12 Crimes That Changed the LGBT World
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
May 07 2012 3:03 AM ET
THE JENNY JONES MURDER
The competition among television talk shows in the 1990s was intense, each trying to goose ratings. The Jenny Jones Show certainly wasn’t immune to the pressure. Jones, an affable host, originally set out to do a more touchy-feely, Oprah-esque talk show, but when ratings never materialized, producers moved into terrain that would become ’90s talk show staples, like boot camp teens, confronted bullies, paternity tests, and secret crushes. It was on one such show on March 6, 1995, that Scott Amedure came on the show to confess his “secret crush” on Jonathan Schmitz, a man he knew from his former home in Michigan. Schmitz had assumed his secret admirer was a woman, and though he handled the taping of the show with what appeared to producers a natural aplomb, three days later he drove to Amedure’s home and shot him to death, then called 911 to confess.
There was plenty of speculation in the media, some suggesting Amedure’s sexual advances caused Schmitz to fly into a gay panic rage; others thought Schmitz acted out of internalized homophobia.
Many pointed the blame at Jones and her producers, and in 1999, Amedure’s family won a $25 million judgment against The Jenny Jones Show as well as Warner Bros. and Telepictures (which produced and distributed the show) for negligence in creating an atmosphere that led to Amedure’s murder. It was a verdict that victims’ advocates celebrated, but the Michigan Court of Appeals later overturned it.
At Schmitz’s trial, Amedure’s mother testified that her son had told her the two men had sex after taping the show. Schmitz was found guilty of second-degree murder in 1996, but the conviction was overturned, and he was tried a second time and again found guilty of the same charge. In 1999 he was sentenced to 25 to 50 years.
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