Retrial begins in murder for hire case

March 30, 2009 5:16:57 PM PDT
Jury selection began in the retrial of a former cop who was once convicted of arranging the murder of his wife.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Farah Fratta was shot and killed November 9, 1994. Prosecutors eventually tried and convicted her own husband, Robert Fratta. Now, nearly 14 and a half years after his wife's murder a new jury will soon hear the case, and determine his fate.

Robert Fratta spoke frequently to this lawyers and showed interest in Monday's jury selection process. His appearance is radically different from the first time I saw him back in 1994. Then he was tan, wit short thick hair with a muscular build. That was when he was arrested and charged with plotting to kill his wife Farah Fratta. She was shot and killed in a driveway outside her Atascosita home.

Fifteen years later, Robert Fratta starts a second trial on the same charge. He is being retried for capital murder. The first conviction in 1996 was reversed in 2007 after the state's evidence was declared inadmissible -- specifically, statements made by Howard Guidry and Joseph Prystach. Both men were convicted of capital murder in the case, allegedly hired by Robert Fratta to kill Farah Fratta. Defense attorneys say both men were coerced by authorities into making the statements.

"The statements, that were hearsay, were made by alleged co-defendants who had every reason in the world to lie about their particular activity in a crime," asserted defense attorney Randy McDonald.

Without the incriminating evidence against Fratta, our legal expert says prosecutors will face an uphill challenge to get a second conviction.

KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy explained, "To get a conviction, they're going to have to bring the two co-conspirators on death row to testify against this defendant, and that's very unlikely to happen. There's zero incentive (for them). They're on death row."

The judge has yet to determine exactly what type of evidence will be allowed in trial. But he does have to follow certain guidelines set out by the US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Jury selection continues. At least half of the 65 prospective jurors were stricken Monday. Testimony is expected to begin the first week of May.

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