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Jonathan SCHMITZ

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Killed a gay acquaintance who had revealed a crush on him during a taping of ''The Jenny Jones Show''
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 9, 1995
Date of arrest: Same day (surrenders)
Date of birth: July 18, 1970
Victim profile: Scott Bernard Amedure, 32 (his gay admirer)
Method of murder: Shooting (12-gauge shotgun)
Location: Lake Orion, Oakland County, Michigan, USA
Status: Sentenced to 25–50 years in prison on December 4, 1996. Overturned on appeal. Upon retrial, he was found guilty of the same charge once again and his sentence was re-instated on September 14, 1999
 
 

 
 

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Jonathan Schmitz (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 news reports.

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 1, 2017.

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 acquaintance.

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

Trial and 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.

Wrongful death

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.

Wikipedia.org


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 killed him."

The Charges

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.

The Prosecution

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 Defense

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.

The Judge

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 Detroit.

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."

Legal Terms:

  • 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 premeditated killing.

  • 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.

The Verdict

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.

CourtTV.com


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 be okay.

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 appeal.

"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.

—Bryan Robinson


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 Scott Amedure.

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, secret crush.

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 murder charge.

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

 

 

 
 
 
 
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