Over the objections of several jurors sitting in the courtroom, a judge Friday sentenced Ricky Kyle to five years in prison for the 1983 slaying of his multimillionaire father, saying that the young man was a lazy, cruel, callous and unremorseful liar who had "put on a show for the jury."
"This court did not find the defendant in any way a credible witness during the course of this trial," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert T. Altman said before imposing sentence. "The court felt that the evidence showed that the defendant all of his life cheated and stole."
Before being taken into custody, Kyle, 24, who had remained free on $100,000 bail during his five-month trial, asked the judge to place him on probation.
"I feel remorse over the death of my father and over the fact that I caused that death," he said in a soft drawl.
Unswayed, Altman said: "The court feels that the defendant has not the slightest degree of remorse. . . . The court feels the defendant's only real remorse is for himself."
The judge set bail, pending a possible appeal, at $1 million.
Kyle, whose first trial ended in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked 10 to 2 in favor of first-degree murder, was convicted last month of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Henry Harrison Kyle, 60. The elder Kyle was shot in the back after his son awakened him in the middle of the night, telling him there was a prowler at their Bel-Air mansion.
The verdict, which could have resulted in a maximum six-year sentence, signaled that jurors believed that the defendant, who said his father fired the first shot, had reacted in self-defense. The prosecution alleged that Kyle had planned the killing and invented the story about the prowler.
Altman said that although he felt bound to accept the jury's verdict, he did not "necessarily agree" with all the panel's findings. He noted that the defendant had initially blamed the killing on a burglar.
"((Kyle's) actions, to this court, were cruel, they were deceitful and they were remorseless. . . . He repeatedly struck his father about the head, not knowing whether his father was alive or dead, and he immediately hid the gun. Within minutes . . . he had the presence of mind to fabricate a story that a burglar had shot his father."
Co-defense counsel Steve Sumner of Dallas and several jurors reacted angrily to the implication that the panel had been deceived by the defendant.
"It's disappointing to me that one person can seem to undermine the jury's verdict to that extent," Sumner said.
"We weren't taken in by Ricky Kyle," said juror Lorraine J. Seeley, a 54-year-old saleswoman. "We went over the evidence, all of us, very, very carefully."
Seeley said: "He (Ricky) did steal, he did do a lot of things that aren't normal. But the way he lived was not a normal life style."
Testimony showed that Henry Kyle was both physically and verbally abusive toward his sons.
In letters filed with the court, three jurors sought leniency for Kyle.
"Mr. Kyle was always prompt and in my opinion a very courteous person," wrote juror Willie C. Galloway.
Although Seeley said all the jurors agreed with the verdict, another member of the panel, Antonio Perea, said it represented a compromise. He said that initially he and one other juror had favored first-degree murder, while the others wanted Kyle acquitted.
"It had to be a compromise or otherwise there would have been another hung jury," said Perea, 29, a telephone company service representative.
"If they (jurors) compromised on this verdict, I don't think they acted responsibly," said Deputy Dist. Atty. John Moulin, one of the prosecutors in the case. "They didn't resolve the factual issues in this trial."
He noted, however, that he had not interviewed the jurors.
Outside the courtroom, Kyle's mother, Charlotte Whatley, told reporters she had hoped that her son could avoid a prison sentence.
"I thought he had suffered enough," she said.
Describing a conversation with her son in the courthouse lockup, the mother said: "He's scared, but he's a strong boy. All of my family are very strong. He'll be all right."
According to court documents, Kyle has $800,000 in a trust account and under an agreement with his relatives stands to get $1.3 million from his father's estate. But the probation report said the defendant has liabilities of $1.6 million, much of it for legal fees.
Henry Kyle, who amassed a fortune in real estate holdings, moved from Dallas to Los Angeles in the spring of 1983. At the time of his death a few months later, he was president of Four Star International Inc., a television and movie production firm.