Florida’s Supreme Court saved Humberto Delgado from the state executioner.
The high court overturned the death penalty for the convicted Tampa cop killer. Delgado was convicted in the 2009 murder of Tampa Police officer Mike Roberts. A jury voted 8 to 4 in favor of the death penalty and judge E. Lamar Battles sentenced Delgado to death.
In its decision to overturn the death penalty, the Supreme Court stated Delgado, who suffered severe mental illness, committed the murder while he was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance.
The court did not overturn his murder conviction. Rather, in vacating the death penalty, it imposed a life sentence.
“I think the Supreme Court was able to say in this particular case, it just wasn’t the right case for us to say that the death penalty, the ultimate punishment was appropriate,” Hillsborough County Public Defender Julianne Holt said. According to Holt, Delgado had a long, well-documented history of mental illness.
“If you look at what all the experts said, both on the state’s side and on the defense side, every single expert recognized that he has a mental illness that just did not allow him to make the right decision at all times in his life,” Holt said.
The court stated Delgado suffered extreme paranoia. He believe the police, the Masons and rapper 50 Cent were out to kill him. Delgado believed he was Abel, a character in the Bible. He also set up mirrors in his house to catch demons at night.
Delgado was pushing a shopping cart that contained several firearms in August 2009 when Corporal Roberts stopped him for a routine field investigation. When Roberts began to look through the cart, Delgado ran. Roberts tasered Delgado. The two struggled and Delgado shot Roberts.
In court at the November 2011 sentencing, Cyndy Roberts, the dead officer’s widow, unloaded on Delgado. “You coward, you murdered my husband in cold blood. You pistol whipped him unconscious. He was no threat to you, but you intentionally and willfully shot him anyway through the heart and lungs. I hope that when your time comes you too choke on your own blood,” she said.
Away from the emotionally charged courtroom, in an impartial setting, the Supreme Court determined this case did not meet the standard for the death penalty. “In proportion, this particular case, these particular facts did not warrant the imposition of the death penalty,” Holt said.
In response to the court’s decision, Tampa Police chief Jane Castor said she respects the justice system and those who have to make tough decisions. “Regardless of the conclusion, it doesn’t bring Mike back and it doesn’t relieve the pain that his wife, son and his TPD family feel. His life sentence will still ensure he is held accountable for his actions,” Castor said.
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