On March 6, 1995, The Jenny Jones Show taped an episode about secret admirers. One of the guests on this episode was Scott Amedure. He confessed to his crush on his neighbor, Jonathan Schmitz. Amedure also shared a couple brief fantasies he had about Schmitz — neither particularly shocking.
Schmitz was then brought out on stage. The two men shook hands, and embraced awkwardly, and Schmitz laughed and said he was “definitely heterosexual.” Schmitz, Amadure and their mutual friend who also appeared on the show, Donna Riley, all took the same plane home so Schmitz could drive the others home from the airport.
The trio stopped off for drinks, and went home. A Jenny Jones producer claimed on the stand she had heard Schmitz and Amadure slow-danced and kissed that night; she heard from another producer that Amedure had called him and said the two had hooked up — possibly also with Riley.
Three days after the taping, Schmitz found a sexually-explicit note at his house. Schmitz then bought a shotgun and shells, went to Amedure’s house, and shot him twice in the chest. Schmitz used .12 gauge buckshot, but fired at such close range that the paper wadding from one shell ended up in Amedure’s heart. Schmitz was convicted of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 25-50 years in prison.
On Tuesday, August 22, 2017, Jonathan Schmitz was released on parole. Sean Kosofsky of The Bilerico Report says Schmitz didn’t get life in prison — due to one juror. The juror stated that she thought the crush would have been humiliating; she was the reason the jury found Schmitz guilty of second-degree murder rather than first.
Schmitz claimed he was embarrassed on national television. However, the episode never aired.
In 1999, the Amedure family sued The Jenny Jones Show and its producers, Telepictures and Warner Bros. Television.That May, the jury awarded the Amedures $25 million. The jury also found that the show had been negligent — saying that they “created an explosive situation” without concern for the consequences. However, the ruling was overturned in a 2-to-1 decision in the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Though Schmitz was convicted, the case was one of the last stands for the “gay panic defense” in the United States. After all, Schmitz got a lesser sentence due to the concept of “gay panic” than he likely would have had Amedure been straight, and been murdered for a different reason. Attorneys had tried the defense later — including in the murder of Matthew Shepard — however, it was much less successful. (Sadly, the defense’s sister-argument, “trans panic” is still alive and well.)