Nude photos take center stage in court

May 28, 2009 3:57:41 PM PDT
There was a bit of a delay in the punishment phase of Robert Fratta's capital murder trial. Jurors were brought in later than expected all because of some photos found in Fratta's jail cell. Eyewitness News was the first and only TV station to report on Tuesday when the judge ruled that the jury would see some risqué photographs. She also ruled the jury wouldn't find out how Fratta got those pictures.

The prosecution is saying those contraband photographs were smuggled in by Fratta's own defense team. Thursday, one of those lawyers, Vivian King, told the judge she was too traumatized to move forward in the case if she faced the possibility of being prosecuted for that crime.

After two hours of wrangling without the jury present, the judge convened court and brought in the jury. The defense stayed and the jury saw those photographs.

Jurors saw the nude and semi-nude contraband pictures. They are all photographs jailer Sgt. Sharonda Wade testified she confiscated from Robert Fratta's jail cell in the Harris County jail last week. All of the photographs, according to jail standards, are considered illegal for inmates to have. Prosecutor Mia Magness told the jury the photographs are considered as good as money among inmates and can be traded for other contraband.

Also confiscated from Fratta's cell were at least 50 pills, both painkillers and antidepressants. Sgt. Wade testified inmates can stockpile their own prescription medications to also trade for other contraband.

But it was video shot by our Channel 13 news camera back in 1994 that caught jurors' attention. Several members of the jury sat up and spectators in the courtroom groaned as Fratta was seen winking into the camera and pointing at his eye.

Back then, Sgt. John Denholm was with the Harris County Sheriff's Department in 1994. He has since retired. He testified that Fratta had just emerged from 15 hours of questioning by himself and other detectives the day after Fratta's wife, Farah Fratta, was found shot to death in the garage of her Atascosita home.

At the time, Fratta accused Sgt. Denholm of hitting him in the eye. Sgt. Denholm testified he tossed Fratta's keys to Fratta, accidently striking him in the face.

Robert Fratta was convicted of capital murder two weeks ago. This is the punishment phase of his trial. He faces the possibility of life in prison or death by lethal injection. Closing arguments in this phase are expected Friday morning.

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