In their home near Lake Houston, Betty and Lex Baquer keep photos of their daughter, Farah.
She was murdered 13 years ago when Farah’s own husband hired a hit man to kill her.
Today, that hit man, as well as a middleman, and the husband, Robert Fratta, sit on death row.
But the Baquers now have new reason to question when the executions will ever take place.
“So we just have to ride the waves, and hopefully it’ll happen in our lifetimes,” Lex Baquer said.
A couple weeks ago in a rare move, Gov. Rick Perry commuted the death sentence of one convict. In a robbery that turned deadly, Kenneth Foster was the getaway car driver, not the triggerman.
In many states, that might disqualify him from the death penalty.
But not in Texas. The law here allows accomplices or conspirators in murders to be executed as well.
But when the governor blocked Foster’s execution, the Baquers wondered what that might mean to the chances that Fratta and his middleman might be spared.
“The Death Penalty that all three of them got was justified,” Mr. Baquer said. “[Even] only if one pulled the trigger.”
What the governor did raised the possibility that other death sentences will be commuted to life: people who were accomplices, not triggermen, but who nonetheless were sentenced to death.
It’s what happened near the Medical Center on Fannin Sttreet after a murder some 27 years ago.
Willie Williams and Joseph Nichols were a couple of holdup-men who in 1980 hit a deli there on Fannin. Williams would admit to firing the shot that killed the clerk, and he was put to death.
But lawyers for Nichols argued that he’d already run out the door and was therefore not guilty of capital murder since he was only an accomplice.
A case that sounds eerily similar to the Foster case, the one in which the governor spared the inmate’s life.
“We brought exactly the same arguments that I believe were brought in the Foster case,” attorney Cliff Gunter said. He was Nichols’ lawyer.
“He had a bad record; I’m not saying he was an angel,” Gunter said. “He was guilty of murder — he just wasn’t guilty of capital murder.”
Capital murder meaning a sentence of death.
And in fact, Texas did execute Joseph Nichols, on March 7 of this year—just months before fellow death row inmate Foster would have his sentence commuted.
By one estimate, there are some 60 more inmates still on death row whose cases are similar to these.
And it may now be up to the Legislature to clarify how Texas should try these sorts of cases and decide who deserves execution.
In the murder-for-hire of Farah Fratta, her family said there should be no doubt.
“All three are responsible for her death,” Baquer said.
But now the law that sent them to death row is again being challenged in the state that executes more people than any other.
source: By Dave Fehling / 11 News http://www.khou.com/news/local/stories/khou070910_ac_accomplice.be9bd47e.html