Jury reaches verdict in Fratta punishment

HOUSTON After deliberating Friday afternoon and this morning, they decided on the death penalty two weeks after they found /*Fratta*/ guilty of capital murder in the death of his estranged wife, Farah. Official sentencing will be Monday at 9am.

Fratta was originally convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death back in 1995 for hiring two hit men to kill his wife. But that conviction was overturned on appeal, leading to the retrial.

"Lex (Baquer), you got it. It's done," crime victims' advocate Andy Kahan told Farah Fratta's parents over the phone Saturday.

After sitting through a month of courtroom testimony, Farah Fratta's parents finally got the news they hoped for via that telephone call.

"Back where he was. Correct, back where he was," Kahan told the victim's father.

Kahan called Lex and Betty Baquer Saturday morning to tell them their former son-in-law's capital murder re-trial ended the same way as his first one, with a death sentence.

"He just went 'Oh my God. Thank God. Thank God they did that'," said Kahan.

The Baquers were attending the graduation of their 19-year-old granddaughter, Amber. They raised Amber and her two brothers after the children's mother died and their father went to death row the first time 13 years ago.

"I'm sure right now Farah is up in heaven just smiling at Amber, smiling at Lex and Betty, smiling at Bradley and Daniel. It's a strange poetic justice that it would occur on a day that there's so much pride and joy," said Kahan.

While the Baquers and their supporters celebrated, the mood was somber among Fratta's defense attorneys. They hoped the second jury to convict Fratta would at least spare his life.

"I think in the last 15 years, he has not committed any acts of violence that show that he is a continuing threat to society. That's my person opinion. But the jury thought something different, and I respect that," said defense attorney Vivian King.

Farah's parents told us they are happy with the verdict and will be at the sentencing on Monday.

From closing arguments on Friday

The characterization of Robert Fratta's personality during closing was harsh. Prosecutor Denise Bradley started out calling Fratta manipulative and more.

"He's domineering, not only over women, but also over men," she told jurors. "He's controlling. He's narcissistic. Nothing else matters to him. He is the kind of person who can manipulate and get people to do things at his bidding."

Fratta was convicted for hiring two men in 1994 to kill Farah Fratta, Robert Fratta's estranged wife.

But it was when one of Fratta's attorneys spoke before the jury that Fratta and his female attorney, Vivian King, began to hold hands. King kept her head down and cried. Fratta began to cry as well.

The hand holding continued for an extended time in full view of the jury. Fratt'a other attorney, Randy McDonald, cried as well when talking about the tears shed during testimony by Farah Fratta's parents.

"Talk about their heart being ripped out," said McDonald. "And it bothers me because my heart was ripped out as well. And I watched ya'll, each and every one of you, when the Baquers were testifying. Your hearts were being ripped out."

As Fratta cried, he placed his hand on King's back, a move not usually seen in capital murder trials.

Prosecutor Mia Magness focused on the jury's role, saying Fratta meets the three legal standards to qualify for the death penalty.

"What I do know to be true is this is all his fault, every bit of it," she said as she pointed to Fratta. "And we're asking you to answer those questions, yes, yes and no, not just because it's what he deserves. It's what he's earned."

As for the hand holding, the attorneys did have words about this. And there's the possibility there may be a hearing about it.

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