Ex-cop awaits jury's decision

May 14, 2009 4:53:16 PM PDT
The jury is deliberating in the case of a former police officer accused of hiring a hit man to murder his wife. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The prosecution admitted much of the evidence against Robert Fratta is circumstantial. Assistant Harris County District Attorney Mia Magness told the jury their deliberations should be like a puzzle. You don't need all the pieces to see the whole picture. Magness said Fratta's demeanor in 1994 after the murder of his wife Farah Fratta is compelling.

"The man comes up on the scene, he doesn't ask, 'Is she OK? Is she still alive?' He doesn't get upset. He doesn't cry. He doesn't get choked up. He's not worried for the kids," Magness explained. "His position is, 'Can we hurry this up?' And then later on, 'I'm hungry.'"

Prosecutors allege Fratta hired two hit men in 1994 to kill his wife. Both those men, Howard Guidry and Joseph Prystash, are already convicted of capital murder. Both are on death row and both refused to testify against Fratta in this trial. Without their testimony, says the defense, there is no link between Fratta and the crime and no evidence Fratta paid the hit men.

Defense attorney Vivian King said, "Where is the incentive? If you want to get somebody to go kill somebody, shouldn't you have to give them a down payment? Shouldn't you have to give them some drugs, or shouldn't you have to give them something?"

The prosecution says it was Fratta's own gun that Guidry used to shoot Farah Fratta. That's a gun Mary Gipp testified she saw her boyfriend Joseph Prystash carry the day of the murder. At the time, she wrote down the weapon's serial number. The note is not enough to convict Fratta, said the defense.

Defense attorney Randy McDonald said, "Did it ever occur to anybody to go up to the property room and get the gun and show it to her and say is this the gun?"

"He didn't actually pull the trigger, but it was his bullet that tore through her brain," said Assistant Harris County District Attorney Denise Bradley. "It was Bob Fratta who put it all in action and it was Bob Fratta who killed his wife."

If the jury cannot convict Robert Fratta of capital murder, they have been instructed by the court to consider a lesser charge of murder.

The jury ended deliberations around 6pm. They have been sequestered at a hotel and will resume deliberations Friday morning.

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