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Texas Executes Robert Fratta for 1994 Murder-for-hire Killing of Estranged Wife
Before his execution, Robert Fratta said nothing. One of his children with his deceased wife observed it. Texas executes Robert Fratta for 1994 murder-for-hire of an estranged wife. Texas executes Robert Fratta for 1994 murder-for-hire of an estranged wife.
After 24 minutes, physicians declared him dead at 7:49 p.m. He choked and snorted. Fratta’s son, wearing his sweatshirt’s hood, and Farah Fratta’s brother said nothing during or after the execution. During the state’s first execution of 2023, a last-ditch legal battle over lethal injection medicines prolonged his death by over an hour.
A state district judge’s judgment against using outdated drugs to execute death row convicts was overturned by higher courts. In violation of multiple state pharmaceutical regulations, including the Texas Penal Code, Judge Catherine Mauzy in the 419th District Court ordered a temporary injunction barring the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from injecting prisoners with expired medications.
After a three-hour hearing Tuesday, the state attorney general appealed the judgment. The state Supreme Court upheld the execution after the Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Judge Mauzy’s verdict. Andy Kahan, head of Crime Stoppers Houston’s victim services, called Fratta a coward for not acknowledging his son or brother-in-law during his execution. He attended the execution with Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.
Kahan suggested apologising to his son. Mauzy’s ruling came hours before Fratta’s execution, a former police officer convicted of murder-for-hire in the 1994 death of his estranged wife, Farah Fratta. In December, Wesley Ruiz and John Lezell Balentine, whose executions are slated for Feb. 1 and 8, filed the case against the use of outdated medicines.
Fratta and Arthur Brown, who will be executed on March 9, joined the complaint. Fratta did not sleep the night before his execution. TDCJ officers said he packed legal documents and personal items. He usually paced his cage till daybreak.
Fratta was sent to the Huntsville Unit after meeting with the warden, visitors, and TDC J’s chief of staff, Jason Clark. Records show his activities finish at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday. Clark said Fratta was nervous but interested in his case.
During the hearing, TDCJ attorney Leah O’Leary noted the agency has been utilizing compounded pentobarbital, which causes fast unconsciousness, respiratory depression, and hypotension, for executions since 2013.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Alex Kursman, claimed the medicines may be pentobarbital, but they may be “hundreds or thousands of days past their expiration date” and not have the desired pharmacological effect. “When pharmaceuticals are this old, the pharmacological qualities of the pills themselves change,” Kursman stated during the hearing.
O’Leary acknowledged that the state has used pentobarbital for lethal injection over 90 times since 2013 and that the medications are expired. “The petitioners’ description has never happened,” O’Leary added. The petitioners’ evidence reveals it was retested in January 2022. It works.”
Dr. Michaela Almgren, a University of South Carolina clinical associate professor, testified that expired pentobarbital could cause problems. Almgren called pentobarbital color variations a “serious issue” because they potentially indicate reduced potency.
According to the US Pharmacopeia, pentobarbital lasts 45 days when frozen, therefore the TDCJ received new 100-milliliter vials in April 2019. According to Almgren, the TDCJ concluded the medicine was potent and prolonged its expiration date without completing a stability study to estimate its shelf life.
“That’s just inappropriate,” Almgren said. O’Leary claimed that the petitioners feel they’re “above the law” and that state laws don’t apply to executions. She argued the Eighth Amendment governs executions, not pharmaceuticals.
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Last October, Judge Chris Morton in the 230th District Court signed a death warrant ordering the execution between 6 p.m. Tuesday and midnight. He must be executed by midnight or sign a new death warrant. Fratta execution: Texas’ use of expired legal injectable medicines and convicts’ allegations
The Austin judgment triggered a legal chain reaction. After the decision, Fratta’s attorneys asked Harris County’s 230th District Court to withdraw his execution date due to the injunction. Fratta’s attorney James Rytting told Judge Chris Morton that executing Fratta with expired medicines would violate the civil injunction. He stated delaying the execution would not damage anyone.
“If the state of Texas executes, it will be doing so in violation of the law and we feel this is sufficient reason and reasonable grounds to remove the execution date in this case,” Rytting said. Prosecutors argued that Morton could only remove an execution date under Texas law and that the civil appeal that led to the injunction had violated another court’s orders and legal precedent.
“Basically, everyone needs to stay in their lanes,” said Joshua Reiss, the district attorney’s Post-Conviction Writs Division chief. “The criminal courts have sole jurisdiction over execution dates.” Morton refused the motion to withdraw the date, stating he lacked the power to do so.
Down the street from the Huntsville Unit, a dozen demonstrators denounced execution punishment. Fratta’s sole witness was a spiritual counselor. About 70 of the 191 death row convicts from Harris County were Fratta. Eight defendants face execution. Fratta’s accomplices await punishment for the murder. When the time comes, Ogg will execute them.
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