Trial by Media has cast new light over an infamous US case that involving a man killing an acquaintance who revealed a crush on him during a talk show taping.
The Jenny Jones Show was an American talk show hosted by the titular presenter between 1991 and 2003. Secrets and slander, gossip and conflict, whatever the situation, Jones would invite guests onto her show to tell their story. Low ratings in the first couple of years saw the show aim for increasingly unconventional or sensational subjects designed for shock impact.
Scott Amedure was murdered by Jonathan Schmitz, the man he professed his love for just days earlier during an awkward appearance on the show, with Jenny Jones teasing information out of the pair.
On March 6th 1995, the taping of an episode entitled ‘Same-Sex Secret Crushes’ saw gay man Amedure confess his love for an acquaintance Schmitz. The object of his desire believed he was in the studio to get back together with his ex-girlfriend, a friend of Amedure’s, when in fact it was Amedure himself who had developed affections for Schmitz.
Upon the initial revelation, Schmitz reacted with laughter and saying: “You lied to me,” while appearing to see the light-hearted side of the revelation.
As Jones drew out more information from Amedure about his fantasies of Schmitz, the latter began to look visibly uncomfortable as he announced he was “completely heterosexual”.
According to trial footage, a friend of the victim claimed that Amedure and Schmitz went drinking together the night after the taping and that an alleged sexual encounter between the pair occurred.
Three days after the taping, Schmitz found a suggestive note believed to be from Amedure and immediately withdrew cash from the bank to purchase a .12-gauge shotgun.
That same day, Schmitz confronted Amedure at his home about the note before shooting him twice, killing him instantly. After the killing, Schmitz turned himself over to authorities after calling 911 and confessed his actions.
In court it was revealed that Schmitz had been previously diagnosed with manic depression and Graves’ disease and the defence argued they were the triggers that caused the homicide. He was found guilty of second degree murder – intentional murder that lacks premeditation, is intended to only cause bodily harm, and demonstrates extreme indifference to human life.
Schmitz was sentenced to 25-50 years in prison, beginning in 1996, but his conviction was overturned on appeal. A retrial found him guilty of the same charge and his sentence resumed.
While Schmitz was incarcerated, The Jenny Jones Show, Telepictures and Warners Bros. were sued by the Amedure family in 1999 after claiming the ambush interview tactics should be considered to be negligent actions that resulted in the death of Amedure.
The family were initially awarded more than $29 million, though the judgement was later overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals. Jonathan Schmitz was released from prison in August 2017.
Trial By Media lands on Netflix on Monday 11th May. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.