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The Show:

An episode of the Jenny Jones Show was taped during 1996-MAR. The topic of the day was "secret admirers" in which panelists meet friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. who have a secret crush on them. This theme has been used many times before on both this and other talk shows. However, this time, the secret crushes were by members of the same sex.

Jonathan Schmitz from Detroit MI was invited to be a panelist on the show. He asked whether the secret admirer was a woman; the show representative said that it might be a man or a woman. At the taping, Johnathan's secret admirer turned out to be his gay neighbor, Scott Amedure. Johnathan, being heterosexual, declined Scott's implied offer to enter into a closer relationship. Scott, Jonathan and a woman friend later went out together that evening for drinks.

Jonathan later said that he felt ambushed and humiliated by the show. He bought a shotgun at one store; he bought ammunition at another; he went to Scott's home and killed him.

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The Trial

Since Jonathan Schmitz admitted to killing Scott Amedure, one would have expected the trial to examine the motivation for the murder: that is the homophobia of Schmitz which drove him to murder. One would anticipate that the murder would be treated as a hate crime, with the most serious of charges and severest of sentence. But instead, the trial concentrated on the talk show itself, implying that the show was largely responsible for the murder, not Jonathan's hatred of gays. Schmitz was projected as a helpless victim of a talk show which went beyond allowable bounds. On NOV-12, the jury found the defendant guilty of a lesser charge of second degree murder.

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Media Coverage

bulletOn OCT-31, MSNBC broadcast a special report on the trial. The bulk of the panel discussion related to the ethics of the Jenny Jones show and similar talk programs. The hate crime was described as a "talk show murder". One of the panelists briefly commented that Schmitz was "apparently...very homophobic."
bulletOn NOV-12, CNN's program "Burden of Proof" dealt with this crime. Various panelists concentrated on Schmitz' humiliation, but ignored the homophobia factor.
bulletOn NOV-13, CNN's program "Larry King Live" covered this crime. Scott Amedure's brother and the Amedure family lawyer were interviewed. The lawyer commented that Schmitz was exposed to "embarrassment and humiliation that they [, the show,] created." He made a common error, believing that one person (or group) can be responsible for another person's feelings. In reality, the talk show merely created the environment; Schmitz' homophobia then created the homicidal feelings.

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