Mentally Ill Florida Man Taken Off Death Row

     (CN) – A mentally ill man on death row for killing the policeman who tried to search his shopping cart should not be executed, the Florida Supreme Court ruled.
     The Aug. 19, 2009, altercation occurred as Humberto Delgado Jr. pushed a shopping cart full of some belongings to a veterans’ hospital in Tampa where he hoped to find shelter.
     Delgado, who used a cane because of chronic knee pain, had walked 15 miles over eight hours in the rain when Cpl. Michael Roberts of the Tampa Police Department saw him at 9:58 p.m. in an area known for shopping-cart theft.
     Though Delgado showed his driver’s license and a veteran identification card, the officer began searching his shopping cart and the backpack within.
     Worried that Roberts would find the four firearms inside that backpack, Delgado tried to run away. Roberts used his Taser, a fistfight broke out, and Delagado shot and killed Roberts.
     Delgado called his uncle and asked for forgiveness and talked about killing himself because he had shot a police officer.
     A K-9 unit ultimately apprehended Delgado hiding in a woodpile, and a jury that heard evidence of Delgado’s history mental illness convicted him and sentenced him to death.
     Born in the Virgin Islands, Delgado’s first job had been as a police officer but his “cycle of extreme paranoia and abnormal behavior” worsened after he refused an invitation to join the Masons, the Florida Supreme Court said.
     Believing that the Masons were conspiring to kill him, Delgado split up with his wife, left the police force, and began wandering the streets saying that the rapper 50 Cent was trying to kill him.
     Fearing that people were following him, Delgado tried to keep his children out of school, and forced them to sleep on the floor or lie down while riding in vehicles in case people were looking through the windows.
     Delgado would also tell family members that there were demons outside who wanted his sons’ “special blood” or that his children’s legs were goat legs and he had to cut them off because the legs were “evil.”
     He was hospitalized several times over the years, during which time he also joined the military. It was while hospitalized at Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg when doctors diagnosed him with “Bipolar I Disorder with psychotic features,” according to the ruling. In that same stay, Delgado tested negative for any type of drug or alcohol intoxication.
     One expert at Delgado’s trial opined that delusional thinking would always be present, but that Delgado’s medication at that time controlled the intensity of his feelings and his reaction to them. Three experts testified that Delgado’s illness could be properly managed in a structured, controlled environment.
     The high court was unanimous Friday in finding that enough evidence supports Delgado’s first-degree murder conviction, but that the punishment was disproportionate.
     “This evidence leads to the conclusion that this is not one of the most aggravated and least mitigated of capital murders,” the unsigned opinion states. “Thus, we find the death penalty disproportionate under the facts and circumstances presented here.”
     Citing Delgado’s long-standing mental illness characterized by impulsivity, which was out of his control, the court found that the defendant lacked the capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of law.
     “We do not downplay the fact that Corporal Roberts lost his life as a result of Delgado’s actions; however, for the reasons expressed above, we are compelled to reduce Delgado’s sentence to life imprisonment because death is not a proportionate penalty when compared to other cases,” the justices wrote. “Accordingly, we affirm Delgado’s convictions but reverse his sentence of death and remand to the trial court with directions to impose a life sentence.”

%d bloggers like this: