Former police officer and disgusting excuse for a human being Robert Fratta was convicted of capital murder in the death of his wife, Farrah. The conviction was overturned and the decision was upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The triggerman in the case, Howard Guidry, was also given a new trial. He has been retried, reconvicted, and given the Death Penalty again. Fratta's new trial will begin tomorrow.
This was a very high-profile Houston murder case. He was an abusive husband and sexual pervert (paid prostitutes to defecate on him, etc.) -- very sick person. Farrah was divorcing him and seeking custody of their three children because of his increasingly bizarre sexual demands and abuse. He actually hired someone to rape and torture her in the hope that she would be intimidated into dropping the proceedings. When she was finally about to prevail in the case, she was shot to death in her driveway. Fratta took out nearly a quarter of a million dollars in life insurance on her in the days before she was killed.
God bless her family who is having to live through two murder trials -- for both Guidry and Fratta.
Timeline in case:From the moment Farah Fratta fell mortally wounded to the driveway outside her Atascocita home, detectives had little doubt about the person most likely responsible for her death. Her estranged husband, Robert, all but arrived at the sheriff’s office for questioning with “prime suspect” stamped on his shirt.
He frequently had spoken to others about wanting his wife dead, police say. He behaved suspiciously on the night of her death — Nov. 9, 1994 — and in the days immediately after. He seemed so blase and uncooperative that detectives concluded he was behind her death long before they had enough evidence to prove it.
In time, that evidence arrived, mostly in the form of confessions from two supposed co-conspirators, Howard Guidry and Joseph Prystash, and a corroborating statement from Prystash’s girlfriend. To no one’s surprise, Fratta was convicted and sentenced to death, as were the two co-defendants.
But the case against him fell apart on appeal, and suddenly a slam-dunk conviction began to look like a challenge. On Monday, jury selection will begin in Fratta’s new trial. This time prosecutors will have to make do without the confessions or key portions of girlfriend Mary Gipp’s testimony.
Retrials seldom pan out much better for capital murder defendants than the first ones, but Fratta’s case could prove different. The judge who reversed his conviction, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon, was emphatic about the poor quality of the state’s case against him absent the confessions:
“The trial evidence showed Fratta to be egotistical, misogynistic and vile, with a callous desire to kill his wife,” Harmon wrote in her 2007 opinion. “The evidence strongly suggested that Fratta was somehow involved in his wife’s death ... Only the inadmissible statements by Guidry and Prystash and Ms. Gipp’s hearsay-laden testimony neatly tied that circumstantial evidence into a coherent prosecutorial theory of capital murder as alleged in the indictment.”
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with her, which means prosecutors this time around must produce more evidence if they want to get a conviction that will stand up on appeal. Or perhaps if they want a conviction at all.
“A reasonable jury could very well acquit Mr. Fratta of capital murder,” said James Rytting, who represented Fratta on appeal. “The state’s case is particularly weak when it comes to proving Mr. Fratta paid anybody to commit murder.”
Much more at the Houston Chronicle website: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6347860.htmlMajor events in the Fratta case
Nov. 9, 1994: Farah Fratta is found shot to death in her driveway in Atascocita. Her estranged husband, Robert, a public safety officer in Missouri City, is publicly named as a suspect shortly after the murder.
April 21, 1995: Robert Fratta is charged with capital murder. He is accused of hiring two men, Howard Guidry and Joseph Prystash.
April 17, 1996: A jury finds Fratta guilty of capital murder. He is sentenced to die.
July 10, 1996: Joseph Prystash is charged with hiring Howard Guidry to kill Farah, and with driving Guidry to the home.
March 26, 1997: Trigger-man Guidry is sentenced to death for shooting Farah.
Sept. 26, 2003: A federal court overturns the conviction of Guidry. An appeals court upholds the reversal in January 2005.
Feb. 22, 2007: Guidry is again convicted of killing Farah and sent back to death row.
Oct. 1, 2007: Robert Fratta’s conviction is overturned. A judge says the confessions of Guidry and Prystash should not have been allowed into evidence.
July 22, 2008: The 5th Circuit affirms the ruling, similarly assailing the evidence against Fratta.
Shorter article here w/video: