A son's long-simmering anger exploded Monday during his father's murder sentencing hearing in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
Before Richard James Poynton, 50, was sentenced to die for killing his estranged wife, Marie, two years ago, the couple's 16-year-old son, also named Richard, jumped up and began yelling profanities, swung his fists wildly toward his father and the sheriff's deputies holding him back, and kicked a door before finally being restrained.
The ruckus took place shortly after a smiling Poynton casually strutted to take his place at the defendant's table.
Poynton, during his trial, had asked to receive the death penalty, and on Monday that was the sentence he got.
The younger Poynton, who had seen his father only once since the murder, became incensed by his father's casual courtroom demeanor, said the victim's sister, Sarah Barra, who has been the legal guardian for Richard and Robert Poynton, 11, since their mother's killing.
As Superior Court Judge Tricia Ann Bigelow read the details of the murder charges, Poynton nodded his head up and down.
"It's been a terrible two years and two months and I am sorry that our oldest boy Richard had to go through what he went through," said Barra, 52, after the hearing. "He [Richard] was sure of himself that he was going to be able to handle it but as it turned out, he was not. He is unable to control the rage he's had for two years."
Barra said the two boys have been seeing therapists three times a week since their mother was murdered.
The older Poynton reacted to his son's tirade by yelling back repeatedly, "You want to hit me! Come on! Come on and hit me!" He also called the three deputies holding him back "stupid" and told them to get their hands off him.
When Judge Bigelow asked the defendant to calm down, Poynton responded, "I didn't do anything, Your Honor."
The judge ordered a five-minute recess to restore order. The son was not arrested, but he was barred from returning to the courtroom for the conclusion of the sentencing, where his father referred to the slaying as no "big deal."
Poynton, of Palmdale, was convicted on Feb. 27 of stabbing his wife to death after stalking and ambushing her in the Angeles National Forest in January 1999. Witnesses said he forced her car off a desolate road and screamed obscenities at her before stabbing her 13 times.
After a long night of gambling in Laughlin, Nev., Poynton turned himself in to police.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Rhonda B. Saunders said the victim had been abused for years, and when she finally got the courage to leave, she was killed.
"This was probably the most disturbing case I've ever had to prosecute. She was stalked for four weeks before he brutally murdered her."
Saunders said Marie Poynton got a restraining order against her husband but he continued to stalk and threaten her, their two sons and her two sisters.
When the jury recommended the death penalty during the conviction hearing a month ago, Poynton shouted, "Yes!"
In court Monday, he unapologetically addressed the judge and his ex-wife's family, comparing the chain of events to combat.
"Marie was the first casualty, I was the second," he said nonchalantly. "Sorry, you declared war," he said pointedly to his ex-wife's two sisters.
"One down on each side," he continued. "Yes, I killed my wife. Big deal."
During the trial, which was marked by several outbursts, defense attorney Franklin Peters Jr. unsuccessfully argued that Poynton had a long history of mental illness and at the time of the killing, was "legally unconscious."
Saunders said after the sentencing, "He doesn't have a mental disease. He's just evil."