Advertisement
  1. News

Supreme Court overturns death sentence for killer of Tampa police corporal

The court said Humberto Delgado will now serve a life sentence.
Published Apr. 24, 2015

TAMPA — The Florida Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence of Humberto Delgado, who was convicted of gunning down Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts in 2009.

In an opinion issued Thursday, a unanimous court ruled that Delgado's extreme mental illness, coupled with the circumstances of the crime, made a death sentence disproportionate as compared with other murder cases. The court sent the case back to the Circuit Court, where Delgado will be resentenced to life in prison with no chance of release.

Cindy Roberts, the slain officer's wife, could not be reached for comment. Tampa police Chief Jane Castor released a statement.

"We respect the justice system and those who have to make tough decisions," Castor said. "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."

Delgado, 40, who once worked as a police officer in his native Virgin Islands, was sentenced to death in 2012. At his trial, doctors testified about Delgado's history of delusions and psychotic behavior. All diagnosed him with bipolar disorder with varying degrees of psychosis.

Their examinations revealed that in his early adulthood, Delgado was plagued by a belief that police were out to kill him and that people were following him and sitting in trees outside his home. He also told his family that he had to cut off his children's legs because they were "goat legs" and they were "evil." He was known to wander the streets at night, saying that demons, the Masons and the rapper 50 Cent were trying to kill him.

Delgado had been hospitalized multiple times before he ended up living with relatives in Oldsmar. On Aug. 19, 2009, he walked 15 miles from there, pushing a shopping cart that held four guns, on his way to a veterans hospital in Tampa.

That night, Roberts stopped Delgado near Nebraska Avenue and Arctic Street. Delgado gave Roberts his identification. When Roberts started to search his belongings, Delgado tried to run. Roberts then shocked Delgado with a Taser. Delgado hit Roberts several times before shooting him.

He ran through a park to a nearby home, where officers found him hiding behind a wood pile. Before he was arrested, Delgado called his uncle, told him what happened, and said he wanted to kill himself.

In its opinion, the Supreme Court noted that the death penalty is intended for cases in which the aggravating factors greatly outweigh any mitigating factors presented by the defense.

"We do not downplay the fact that Corporal Roberts lost his life as a result of Delgado's actions," the justices wrote. "However … we are compelled to reduce Delgado's sentence to life imprisonment because death is not a proportionate penalty when compared to other cases."

Steven Bolotin, the attorney who handled his appeal, said the circumstances of the case likely would not have resulted in a death sentence had the victim not been a police officer. He also pointed out that Delgado shot Roberts only after the officer used the Taser, a fact which Bolotin said showed a lack of premeditation.

"There is no automatic death penalty in cases where the victim was a police officer," Bolotin said. "I think this was absolutely the right result."

Delgado remains incarcerated at Union Correctional Institution, near Raiford. He will return to Hillsborough County to be resentenced.

Mentally ill inmates are rarely executed in Florida, because of the length of the appeals process and the moral, ethical and legal issues associated with executing the insane. Recently, courts have trended away from capital punishment for the mentally ill.

Last year, Hillsborough County prosecutors declined to seek the death penalty against Julie Schenecker, a mentally ill Tampa woman who was later convicted of killing her two teenage children. In explaining the decision, the Hillsborough state attorney's office cited the likelihood that the Supreme Court would strike down a death sentence due to Schenecker's mental health.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Jackson house in downtown Tampa in February. The historic building was a rooming home for African Americans including celebrities during the segregation era. On Monday, Tampa Bay LIghtning owner Jeff Vinik announced a $1 million gift towards its preservation. "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The gift from the Tampa Bay Lightning owner and his wife will help preserve the African American landmark in Tampa.
  2. Trump supporters yell and show the middle finger at hecklers during Kimberly Guilfoyle's speech in the University Auditorium at the University of Florida on October 10, 2019. Guilfoyle spoke about her childhood as a first-generation American, her experiences as a lawyer and her support for the Trump family.  CHRIS DAY  |  Chris Day
    Student senator Ben Lima explains why he’s pursuing the charges against Michael Murphy.
  3. George Dwyer stars as Jarvis Standish (left) and Scott Tilson as Marco Santiago (right) in 'American Heartbeat,' an original musical about a Marine Vietnam veteran and an undocumented immigrant who meet while vying for the same job. The show will be presented Nov. 22-24 at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill. Martha Velez
    ProComm Theatre Troupe presents ‘American Heartbeat.’
  4. [Getty Images] FLUXFACTORY  |  Getty Images
    Under the circumstances spelled out here, the advice columnist says Mom has few desirable options.
  5. More than 800 rear-seat passengers who weren’t wearing seat belts were killed last year in U.S. traffic crashes.
  6. File photo of cocaine.  [Times files]
    The bag contained 15 kilos of drenched cocaine bundles.
  7. The Democratic House Speaker said the President is welcome to appear or answer questions in writing, if he chooses.
  8. 3 hours ago• Associated Press
    Police and emergency vehicles work at the scene of a shooting at a backyard party, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in southeast Fresno, Calif. Multiple people were shot and at least four of them were killed Sunday at a party in Fresno when suspects sneaked into the backyard and fired into the crowd, police said. (Larry Valenzuela/The Fresno Bee via AP) LARRY VALENZUELA  |  AP
    Fresno police say the shooting took place about 6 p.m. Sunday on the city’s southeast side.
  9. Forecasters with the National Weather Service estimate that the system has a 50-percent chance of developing into a tropical or sub-tropical depression during the next 48 hours. National Weather Service
    Forecasters with the National Weather Service expect the system to develop into a depression by mid-week.
  10. MSC Cruises brought the MSC Meraviglia to Port Miami to begin its first-ever season of sailing from Florida. The 171,598-gross-ton, 4,500-passenger vessel is tied with a sister ship as the 7th largest ship in the world. MSC CRUISES
    Meraviglia, which means “wonder” in Italian, debuted in 2017, and has among unique offerings a 450-person venue for original Cirque du Soleil shows.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement