On March 6th, 1995, twenty-four-year-old Jonathon Schmitz left his Michigan home to travel to Chicago. He was contacted by the Jenny Jones Show and told that he had a secret admirer. Jonathon was looking forward to seeing who the admirer was and attended out of curiosity. As he walked out on to the stage, he saw his friend Donna Riley and a friend of hers named Scott Amedure. Jonathon, blushing, seems surprised and hugs Donna Riley. That’s when Jenny Jones told him that Scott Amedure was his admirer. “You lied to me” Schmitz said with an awkward giggle. He then proclaims that he is heterosexual and not interested in Scott that way. The events of that day, however, started a downward spiral for Jonathon that shocked everyone.
The night after the taping of the show, which was supposed to air two weeks later, Scott, Donna, and Jonathon went out for drinks. Some sources say Scott and Jonathon may have kissed or had other sexual contact that night, but others deny this ever occurred including Donna Riley. Jonathon did call his father and told him things didn’t work out well at the taping and his admirer was a man, to which his father allegedly made homophobic remarks.
(Above: Scott Amedure (left) and Jonathon Schmitz (right) on the Jenny Jones Show)
Three days after the taping, Jonathon Schmitz found a sexually suggestive note on his door from Scott Amedure. This angered Jonathon, so he went and withdrew money from his bank account. Using this money, he purchased a gun and ammunition. He went over to Scott’s trailer and knocked on the door. He confronted Scott about the note, to which Scott just smiled. Jonathon told him he had to turn his car off, but he was actually going to get the gun.
He returned to the trailer and pointed the gun at Scott. A thrown chair suggests that Scott tried to defend himself, but Jonathon shot him twice in the chest. Scott Amedure died almost instantly. Jonathon left the home and drove to a local gas station where he made a 911 call.
In the 911 call, Jonathon confesses that he “just killed someone” and that “I just walked in the room and killed him” (Trial by Media, 2020). When asked why he killed the man, Jonathon said that it was because he “played a really bad fucking thing on me” and referenced the Jenny Jones Show. Jonathon’s defense said that he was overwhelmingly embarrassed by the incident on the show, which included Scott detailing a sexual fantasy involving Jonathon.
Scott Bernard Amedure was born January 26th, 1963, in Pennsylvania. He later moved to Michigan where he was raised with his brothers. At age seventeen, he dropped out of school and joined the United States Army. While in the army, he received training in Satellite Communications. He was stationed in Germany where he became an avid skier. Upon returning back to the United States and receiving an honorable discharge, Scott worked as a bartender. He was a loyal friend and allowed other gay men suffering with HIV to live with him when their families would turn their backs. Scott (right) was described as generous and caring.
Jonathon Schmitz was raised very differently, however. Testimony in the court proceedings following the murder demonstrated that Jonathon was raised by a homophobic father. In fact, during the proceedings his father admitted he was humiliated by the show taping because he didn’t want people to think his son was gay. He said he and his son were humiliated and “How would you feel if people thought you were a homosexual?” (Trial by Media, 2020).
Jonathon Schmitz was quickly arrested after he made the 911 call on March 9th, 1995. He was charged with first degree murder, committing a felony with a firearm, and the judge permitted the jury to consider lesser charges including second degree murder. The prosecution’s case was simple: Embarrassment does not justify murder. They claimed premeditation was clear as Jonathon had to withdraw the money, purchase the weapon, and drive to Scott’s home in order to commit the crime. The confession made by Jonathon Schmitz, however, was thrown out since the suspect was not read his Miranda rights prior to confessing.
The defense did not deny that Jonathon Schmitz (below) fired the shots that killed Scott Amedure. However, they presented evidence that Jonathon Schmitz had a long history of psychiatric and medical issues that caused decreased capacity. Jonathon had prior diagnoses of bipolar disorder and Grave’s disease. They also used the “gay panic” defense.
Bipolar disease is a mental health disorder characterized by unusual and extreme mood swings that affect one’s ability to carry out day to day activities. Depending on the type and severity of the disease, violent tendencies may accompany the disease. (NIMH, 2021). Grave’s disease is a thyroid disorder in which the thyroid produces too much hormone which may cause anxiety, irritability, and sleep disturbances along with other symptoms (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
The “gay panic defense” is a legal defense that states an individual committed a violent crime due to temporary insanity related to unwanted sexual advances by someone of the same sex (Wikipedia, 2021). The defense strategy has been legal in some jurisdictions in The United States, but many states have since banned the defense. Illinois banned the “gay panic defense” in 2017, but it is still allowed in Michigan. Proposals were introduced in December 2021 in Michigan to ban the defense. A federal bill is also pending in congress that would ban the defense.
Despite the evidence of premeditation, the jurors felt sorry for Jonathon Schmitz and believed that he was a good person who was put in a bad situation. He was found guilty of second-degree murder in 1996 and sentenced to 25-50 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections. Both the Schmitz family and Amedure family felt that Jonathon and Scott were both victims of an overzealous entertainment show that exploited them for profit, although the show never aired following the murder.
In 1999, The Amedure family sued The Jenny Jones Show using celebrity lawyer Jeffery Fieger, who represented Jack Kevorkian. Kevorkian was a physician from Michigan who eventually was convicted of murder after assisting in suicides of terminally ill patients. Jeffery Fieger attacked The Jenny Jones Show and Time Warner for creating an unhealthy situation that ultimately led to Scott Amedure’s death.
At the trial, which was broadcast on Court TV, Fieger insisted that the show used fraud in order to get Jonathon Schmitz to appear on the show. Specifically, they instructed Scott Amedure and Donna Riley not to reveal anything to Schmitz prior to the taping. They also told Schmitz he was a on secret crush reveal show, not telling him that it was really about same-sex crushes. Fieger contended that the show was negligent and therefore responsible for Amedure’s death. The defense for Jenny Jones and Time Warner claimed the show had no way to foresee the murder and had not obligation to ensure Scott Amedure’s safety. Although it was later reversed, the Amedure family won the original suit and was awarded twenty-nine million dollars.
Jonathon Schmitz’s verdict was eventually overturned on appeal due to a juror selection issue. He was retried and found guilty again and sentenced to the same sentence. He was paroled at age forty-seven in 2017. Jonathon Schmitz stays out of the limelight since his release, despite the media frenzy that followed him during his trial. Scott’s brother said of Schmitz’s release “I want assurance that the decision was not based on just good behavior in prison. I’d like to know that he learned something, that he’s a changed man, is no longer homophobic and has gotten psychological care” (Witter, 2021).
(Jonathon Schmittz Above)
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Witter, B. (2021) Jonathon Schmitz now? He lives a private life after leaving prison in 2017; VoxBliss; Retrieved at: Jonathan Schmitz now? He lives a private life after leaving prison in 2017 - VoxBliss
Graves & Amedure Vs. Warner Bros; Jenny Jones (2002) Michigan Court of Appeals: Patricia Graves and Frank Amedure Vs. Warner Bros., Jenny Jones, and Telepictures; Retrieved at: 16693.pdf (michbar.org)
Murderpedia (2021) Jonathon Schmitz; Retrieved at: Jonathan Schmitz | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
FindaGrave (2021) Scott Bernard Amedure; Retrieved at: Scott Bernard Amedure (1963-1995) - Find A Grave Memorial
Hyde, J. (1999) Friend of victim and accused testifies about talk show; The South Bend Tribune; Retrieved at: 06 Apr 1999, 15 - The South Bend Tribune at Newspapers.com
Kenney, N. (2021) Murdered for being a secret admirer? The story of Scott Amedure; Retrieved at: Murdered For Being a Secret Admirer? The Story of Scott Amedure | by Nicole Kenney | CrimeBeat | Medium
Trial By Media (2020) Talk Show Murder; Season 1 Episode 1; Available on Netflix
NIMH (2021) Bipolar Disorder; Retrieved at: NIMH » Bipolar Disorder (nih.gov)
Mayo Clinic (2021) Graves’ Disease; Retrieved at: Graves' disease - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic
Wikipedia (2021) Gay panic defense; Retrieved at: Gay panic defense - Wikipedia
Lehr, S. (2021) Michigan bill would ban so-called gay, trans panic defense; WKAR; Retrieved at: Michigan bills would ban so-called gay, trans panic defense | WKAR Public Media