TAMPA — Three psychiatrists and two psychologists said Friday that Humberto Delgado suffered an "extreme mental disturbance" that should spare him from execution for killing Tampa Police Cpl. Mike Roberts in 2009.
The five stood against one psychiatrist for the prosecution who said Delgado was enraged but knew what he was doing when he fatally shot the 38-year-old father of two.
The battery of mental health experts testified as Delgado's attorneys tried to persuade Hillsborough Circuit Judge Emmett Battles to reject a jury's vote for the death penalty after his conviction last fall. They included experts for the prosecution and defense who had testified at trial. The defense's case relied almost entirely on Delgado's history of diagnosed mental illness.
None of the six experts who testified Friday said Delgado is legally insane.
As she has done for two years, Roberts' widow, Cindy, sat through the morning-long hearing, surrounded by family, friends and police officers. Delgado sat in chains, just feet away from her. Most of the time he kept his head down. He declined to testify.
Several of the experts were emphatic that Delgado was psychotic on the night of Aug. 19, 2009, when Roberts stopped him as he pushed a shopping cart loaded with weapons along Nebraska Avenue.
"He was in a desperate state," psychiatrist Barbara Stein testified. "It was not a situation where he got p----- off."
Roberts was unaware that Delgado had long suffered from a mental illness that had cost him his job as a Virgin Islands police officer and caused his early discharge from the U.S. Army. When Roberts found him, Delgado had left his uncle's home, packed up weapons from a storage room and walked 15 miles from Oldsmar seeking treatment from the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa.
Roberts also didn't know that Delgado believed fellow Virgin Islands police officers who belonged to the Masons had sabotaged his career. He told doctors he believed Masons and corrupt police, as well as a variety of gangsters and rap singers, were still out to get him.
But one expert didn't believe he was acting abnormally that night.
Although psychiatrist Wade Myers acknowledged Delgado's hospitalizations for bipolar disorder and psychotic delusions, he said Delgado showed resilience in recent years.
Delgado, he said, went without medication from 2005 to 2009 and had not relapsed.
But psychologist Harry Krop said Delgado stands out among nearly 2,000 death penalty cases he has reviewed.
"I'm fairly conservative," he said. "But in Mr. Delgado's case, there are so many issues. There's a well-documented mental illness, and in addition to his manic state, he was in a paranoid delusional state."
Krop said Delgado was homeless, hungry, exhausted from his 15-mile walk and frustrated by the VA. "Then he had a confrontation with Roberts that he viewed as a personal attack, either racist or involving a corrupt officer or a Mason."
The breaking point, Krop said, was when Roberts shot Delgado in the back of the head with his stun gun as he tried to run.
"All this impacted a very serious mentally ill man."
The prosecution presented only the one psychiatric witness. Its foremost argument for the death penalty is that Delgado killed a police officer as he performed his duty.
After the testimony, Judge Battles said he would accept further arguments in writing from the attorneys until the end of the month.
He will rule on Delgado's sentence on Feb. 10.
John Barry can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3383.