Robert Fratta, previously a Missouri police officer who had his wife killed by a hit man, has been given a new trial due to an inconsistency in the gunman’s confession – namely, whether or not he was allowed his right to an attorney before his confession. The police officer had been sentenced to death, but has now been given a trial by a federal judge.
Ex-officer getting new trial in plot to kill wife
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
A federal judge has ordered a new trial for a former Missouri City public safety officer sentenced to death for masterminding the fatal shooting of his wife.
Although U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon granted the trial without comment, attorneys for Robert Fratta based his appeal on what they said was an inadmissible jailhouse confession by the trigger man that factored into the jury’s decision to convict Fratta.
Fratta was convicted in the 1994 murder-for-hire of his wife, Farah, then 33. During the 1996 trial, the evidence against Fratta included a confession from Howard Guidry, whom prosecutors said was the gunman.
In the appeal, Fratta’s attorneys argued that an investigator with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office had tricked Guidry into confessing. They alleged that Guidry had not been allowed see his attorney during interrogation, even after he demanded that he be allowed to do so.
At one point, the investigator left the interrogation room, then returned saying he had spoken with Guidry’s lawyer, and that the attorney had given Guidry permission to speak to police. Guidry then confessed. Guidry’s attorney later said he had never been contacted by the investigator.
Guidry was convicted and sentenced to death. In 2006, he was granted a new trial, but later convicted a second time.
Prosecutors contend that Fratta had his wife killed after she filed for divorce following his bizarre sexual desires. He also tried to collect on his wife’s $235,000 life insurance policy days after her death.