A smirk from an Ohio serial killer convicted of strangling three women sent a furious father lunging across the defendant's table to wipe the grin off his face.

Van Terry, who seconds before had been denouncing the killer, Michael Madison, as a "clown" from the podium, barely missed his target. The momentum sent him sprawling back into the packed gallery of the Cleveland courtroom, dramatic footage of the incident shows.

Madison, 38, appeared unfazed as court officers quickly hustled him out of harm's way while others struggled to restrain Terry.

The Cuyahoga County prosecutor is now reviewing the incident to decide whether to charge Terry with a crime, spokesman Joseph Frolik said.

"People who were sitting at the table did see that," Frolik said of Madison's smirk.

The courtroom chaos erupted after Madison was sentenced to death for the gruesome murders of Terry's 18-year-old daughter, Shirellda Terry, as well as Shetisha Sheeley, 28, and Angela Deskins, 38.

All three were strangled and their decomposing bodies were stashed in garbage bags behind the suburban Cleveland building where Madison lived.

Just before he went after Madison, Terry had been delivering his victim impact statement.

"Right now, I guess we're supposed to, in our hearts, forgive this clown who has touched our families, taken my child," Terry said.

That's when Terry looked over at Madison and all hell broke loose.

Police responding to reports of a foul stench found the bodies in July 2013. The grisly find raised fears that Cleveland was once again being stalked by a serial killer like Anthony Sowell, who was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to death for killing 11 women. Their bodies were found in his home.

For a time, Madison was confined in the same lockup as Ariel Castro, the former school bus driver who kidnapped three young women and kept them as sex slaves in his home for roughly a decade.