Tonight, January 10, 2023, the State of Texas carried out its first execution of the year, putting Robert Fratta to death. Fratta, a former Missouri City police officer, maintained his innocence of hiring two men to kill his wife, Farah, in 1994. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider his petitions for review, which presented facts that the State obtained his conviction and death sentence through unreliable and unconstitutional tactics, including hypnosis of an eyewitness and immunity for prosecution star witness in challenge to capital murder conviction. Fratta has always maintained his innocence.
The execution proceeded after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals lifted a temporary injunction granted earlier in the day by the Honorable Catherine A. Mauzy, Judge of the 419th District Court of Travis County, who ruled that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) cannot carry out executions with expired drugs. The Texas Supreme Court then denied Fratta’s motion regarding the lawsuit and injunction.
In her ruling, Judge Mauzy determined that TDCJ is violating state laws by using, for the purposes of executions, compounded pentobarbital that expired as far back as 2019. Following a nearly three-hour hearing that took place on January 10, 2023, Judge Mauzy granted the petition of four death row prisoners with execution dates, including Fratta. She issued a temporary injunction prohibiting TDCJ from injecting the prisoners with expired drugs in violation of the Texas Pharmacy Act, the Texas Controlled Substances Act, the Texas Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and the Texas Penal Code.
Read more about today’s developments from the Texas Tribune.
Original post, Tuesday, January 10, 2023, 9:00 AM:
The State of Texas has already scheduled nine executions in 2023, which is more than the total number of dates set last year. Six of the individuals facing execution have spent more than 20 years on death row.
The first person set to die this year is Robert Fratta, a former Missouri City police officer convicted of hiring two men to kill his wife, Farah, in 1994. A recent filing by Fratta presented facts that the State obtained his conviction and death sentence through unreliable and unconstitutional tactics, including hypnosis of an eyewitness and immunity for prosecution star witness in challenge to capital murder conviction. Fratta has always maintained his innocence.
Fratta raised these and several other violations of his rights in an application for writ of habeas corpus in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. On January 4, 2023, the court denied Fratta’s application on procedural grounds, and on January 9, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to grant a stay of execution. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected Fratta’s Clemency Application.
Fratta also has joined a lawsuit alleging that Texas is violating its own law and creating a serious risk of pain and suffering during executions by using compounded pentobarbital that expired as far back as 2019. On December 14, 2022, Wesley Ruiz and John Lezell Balentine—whose executions are scheduled on February 1 and February 8, 2023, respectively—filed a petition for a temporary injunction challenging the State’s use of long-expired execution drugs.
On January 4, 2023, the Texas CCA barred the Texas civil courts from considering the lawsuit or issuing any order to stay the executions; two judges dissented from the opinion. Read the attorney statement regarding these developments.
On Tuesday, January 10, 2023, at 10 a.m. CT, Honorable Catherine A. Mauzy, Judge of the 345th District Court of Travis County, will hold a hearing on the lawsuit by the three death row prisoners, who are asking the Court to grant a temporary injunction, which would prevent the State from using the expired drugs.
Read more about the lawsuit and Fratta’s case from the Texas Tribune.