(born July 18, 1970) is a convicted murderer who, in 1996, was sentenced
to prison for 25-50 years.
Schmitz killed Scott Amedure three days after the two
men appeared on a March 6, 1995 episode ("Same-Sex Secret Crushes") of
The Jenny Jones Show, in which Amedure indicated that he was sexually
attracted to Schmitz.
Schmitz, visibly shaken and embarrassed, stated that
he was heterosexual and nervously laughed off the remarks. Because of
the killing, the episode never aired, although excerpts were seen on
Schmitz was convicted in 1996 of second-degree murder
and felony firearms. He appealed but was found guilty of the same
offenses and the original sentence was handed down again. He is
currently imprisoned in the medium-security Thumb Correctional Facility
in Lapeer, Michigan, with an earliest release date of July
On May 7, 1999 a jury found The Jenny Jones Show and
its maker, Time Warner, Telepictures, liable for the death of Amedure,
and awarded his family $29.3 million. However, on October 22, 2002, the
Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the award, a decision which was
later upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court.
Scott Bernard Amedure (January 26, 1963 –
March 9, 1995) was an American murder victim who was fatally shot after
revealing on The Jenny Jones Show that he was attracted to an
The acquaintance, Jonathan Schmitz–who had a long-standing
history of mental illness–later shot Amedure and was found guilty of
second degree murder. The Amedure family sued The Jenny Jones Show
for wrongful death but the judgment was subsequently overturned by the
Michigan Court of Appeals.
Appearance on The Jenny Jones Show and murder
On March 6, 1995, Amedure was taped for an episode of
the The Jenny Jones Show, in which he admitted to being a secret
admirer of Jonathan Schmitz, who lived near him in Lake Orion, Michigan.
Until the taping, Schmitz had no idea who his secret admirer was.
Schmitz stated he went on the show out of curiosity and later claimed
that the producers implied that his admirer was a woman.
According to the testimony at the murder trial, three
days after the taping, Amedure left a "suggestive" note at Schmitz's
house. After finding the note, Schmitz withdrew money from the bank,
purchased a shotgun and then went to Amedure's mobile home. There, he
questioned Amedure about the note. Schmitz then returned to his car, got
his gun and returned to Amedure's trailer. He then shot Amedure twice in
the chest, killing him. After killing Amedure, Schmitz left the
residence, called 9-1-1 and confessed to the killing
sentencing of Schmitz
Schmitz was found guilty of second degree murder in
1996 and sentenced to 25–50 years in prison, but his conviction was
overturned on appeal. Upon retrial, he was found guilty of the same
charge once again and his sentence was re-instated.
In 1999, the Amedure family sued The Jenny Jones
Show, Telepictures and Warner Brothers for the ambush tactics and
their negligent role that led to Amedure's death. In May 1999, the jury
awarded the Amedures 25 million US dollars. The jury found that the
Jenny Jones Show was both irresponsible and negligent, contending
that the show intentionally created an explosive situation without due
concern for the possible consequences. Time Warner's defense attorney
later claimed the verdict would cause a chilling effect on the industry.
The judgment was later overturned by the Michigan
Court of Appeals in a 2 to 1 decision.
The Michigan Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Michigan v. Schmitz
Jonathan Schmitz, 26, agreed to appear on a secret
admirers segment of the Jenny Jones TV show expecting his admirer
to be a woman, not his gay neighbor.
When Schmitz found Scott Amedure, a 32-year-old
unemployed gay man, telling a television audience about a fantasy that
involved Schmitz, some whipped cream, strawberries and champagne, he
became embarrassed and, his lawyers said, enraged.
Three days after the taping, on March 9, 1995,
Schmitz received an anonymous, sexually suggestive note on his doorstep
and assumed it came from Amedure.
Schmitz purchased a 12-gauge shotgun, went to
Amedure's mobile home, and fired two shots at close range into Amedure's
chest. A few minutes later, Schmitz dialed 911 from a pay phone at a gas
station near his sister's house. He said "I just walked in the room and
Schmitz was charged with first-degree murder and
committing a felony with a firearm. To convict him of first-degree
murder, prosecutors must prove that the murder was premeditated. If
convicted of this charge, Schmitz faces life imprisonment without the
possibility of parole. The jury is alowed to consider lesser charges,
such as second-degree murder or manslaughter.
The Prosecution's Case
Though Schmitz may have been embarrassed by the
Jenny Jones taping, it did not justify his killing Amedure, the
state argued. Schmitz drove to one store to purchase a shotgun, drove to
another for ammunition, and drove to Amedure's home before firing the
fatal shots. That demonstrates premeditation, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors contended that when Schmitz went to
Amedure's mobile home, Schmitz became violent. They say that a police
report indicating an upturned chair at the crime scene shows that
Amedure was trying to defend himself.
The State had an oral confession and a videotaped
confession. In a pretrial hearing, however, the judge ruled that both
confessions were inadmissible because the oral confession was made
without Schmitz being read his Miranda rights and the videotaped
confession was made while his right to counsel was being violated.
The Defense's Case
Schmitz's attorneys argued the defense of diminished
capacity. They claimed Schmitz lacked the mental state required to have
committed premeditated murder when he shot Amedure.
According to the defense's theory, Schmitz simply
snapped after finding the note on his doorstep. Lawyers attributed
Schmitz' reaction to Grave's disease -- a thyroid gland disorder that
can cause irrational and violent behavior -- and manic depression.
The Jenny Jones Show
In Jones' Dec.11, 1995 deposition, she insisted that
the show, which never aired, had no connection to the shooting. She
contended that Schmitz was told that his admirer could be either male or
female, though the defense claimed the show's producers led Schmitz to
believe his secret admirer was a woman.
Roman Kalytiak, an assistant county prosecutor in
Oakland County, Michigan, graduated from the University of Notre Dame
School of Law in 1987. In 1994, he was appointed senior trial attorney,
responsible for high-profile prosecutions.
The lead attorney, James Burdick, has been in private
practice since 1970. He previously served as an assistant prosecutor for
Wayne County, Detroit. He is a 1968 graduate of the University of
Michigan Law School.
Fred L. Gibson has been in private practice since
1978. A former state trooper with the Michigan police department, he
began his legal career at a firm that represented the 4,000-member
Detroit Police Officer's Association. He left the firm to start his own
practice, representing police officers in both civil and criminal
matters. He graduated from the Detroit College of Law in 1986.
Judge Francis X. O'Brien was elected to the Oakland
County Circuit Court in 1976 and re-elected in 1982, 1988, and 1994. He
earned his undergraduate and law school degrees from the University of
Some Of The Key Evidence
An upturned chair found at crime scene -- a
prosecution expert apparently could not determine whether it was
thrown offensively or defensively;
A tape of Schmitz's 911 call;
A videotape of the Jenny Jones segment;
A note from a Jenny Jones staff member to Jenny
Jones stating that Schmitz is hoping that his crush is a woman. It
then says "Scott [Amedure] has an inkling that Jon [Schmitz] is
bisexual" and that Jon is "going to die when he sees it's Scott."
First-degree murder: Premeditated killing.
In Michigan a conviction on this charge carries a mandatory sentence
of life imprisonment without parole.
Second-degree murder: Deliberate, but not
Manslaughter: Killing without malice.
Premeditation: Considering an action
before carrying it out. First-degree murder must be premeditated.
Diminished capacity: Lacking the mental
state required to commit a crime. Typically, the result of a mental
disorder or trauma.
On Nov. 12, 1996, the jury opted against the most
serious charge, first-degree murder, and found Jon Schmitz guilty of
second-degree murder and illegal possession of a firearm in commission
of a felony. On Dec. 4, he received a 25 to 50 year sentence. Schmitz
will serve at least 20 years before he is eligible for parole.
Jury awards over $25M to
Amedure family in "Jenny Jones" civil trial
May 7, 1999
PONTIAC, Mich. (Court TV) — A Michigan jury found "The Jenny
Jones Show" negligent and responsible for the events that led to
Jonathan Schmitz's 1995 murder of Scott Amedure and awarded Amedure's
family over $25 million.
The jury's decision may affect the way the talk-show industry conducts
its shows and screens its guest. The jury compensated the Amedure family
with $6,500 in funeral and burial expenses, $5 million for Amedure's
pain and suffering, and $10 million each for loss of companionship and
compensation. The jury's decision was not unanimous: one out of the nine
jurors sided with the defendants. Eight jurors were needed for a verdict
in favor of the Amedure family.
Defendants' attorney James Feeney said the jury's decision spoke for
itself but said the verdict would not stand up on appeal.
"As far as the jury's decision goes, the verdict speaks for itself. But
I think by the end of the day, when we take this before a court of
appeals, the appeals court will feel otherwise," Feeney said. "I feel
there is a no way this verdict will stand up in a court of appeals."
Feeney claimed that the jury instructions did not follow Michigan law
and stacked the odds against his clients. Judge Gene Schnelz told jurors
that they must rule in favor of the plaintiffs if they find the show was
at least a cause of the circumstances surrounding Amedure's murder.
Schmitz killed Amedure three days after Amedure revealed his secret
crush on his during a taping of a "same-sex, secret crush" episode of
the show. Amedure's family, who was represented by Geoffrey Fieger,
believes that "The Jenny Jones Show," its parent company Warner Bros.
and production company Telepictures started the chain of events that led
to the murder and should have asked Schmitz whether he suffered from a
mental illness before having him appear on the show.
Jones' producers, however, said the show had nothing to do with the
murder, denied misleading Schmitz before the show, and suggested
something else happened between the two men that triggered the slaying.
"The Jenny Jones Show" is produced by Warner Bros., which is owned by
Time Warner, a part owner of Court TV.
Fieger was not present in the courtroom when the
verdict was announced. During the trial, he focused on proving that the
show's producers lied to Schmitz to make him come on the show. Fieger
argued that the producers misled Schmitz by refusing to tell him that
his secret admirer would be a man and only telling him that it could be
a man, a woman, or a transvestite.
Focusing on testimony regarding Schmitz's excessive
drinking and alleged depression after the show, Fieger claimed "Jenny
Jones" sent him into a downward spiral which cost Amedure his life.
Schmitz's depression grew as the broadcast date of the show drew closer.
The same-sex secret crush episode never aired.
Schmitz's father, Allyn, his employers at The Fox &
Hounds restaurant, and his sister all testified that he was noticeably
disturbed by his experience on the show and that they urged him to "put
it behind him." Even an airline passenger who sat next to Schmitz on his
flight home testified that he seemed preoccupied with his experience on
the show and said that if he could get angry if he really thought about
what had happened. His appearance on "Jenny Jones," Fieger may add, was
one of the first things Schmitz mentioned in a 911 call after the murder.
Fieger also emphasized Schmitz's history of mental
illness, particularly his prior suicide attempts and what the producers
of "Jenny Jones" allegedly should and could have done to screen him and
prevent him from coming on the show. The producers, he argued, could
have asked Schmitz whether he had been hospitalized for mental illness.
The plaintiffs also believed the show could have provided post-show
counseling for Schmitz to make sure he was okay.
Fieger argued that the producers knew Schmitz did not
want his secret admirer to be a man: he told former producer Karen
Campbell that he did not want a man telling him about a secret crush on
national television. That, Fieger insisted, was why they refused to tell
Schmitz the specific gender of his admirer. In addition, Fieger stressed
that another former producer, Ron Muccianti, allegedly told Schmitz that
he had seen "the girl of his dreams."
Led by Feeney, the defendants argued that the show
had no reason to suspect that Schmitz would have killed Amedure after
the show and that Schmitz's behavior and answers in a pre-show interview
did not suggest that he was homophobic or had the potential for violence.
Feeney contended that the proof that Schmitz knew
that his admirer could be a man and about the potential for
embarrassment was found in his pre-show interview: when asked during his
pre-show interview how he would react if his crush was a man, he said
that he would say, "thanks, but no thanks." Schmitz said he would be
disappointed, the situation could be embarrassing, but insisted he would
Feeney also stressed that Schmitz's behavior during
and immediately after the show did not illustrate his alleged
embarrassment. On a videotape of the unaired show, Schmitz is seen
smiling and appears to be handling the surprise revelation well.
Muccianti testified that Schmitz shook his hand and thanked him for
having him as a guest. Feeney also noted that Schmitz partied with
Amedure and their mutual friend Donna Riley after the show and had even
made plans with Amedure to go shopping for a ceiling fan.
Using the testimony of psychiatrists and evidence
from Schmitz's confession, Feeney also argued that Schmitz did not kill
Amedure because of "The Jenny Jones Show." Schmitz did not mention the
words "humiliation," "ambush," or embarrassment by "Jenny Jones" in his
911 call and confession. He said Amedure would not leave him alone.
Feeney pointed out that Schmitz killed because he felt like he was being
stalked, not because of his experience on "Jenny Jones."
Feeney said it would take two years for the appeals
process to be completed. The senior vice president of Warner Bros., Zazi
Pope, said the verdict would have a "chilling effect" on the talk-show
industry and all media, but said that the verdict would not be upheld on
"Our heart goes out to the Amedure family. We feel
horrible that this terrible tragedy took place," Pope said. "But the
facts are clear. Schmitz knew his secret crush could be a man. We will
not settle this case, the issues are too important."
Jonathan Schmitz, whose 1996 conviction for Amedure's
murder was overturned, will be tried again in August.
Schmitz receives 25 to 50-year
sentence for "Jenny Jones" slaying — again
September 14, 1999
PONTIAC, Mich. (Court TV) — Despite an apology
and his father's plea for leniency, Jonathan Schmitz once again received
a 25-to-50-year maximum sentence for the 1995 slaying of his gay admirer
Last month, Schmitz was convicted of second-degree
murder again at his retrial for Amedure's killing. Schmitz killed
Amedure three days after Amedure revealed his amorous feelings for him
during a taping of a "same-sex, secret crush" episode of "The Jenny
Jones Show". Nearly three years ago, Schmitz found himself in the same
situation: a Michigan jury had convicted him of second-degree murder in
Amedure's killing and he received a 25-to-50-year sentence.
At the 1996 sentencing, Schmitz apologized to the
Amedure family and expressed a wish to show "his sorrow" over his
slaying of Amedure. At his sentencing Tuesday, Schmitz again apologized
for his actions and addressed the victim's family.
"I'd like to say sorry to the Amedure family. I can't
take any of this back," Schmitz said. "I want to thank all my family and
friends who have stood by me."
Before Schmitz addressed the court, his father, Allyn,
pleaded with Judge Wendy Potts for leniency. Citing the $25 million
verdict against the "The Jenny Jones Show" in the wrongful death case in
May, Allyn Schmitz pointed out that his son's mental instability and
fragile psyche was clearly illustrated in that trial but could not be
brought out in Jonathan's criminal retrial. Apologizing for Amedure's
slaying, he asked Judge Potts to keep Jonathan's mental history in mind
for her sentencing decision.
"I've known Jon has had a very fragile personality,"
the elder Schmitz said. "All these things were brought out at [the
civil] trial. Please, your honor, be lenient with him, show him mercy."
Schmitz's attorney, Jerome Sabbota, asked Judge Potts
for no more than a 15-year sentence. But Judge Potts stuck with the
prosecution and probation board's recommendation for the maximum
sentence. The judge told Schmitz that although he claims to have had a
marijuana and alcohol problem and a history of mental disease, he seemed
to be functioning well at the time of Amedure's murder. Noting that
Schmitz was working at The Fox & Hounds Restaurant and maintaining his
own apartment, Judge Potts said that he was doing a lot better than most
of the people who come before her in court.
The judge also told Schmitz that a jury found he had
made a calculated decision to kill Amedure after their appearance on "The
Jenny Jones Show." She told him that he had three days to reconsider his
actions and deal with the humiliation he felt over Amedure's same-sex,
With that, Judge Potts imposed the 25-to-50 year
sentence on Schmitz, saying, "Your sentence will rob you of your youth,
but not your life."
Schmitz also got a two-year sentence for illegal use
of a firearm. He received 1650 days credit for time he has already
served in prison for Amedure's killing.
During the sentencing, Amedure's parents both
addressed the court. Frank Amedure, Sr. lamented that he would never see
his son's smile again because of Schmitz. Yet, the elder Amedure still
placed part of the blame for his Scott's death on "The Jenny Jones
Show," saying "If they'd [Schmitz and Scott] never gone on 'The Jenny
Jones Show' those two kids would be alright today."
However, Patricia Graves, Scott's mother, urged Judge
Potts to give Schmitz the sternest punishment because he killed her son
in cold blood. She pointed out that Schmitz would still be a relatively
young man when he is released while Scott is not able to grow old.
Citing an error in jury selection, a Michigan Appeals
Court overturned Schmitz's first conviction in September 1998. Sabbota
has said Schmitz plans to appeal his second conviction, arguing that his
defense should have been allowed to present some evidence about
Schmitz's mental instability. During Schmitz's first trial in 1996, his
attorneys used a diminished capacity defense against a first-degree
The defense in the first trial stressed Schmitz's
history of mental instability, previous suicide attempts and his
suffering from Graves disease and severe depression before the shooting.
It also argued that the distressing revelation on "Jenny Jones"
shattered an already fragile psyche and that Schmitz did not fully know
what he was doing when he shot Amedure. That strategy saved him from a
first-degree murder conviction, but not second-degree murder.
Schmitz's lawyers were not able to rely on a
diminished capacity defense at his retrial. Since prosecutors could not
seek a first-degree murder conviction at the retrial, Schmitz's lawyers
were not allowed to use diminished capacity. Michigan law prohibits a
diminished capacity defense against second-degree murder charges.
— Bryan Robinson