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Cop killer Delgado gets death sentence

TAMPA — Humberto Delgado never asked for mercy, and he didn't get it Friday.

His victim's widow called him a cop killer and told him to choke on his own blood.

There was no prelude from the judge, except just six words:

"All of this on your hands."

Delgado, 36, said nothing when he was condemned to death.

His family was not present.

They had been warned.

Dozens of officers left the courtroom in silence and lined up in the lobby, flanking a pathway for Cindy Roberts, just as they had at the hospital the night of Aug. 19, 2009, after the chief and the mayor took her into a room with trauma surgeons and told her that her husband, 38-year-old Cpl. Michael Roberts, had been shot dead on the streets of Sulphur Springs.

For more than two years, she had sat at court hearings, rows behind the gunman, without saying a word. On Friday, she got a chance. She rose from her seat, passed the chained inmate and stood at a lectern. She spoke to the judge, then turned to Delgado, and jabbed her index finger in his direction.

"I want to speak to you. You...

"I will not speak your name. You are not worthy of such respect. You have been given several opportunities to speak during this trial, and like a coward, you have remained silent and you are not remorseful. I have seen the face of evil and disdain. What bothers me the most is that was the last face my husband saw on this earth.

"You coward. You murdered my husband in cold blood. You pistol-whipped him until he was unconscious. He was no threat to you, but you intentionally and willfully shot him anyway . . . through the lungs and the heart.

"I hope that when your time comes, you, too, will choke on your own blood.

"I lost my husband, my friend and my soulmate. My son lost his daddy, his role model.

"We did nothing wrong. You should get a more severe penalty, much more.

"I hope you receive the death penalty. So does Mike. He had no tolerance for cop killers.

"You no longer have a name. You are just an inmate number. But to many of us, you will just be known as Cop Killer.

"This case is not about an illness. This is pure evil and hatred. You should not be here. When you finally leave this world ... you and the devil can dance in the pale moonlight, in the darkness, in hell, where all evil starts."

Moments later, Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles made his spare pronouncement: "Mr. Delgado, for the murder of Cpl. Michael Roberts, this court sentences you to be put to death in the manner prescribed by law."

Among those who embraced Cindy Roberts after the sentencing were Tampa police Chief Jane Castor and Kelly Curtis, the wife of Tampa police Officer David Curtis, who was slain in 2010.

In November, a jury voted 8-4 to recommend the death penalty for Delgado. Many legal experts interviewed by the Times but not all — believed Delgado would get life in prison, that he did not meet the death penalty standard of "worst of the worst."

Delgado was homeless and paranoid, pushing a shopping cart, when Roberts approached him that night. At some point, Delgado ran, the corporal shot a Taser and a scuffle ensued. Roberts was knocked unconscious before Delgado shot him, took his radio and ran.

His primary defense, during a three-week trial in November, was his mental illness. He was diagnosed as bipolar, with psychotic features.

Before the sentencing, the defense offered more than three dozen additional reasons not to kill Delgado, from his lack of prior crimes and former service as a police officer and soldier to his three children, strong work ethic and even his sense of humor. Battles said he gave most of those "little weight."

In his order, Battles expressed no qualms over the split jury vote and said the defense's contention that Delgado is mentally ill does not mean he didn't understand what he was doing.

"The court is reasonably convinced that the defendant was under the influence of an extreme mental or emotional disturbance at the time he killed Cpl. Roberts," Battles wrote. "The court is reasonably convinced that the defendant's ability to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law was impaired, albeit not substantially."

Under the law, Delgado is entitled to an automatic appeal. Hillsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt said she could not comment for that reason.

If the death sentence sends a message, Castor said, she is not sure those who kill police officers will get it.

After the hearing, Cindy Roberts said she continues to worry about every officer on the street.

"I say to them, 'Stay safe. You never know what's out there. Take care of each other.' "

When asked how long it took for her to compose her words to Delgado, she responded, "21/2 years."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3354. John Barry can be reached at jbarry@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3383.

Cop killer Delgado gets death sentence 02/10/12 [Last modified: Friday, February 10, 2012 11:35pm]
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