Psychologist William Lambos testified last week, in a Tampa courtroom, that Humberto Delgado Jr. has such massive brain damage that he qualifies as legally insane. Delgado is charged with first-degree murder and faces the death penalty for the death of Tampa police corporal Mike Roberts in August, 2009.
Lambos testified that he conducted brain mapping – called Qualitative EEG – on Delgado, a former member of the U.S. Army and former U.S. Virgin Island policeman. Barbara Stein, a forensic psychiatrist called by the prosecution in last week’s hearing, questioned the validity of the test Lambos used to reach his conclusion.
According to testimony, the QEEG test measures the electric current through sensors placed on a person’s scalp. The results, shown as waves on paper, are then fed through a computer that creates images of the brain. Lambos argues that those brain maps can indicate traumatic brain damage and psychological disorders. Prosecution witness Stein disagreed, saying that mainstream neurologists, psychiatrists and forensic scientists do not use the QEEG as a reliable tool in everyday practice. (The QEEG was largely developed by St. Petersburg psychologist Robert Thatcher.)
Stein acknowledged Delgado has a long history of mental problems, that he is bipolar with psychotic tendencies, and that he likely suffers from hallucinations and paranoia. She said he was most likely born with the mental illness.
Despite the media attention that an insanity defense gets, it is not used all that often. Florida follows the so-called M’Naghten rule: Two conditions must be met for a person to be ruled legally insane such that they cannot be guilty of a crime: first, if he suffered at the time of his crime from a mental disease or defect; second, if he did not understand the nature of his act, or, if he did understand, did not know that it was wrong.
If a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he is committed to a state mental facility until doctors determine whether he is still a danger. If he is determined to still be dangerous, confinement would continue until his condition changed.
The trial is set to start Oct. 31. The trial judge should rule soon as to whether the results of the implementation of QEEG is admissible at trial.