard the capital murder
verdict, delivered on the jurys second day of deliberations, in state
District Judge Belinda Hills court.

Family and friends praised the decision and said they looked forward to
jurors deciding to send Fratta back to death row for the shooting death of
Farah Fratta.

"As long as he is living, he is definitely a threat, not only to us, but
to my family," said Lex Baquer, Farah Fratta's father. Baquer and his wife
raised the Frattas' 3 children after the shooting.

"As long as the guy is alive, the element of danger is always there,"
Baquer said. "He is a very dangerous person to society and, especially, he
is a menace to women."

Fratta's 1996 conviction was overturned by an appeals court ruling that
the confessions of his co-conspirators, Howard Guidry and Joseph Prystash,
should not have been admitted into evidence because Frattas lawyers could
not cross-examine the 2 men.

The 2nd trial, which began last week, focused on what prosecutors
described as Fratta's erratic moves before his wife was shot twice in the
head by Guidry, and his indifferent behavior afterward.

Guidry and Prystash, who was the middleman for the contract killing, are
on death row.

'Is she dead yet?'

Prosecutors seized on the fact that Fratta used public phones to
continually check on the killers' progress while having dinner at a
cafeteria with his children and during his 7-year-old son's catechism
class at St. Mary's Catholic Churchin Humble.

"While he was sitting in the pews at St. Anne's, he knew those 2 men were
going to Farah Fratta's house to kill her," Assistant District Attorney
Denise Bradley told jurors during closing arguments. "Is she dead yet? Is
she dead yet? Is she dead yet?" she said, mocking Fratta.

Defense arguments

Defense lawyers argued prosecutors did not present enough evidence to
convict, that the widely disparate testimony of the witnesses did not show
a clear picture of the 52-year-old Fratta's guilt.

"There isn't any agreement among anyone," said defense attorney Vivian
King. "Nobody really knows anything."

Guidry, the trigger man, was convicted a 2nd time in 2007, after his 1st
trial was overturned. He expected to make $1,000 for the shooting and keep
the murder weapon.

The only 1 of the 3 not to be retried, Prystash was to receive a Jeep for
hiring Guidry and driving him to Farah Fratta's house.

Prosecutors seeking the death penalty for Fratta will begin calling
witnesses for the punishment phase after Memorial Day because of
scheduling conflicts next week.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers declined to comment while the trial is

(source: Houston Chronicle)

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