Jenny Jones verdict overturned

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com October 23 2002 11:00 PM ET

The Michigan court of appeals threw out a jury's $29.3 million award against the Jenny Jones show, saying the talk show had no legal duty to protect a guest who was murdered after revealing a gay crush. The appeals court, in a 2-1 ruling released Wednesday, reversed the 1999 decision of an Oakland County jury that found the show's owner, Warner Bros., and its distributor, Telepictures, liable for the death of Scott
Amedure. Amedure was shot and killed by Jonathan Schmitz in 1995, three days
after he revealed an attraction to Schmitz during a taping of the show. The segment never aired, and Schmitz is serving a 25- to 50-year prison sentence. Amedure's family sued the talk show, contending that Schmitz was ambushed and tricked into believing his secret admirer was a woman.

The appeals court said the show "may be regarded as the epitome of bad taste and sensationalism'' but that that isn't enough to hold it liable for Amedure's death. The court added that the show had no way of predicting Schmitz's actions. "The defendants owed no duty as a matter of law to protect [Amedure] from the intentional criminal acts of a third party,'' the court said. Geoffrey Fieger, who represents Amedure's family, said he would
appeal.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge William Murphy said the show failed to check Schmitz's personal history, which included mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide attempts, and anger-management problems. "I would hold that as a matter of public policy, if defendants, for their own benefit, wish to produce 'ambush' shows that can conceivably create a volatile situation, they should bear the risk if a guest is psychologically unstable or criminally dangerous,'' Murphy wrote.