The horrific true story of the ‘gay panic’ talk show murder that shocked America

Jonathan Schmitz

Trial by Media, a new Netflix documentary, shines a fresh light on the “gay panic” murder of Jenny Jones Show guest Scott Amedure.

Scott Amedure was a 32-year-old gay man who, in 1995, was murdered senselessly in a case that shocked America.

Three days before his death, Scott had gone on The Jenny Jones Show – a Jerry Springer-lite tabloid format that aired between 1991 until 2003.

Jenny Jones had struggled to find a footing in its first few years on air, prompting the show to focus on gossipy and salacious real-life stories – like Amedure’s.

On March 6, Amedure filmed an episode of the show titled “Same-Sex Secret Crushes”, along with his friend Jonathan Schmitz, then 24.

Schmitz was told he’d been invited on the show by an ex-girlfriend who wanted to get back together with him. In fact, he was on set so that Amedure could confess – in explicit detail – the fantasies he’d been having about him.

Jenny Jones Show episode led to murder.

On the episode – which never aired in full but was distributed to news networks – Schmitz laughed off Amedure’s crush, somewhat uncomfortably.

“You lied to me,” he said, clarifying that he was “completely heterosexual”.

Three days after the taping, Schmitz found a sexually charged note on his driveway. He withdrew some cash, purchased a .12-gauge shotgun, and went to Amedure’s home to confront him.

After shooting him twice in the chest, Schmitz called 911 to confess to the “gay panic” killing.

When an emergency operator asked why he’d murdered Amedure, he replied: “Because he played a very f**king bad thing on me. He took me on Jenny Jones.”

‘Gay panic’ defence was used in Jonathan Schmitz trial.

In court, the jury heard how Schmitz was manic-depressive, had been diagnosed with Graves’ disease and had stayed up all night drinking and smoking marijuana the night before the killing. His lawyers argued that after Amedure’s advances, he became emotionally unstable.

The case is often cited as an example of the “gay panic” defence tactic that, more than two decades on, is still prevalent.

According to The LGBT Bar, the “LGBT panic” defence has been used to acquit dozens of murders, and has been used as recently as April 2018.

It remains a legally valid method of defence in 40 states, with only Washington, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey New York and Rhode Island having banned it.

The court found Schmitz guilty of second degree murder, and he was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.

The verdict was overturned on appeal, due to jury selection errors, but a second trial in 1999 found him guilty once again, and reinstated the same sentence.

In the same year, the Amedure family sued The Jenny Jones Show, Telepictures and Warners Bros for its sensationalist tactics and alleged negligence which lawyers argued resulted in the killing.

Jenny Jones

Jenny Jones, whose show remained on air for years after the killing. (Netflix)

Trial by Media examines Jenny Jones Show trial.

The trial was broadcast to America on Court TV and became a major national story at the time.

Ultimately, the court ruled in the family’s favour, awarding them almost $30 million in damages. The ruling was later overturned by a court of appeals, but the family have maintained that the show was to blame for Amedure’s killing.

“If they’d never gone on The Jenny Jones Show those two kids would be alright today,” Scott Amedure’s father, Frank Amedure Sr said.

When Schmitz was released from prison in August 2017, Geoffrey Fieger, the family’s lawyer, said everybody involved in the production deserved to go to prison.

“That show set him (Schmitz) up and certainly took Scott Amedure’s life for no reason,” Fieger said.

The Jenny Jones Show aired until May 2003.