TAMPA — Humberto Delgado Jr. should die for the first-degree murder of Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts, a jury decided Thursday night by a vote of 8-4.
It will now be up to Judge Emmett Lamar Battles to rule. The law dictates he must give the jury's recommendation great weight. A date for that hearing is not yet scheduled.
Delgado, 36, showed no reaction as he heard the decision.
His mother sobbed.
Cindy Roberts slipped her finger through her husband's wedding band and smiled. She had hoped for this outcome.
"That night, he made the decision on when Mike's life would end," she said. "And now, he will have to wait for someone else to make that decision for him, so he will have a small idea of what that is like."
Tampa police Chief Jane Castor said the department had left justice up to the jury.
"It does allow us to close a very sad chapter," she said. "It's certainly not a happy time.
"Nobody is winning here."
Earlier in the day, Delgado's defense attorney Theda James had left jurors with an impassioned plea to spare his life:
"We can't hold a mentally ill person to the same standards as an average man, a reasonable man, a normal man. And why not? Because as a humane society, we recognize that justice must be tempered with mercy, or we have no justice at all."
Jurors heard from doctors who testified Delgado was impaired by his bipolar disorder, psychotic delusions and paranoia.
They heard from his loved ones, who said Delgado had expressed great remorse.
And they heard from his two oldest children, a 14-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, who don't know about the sentence he faces.
They spoke in unison in a video message to Delgado: "We love you and miss you, Daddy."
Prosecutor Jay Pruner told jurors they would not see him raise his voice, or point, or stomp, out of respect for the solemnity of the proceedings. He said Delgado killed a law enforcement officer in the line of duty, a reason listed under the law for consideration of death.
Jurors heard from Chief Castor and the corporal's sister-in-law.
And his wife, Cindy.
The night her husband was shot on the streets of Sulphur Springs, she was on a computer, planning their first family trip to Disney World for their son Adam's fourth birthday.
Cpl. Roberts, 38, had, hours earlier, accepted a promotion to detective. His next step would have been sergeant, and then, in nine years, retirement. He and his wife were already planning how they'd grow old together.
The night of Aug. 19, 2009, the Tampa police chief and mayor took her into a room with trauma surgeons and told her that her husband was dead.
They walked her down a hallway, lined with cops and crying first-responders, and into a room, where she stayed with him for some time. She'd gone to see him once before, after minor surgery; long before she saw him, she could hear him, calling her name.
Not this night.
"It still pains me that I could not be there when he really needed me that night," she said.
"I miss Mike every day."
For months, she cried every night after putting Adam to sleep. For months, she watched her husband's dog, a 20-pound Boston terrier, sleep against the front door. Mrs. Roberts has been treated for anxiety, depression and a chronic health condition she says requires monitoring.
For Thanksgiving, her family still sets a place for her husband, with a plate and silverware. They have seen her lay a hand on his empty chair.
"My memories are very clear of the day we met, the night he proposed, our wedding vows, scuba diving, hiking and the look on his face when we were having a baby. And I remember, most of all, watching my boys in the pool.
"Adam still includes his daddy when he draws pictures," she said, "but he is also quiet when his friends discuss Father's Day. I watch Adam talking to Mike's headstone, telling him what's going on and how much he misses him."
Her sister-in-law Charlayne Penrose remembers watching Cindy try to tell Adam what had happened. "I watched as she struggled to find a way to tell Adam that Daddy would not be coming home any more," Penrose said, "and then cried as she watched the corners of his mouth turn down and say, 'No, really, when is Daddy coming home?'?"
After Adam was born, Mike and Cindy Roberts each wrote a letter to give him after his 18th birthday. Mrs. Roberts read her husband's privately after he died, and on Thursday, to the jury
Well Adam, myself and your mother agreed we would write you a letter to read in years to come. It's hard to start, really. We both have waited for you for a long time. ...
I cannot wait for us to grow together through the years. I have waited my whole life for this opportunity to raise a son, and finally, you're here.
I have big plans for you, little man.
Staff writers Robbyn Mitchell and Justin George contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3354.