You probably remember (or you’ve at least heard of) the Jenny Jones Show. In the 90’s through the early 2000’s smutty talk shows were very popular; Jenny’s was one of the best rated, it ranked right up there with Jerry Springer, Geraldo, Montel, and Ricki Lake. These trashy talk shows ruined more than a couple lives, but we just couldn’t get enough of them.
In February of ’95, The Jenny Jones Show had been searching for guests who had secret homosexual crushes. When a 32 year old Michigan man named Scott Amedure saw this, he called the show without skipping a beat.
Scott had been crushing on a 26 year old man by the name of Jonathan Schmitz, who he’d met through a mutual friend named Donna Riley. Scott had been petty sure that Jonathan had not been into men, but he couldn’t see the harm in trying; even if Jonathan were to turn him down, it still couldn’t hurt to do the show, right? The worst case scenario would’ve been an all expenses paid trip to Chicago with both Jonathan and their mutual friend Donna, and who would pass up the opportunity to be on national television?
Jonathan would later say that the Jenny producer who he’d conversed with had promised that the person who had this crush on him was a woman; Jonathan had been adamant that he absolutely would not do the show if it may be a man who had the crush. Jonathan had been very much aware that Scott was attracted to him, and he was worried about being embarrassed on national television. As a matter of fact, Jonathan had been so concerned about this that the producer actually made a note about it on his file. Jonathan was assured that this would not be one of those episodes, but I can tell you from personal experience that these producers are rarely truthful (yep, I was a guest on the Jenny Jones show myself) they will tell you just about anything to get you on that plane.
The day before he left for Chicago, Jonathan asked Scott point blank if he was the one taking him on the show; Scott fibbed, he promised that he was not the secret crush. So, Jonathan convinced himself that his secret admirer must’ve been his ex fiancee who he’d been with for years; they’d only separated few months prior and he missed her terribly. Jonathan told everyone that he was going to marry his ex if she was there; surely if it wasn’t her, the admirer had to be that cute coworker he’d had his eye on. Jonathan had been so excited that he’d even ran out to purchase brand new duds for the occasion.
On March 5th of 1995, Jonathan boarded the plane from Michigan to Chicago where he would finally meet this mystery woman. Scott claimed he had been served alcohol on the plane to Chicago and then there had been hard liquor served in the green room while he was interviewed by the show’s producers. All of this was just another trick under the producer’s hat, a ploy to lower the guest’s inhibitions so that they say and do things they would not do otherwise. And its easy to forget that everything you say to the producer can and will be used against you on the show; you start to feel very friendly with the producer. It’s as if you’re sitting and talking with an old friend – especially when alcohol is involved.
During a private interview Scott blurted out that he’d had sexual fantasies about Jonathan which included a hammock and whipped cream, during the taping of the show you can see that Scott was taken aback when Jenny brought this up. If you’ve not seen the un-aired taping of the episode (I’ll add a link at the bottom) Jenny did what she was best at: the hostess pushed for details, not concerned with who she’d upset or embarrass. Scott said that Jonathan had a “Cute little hard body, the kind you want to pick up and put in your curio cabinet, dust him off every once in a while“.
The first thing Jonathan said to Scott after he walked out on stage and realized who’d brought him there was “you lied to me“, referencing Scott’s denial that he was the one bringing him to Chicago. That said, Jonathan seemed to handle it well; he nervously laughed and covered his face with his hands on multiple occasions but never did he seem angry. He said he was flattered, but that he was simply not attracted to men.
Depending on who you ask, after the camera stopped filming maybe Jonathan was much more willing to give Scott a chance than he was wanting to let on. Jenny Jones herself would later say that Jonathan, who was supposed to be flying home alone, asked if he could exchange his plane ticket for the one his friends were taking. There would later be testimony that the trio went out for pizza and plenty of alcohol afterwords; Donna said that Jonathan had been talking about the three of them having a menage a trois and Scott’s mother would later testify that her son had been thrilled, simply glowing because the 2 men had been intimate together that night. Jonathan whole heartedly denies all of this, but it could be that he’s embarrassed or ashamed; it’s also very possible that he had hooked up with Scott while inebriated and regretted it later. Whatever the case may have been, it seems that Jonathan Schmitz was super concerned with what others would think of his sexuality.
On the morning of March 9th, just 3 short days after the show’s taping, Jonathan had been out drinking with friends all night long. Upon returning home he found that Scott had been to his house in the night and left a blinking construction sign on his door with a note which read “If you wanna turn this off, you have to use your tool“. When Jonathan saw this, dude just lost his mind. He immediately hopped in his truck, drove to a nearby gun store where he purchased a 12 gauge and buckshot, and by 11 am he was knocking on Scott’s front door.
Scott was probably just thrilled to see Jonathan at his house at first, maybe he thought Jonathan liked his cutesy sign. When Scott answered the door, Jonathan asked if he was the one who left the construction sign and note. Scott said yes, it had been him; Johnathan walked back to his truck, retrieved his shiny new rifle, and blew Scott away; the victim was shot twice in the chest. Jonathan then drove to a payphone where he called 911. He toldthe operator that he felt lied to, humiliated on national tv, and harassed since coming home; these were his reasons for taking a man’s life.
In 1996 Jonathan was tried for 2nd degree murder. His lawyers said that Jonathan had been dealing with severe mental health issues for years; on top of that, he suffered from Grave’s Disease, a thyroid issue that can cause severe rage and mood swings. To say Jonathan cared what other people thought would be an understatement, he’d obsessed over it. In 1996 a jury found Jonathan guilty; he was sentenced to 25-50 years. At the age of 47, Jonathan was released from prison. He remains on parole.
Jonathan wasn’t the only one in big trouble. The Jenny Jones Show caught quite a lot of flack over the murder, especially since they had specifically asked for guests with secret homosexual crushes on people who weren’t necessarily gay; this had been better for ratings than just 2 gay men. Many of the show’s questionable practices were brought to light; the lies which the producers told Jonathan to get him to Chicago, the fact that they hadn’t even asked whether their guests had any mental health issues, plying guests with alcohol before interviews or tapings, etc. Had the show not done these things, it’s unlikely any of this would’ve happened – or that’s what a jury concluded. Scott’s mom sued, Jenny Jones and her network were found liable, and Scott’s mama was awarded 25 million dollars. This judgment was later overturned.
This case just goes to show how much society has changed in these past 20 years; how far we have come. If I were a betting woman I’d bet money that Jonathan had sexual relations with Scott. You know, in today’s society, big whoop if you’re gay- most of us don’t care; back then it was just different.
Obviously Jonathan was the killer here, but do you think the show was liable?
There’s a new series on Netflix, and the first episode showcases this case; I thought it might be a good time to post about it on this site! The show is called Trial By Media. Also, the never aired Jenny Jones episode that resulted in murder:
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