A Michigan man has been released from prison more than 20 years after killing a man who admitted on a daytime talk show that he was attracted to him.
Jonathan Schmitz, 47, was released from a Jackson, Mich., prison Tuesday after being sentenced in 1999, when he was convicted of second-degree murder charges.
Schmitz, then 24, appeared on The Jenny Jones Show in 1995 for a segment about secret admirers.
It was revealed in an unaired episode of the popular talk show that Scott Amedure, a 32-year-old male acquaintance, was Schmitz’s admirer.
During the taping, Schmitz appeared to laugh it off, saying he was “definitely heterosexual.”
But three days later, Schmitz showed up to Amedure’s home with a shotgun, and shot him in the chest.
When Schmitz called 911, he said he shot his admirer because he had embarrassed him on national television.
“I think I just shot a man,” Schmitz said in the 911 call. “I think I just shot this guy.”
The trial gripped the nation and called into question the ethics of tabloid talk shows, which were in their prime and ratings magnets. Critics claimed they used deceptive practices and a sensationalized style that were to blame for the tragedy.
“The Jenny Jones Show ambushed this defendant with humiliation and in retaliation this defendant ambushed the victim with a shotgun,” then-Oakland County Prosecutor Richard Thompson said to the press during a conference after Schmitz was charged.
The show never aired the Amedure/Schmitz episode, and Jenny Jones herself appealed to the public not to place blame on anyone but the shooter.
“As much as we all regret what happened, the fact is that this tragedy is about the actions of one individual,” she said in a later episode.
In 1996, Schmitz was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison. The verdict was later overturned on an appeal due to jury selection errors.
In 1999, Schmitz was retried. Again, the verdict was guilty.
Following the murder, the family of Scott Amedure took the show to task, suing the program for negligence.
“This is a renegade business," Geoffrey Fieger, the Amedure family attorney said at the time. "These are irresponsible people. These are people beholden, answerable to no one."
The Jenny Jones Show was ordered to pay the Amedure family $25 million, but the decision was later overturned by the court of appeals.
The show ran until 2003, for well over a thousand episodes. But its most famous episode was one that never made it to air.