The Jenny Jones Show
How A Guest On The Show Was Murdered After Revealing His Secret Crush On TV.
In 1995, a guest on The Jenny Jones show was murdered after revealing his secret crush on the show. Three days after appearing on the show, his crush would return to murder him. Was daytime television partially responsible?
*This is not an exact transcript, but rather an outline of my notes.
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So for today’s episode, I’m gonna tell you about the murder of Scott Amedure, who was a guest on the Jenny Jones Show. The murder didn’t occur ON the show, but the show definitely played a role.
The Jenny Jones Show was a 90’s talk show. It was along the same lines as Ricki Lake or Oprah. The show was hosted by Jenny Jones, who was Canadian-American. Before she became a talk-show host, she appeared on The Price is Right and Match Game. She was also a drummer in a rock band, and while touring with her band in Las Vegas, she was discovered by Wayne Newton. In the 80’s, she attempted a career in stand-up comedy. She also appeared in Star Search for her comedy.
In 1991, Warner Bros invited her to do the tabloid talk-show, The Jenny Jones Show. The show started out more serious, like Oprah, but it was getting really low ratings, so they kind of shifted to more unusual subjects, like out-of-control teenagers, or they would give someone a makeover, or things like paternity tests. Like it went from Oprah to Maury.
In 1995, Jenny did an episode about Secret Crushes. It was basically like someone would go on the show and talk about having a secret crush on someone, and that person they had the crush on would be revealed to be in the audience. So then that person is like, left with the pressure of being on tv while they decide whether or not to reciprocate those feelings.
This kind of thing would become known as “ambush television” or “ambush tactics”.
The person who appeared on this episode was named Scott Amedure. Scott was born in Pittsburgh in 1963. He was a super social guy, everybody knew him as being a good time. He was a bartender. Scott was gay and some of his friends had the AIDs virus, and he was known to take his friends in and take care of them.
One day, Scott was heading to his brother’s apartment to hang out, and he ran into his friend Donna, who lived in the same apartment complex. Donna had a friend over who was like fixing her car, and Scott thought he was super cute. So he was like “hey, who’s your friend?”
This friend was Jonathan Schmitz. Donna introduced them. She wasn’t sure if Jonathan was gay or not. But Scott met him and he thought he was just the cutest. He had a huge crush on him. So Scott decided to write in to the Jenny Jones Show.
Scott and Donna flew to Chicago together for the show, Donna was kind of like his wingwoman. Jonathan flew there separately. The producers of the show had told him beforehand that the premise of the show was that someone had a crush on him and it would be revealed on the show. They informed him that the person with the crush could be female or male. Jonathan made it really clear that he would not appear on the show if the person was a male. Since he wouldn’t back down, the producers basically told him, well it could be a male or a female but… you don’t have to worry.
Jonathan had actually been engaged before, and he thought that the person with the secret crush was going to be his fiance. There was also a woman at work who I guess he had a spark with and he thought, maybe it was her. He was actually hesitant to do the show but his buddies at work were kind of egging him on. So he decided to do it. He actually got kind of excited, and flattered
So the show opened with Jenny Jones talking to the camera, and she says “Which of these ways would you choose to reveal your secret crush to someone? Would you, A) write that person a letter; B) tell that person in private in case they reject you; or C) would you tell that person that you’re gay and hope that he is, on national television?”
The audience erupted in laughter and cheers. Remember, this is 1995 and homosexuality wasn’t nearly as accepted as it is today. In the 90’s, gay people were made fun of a lot in media and a lot of people remained in the closet. It was still really taboo.
So before Jonathan was introduced, Donna and Scott were brought on stage.
Also, it’s said that before the show, producers had been encouraging Scott and Donna to drink vodka to loosen up before the show. They were given credit by the show to use at the hotel bar.
So on the show, Jenny starts asking Scott questions and they talk about how Donna introduced Scott to Jonathan. And then Jenny says to Scott “so I understand that you have some fantasies about Jonathan” and she’s like egging him on to tell the audience about his fantasies and she’s like “you had one that involved a hammock, tell us about that fantasy”. Scott says something like “well I have this pretty big hammock in my backyard, I thought about tying him up to my hammock.” and Jenny’s like “...and?” and he’s like “and you know, it entailed whipped cream and champagne, stuff like that.”
The audience is just like, hootin and hollering. And they like laugh every time someone says the word “gay”. Jonathan seems like he was kind of flashy, like a little extra, and like maybe he was the type to laugh along with people. But like before Scott’s even introduced, you already get the impression that this whole thing is like really funny to the audience because it’s a dude with a crush on another dude.
And Jenny keeps milking it, she’s like “so what is it that’s so exciting to you about Scott?” and Jonathan’s like “he’s got this cute little hard body. He’s a tiny little cute thing”.
So then Jenny’s like “well let’s see if he is. Let’s have Jon take the headphones off and come out here and see who has the crush on him.”
You can tell that Jenny thinks this whole thing is really funny. Like, the whole vibe is almost like they’re playing a big trick on Jonathan. Like Jonathan is expecting a hot woman from work to have a crush on him, and then it’s really gonna be Scott.
So Jonathan comes out and the audience applauds, and he gives Donna a big hug and kisses her cheek, then he goes to shake Scott’s hand, and Scott kind of pulls him in for a hug. And you can tell that Jonathan is uncomfortable. It’s really awkward. Like, ok first of all, this episode never aired but I did find a video with some clips of it, so I’ll post it on the website. But like Jonathan clearly is like “put her there” and Scott pulls him in and when you look closely, you can tell that Scott is intending to give him a long, intimate hug. He like tries to bury his face into Jonathan’s neck. And Jonathan, kind of gives him a half-hug and pulls back. Then Jonathan goes to sit in the only empty chair, which is next to Scott. So they’re sitting with Donna on the left, Scott in the middle and Jonathan on the right.
Jenny says to Jonathan “did you think Donna had the crush on you?” and he replies “no, we’re good friends” and Jenny like, interrupts him and says “well guess what, it’s Scott that has the crush” and Jonathan says, smiling, “you lied to me!” and the audience is all like “whoooooooo!”
You can tell Jonathan’s uncomfortable but he’s like trying to be a good sport about it.
Then Jenny says “let’s play a playback of what Scott said about you before you came out here.” they then played the clip of Scott talking about his fantasy involving whipped cream and champagne. Everybody in the audience is laughing and clapping, and Jonathan like covers his face, like he’s clearly embarrassed but he’s laughing. He’s also making faces like, wow um, ahem. Like he just doesn’t know what to say.
Jenny then says “well Scott’s been pretty open about you, he’s been having fantasies about you since he saw you under that car! He’s been telling us all about his fantasies about you. Did you have any idea he liked you this much?” and he’s like “um, no. no.” and then Jenny says “can you tell us what your status is? Are you involved?” and he says “no, I’m not. But I’m definitely heterosexual.” And then the audience starts applauding and cheering. I don’t know why but that sounds scary, like.. What’s the right answer here? Like I can only imagine being in front of a studio audience and being like “shit, what if they hate me for what I say?”
And worse yet, if Jonathan was actually gay or bisexual and just not ready to come out yet, that would be so unsettling to see that the general public actually applauded and cheered, as if coming out as gay would have been the wrong answer.
After the taping, they all went home to Michigan. Jonathan spent the next evening getting wasted with his coworkers and stays up the entire night. The next morning, he found a note on his door, from Scott. It said “if you really want to get it off, I’m the only one who has the right tool.”
Jonathan actually had a history of mental illness and alcoholism. In the past, he had locked himself in the closet for days, and had also built shrines for former girlfriends.
It’s believed that Jonathan may actually have been a closeted gay man. It was reported by an employee at a gay club called Club Flamingo that Jonathan had been seen in there. He had been seen walking in, walking around, and then leaving. I can see why people would see this and further think that he’s a closeted gay man.
There is also speculation that Jon and Scott actually had sex after the Jenny Jones Show. Some believe that the night Jon went drinking, he had actually hooked up with Scott. And then the next day, Scott left him that flirty note, and that set Jon off. Like maybe Jon, then sober, felt humiliated by what had happened, or maybe it was the fact that Scott left the note where people could have seen it.
Interestingly, Scott’s mother actually also says that Scott and Jonathan definitely got together and drank, and had a sexual encounter that night.
On March 9th 1995 just 3 days after appearing on the Jenny Jones Show, Jonathan went to the bank and withdrew some money. Then he bought a shotgun, and he headed to Scott’s mobile home. He sat outside of Scott’s house for a while before he finally knocked on the door. He left the gun in his car though before he knocked, and then he went inside and he and Jonathan talked a bit. Scott asked him if he was the one who left the note, which he did. He allegedly then went out to his car and got his gun, and then walked back into the mobile home. Scott yelled out to his roommate to help and that he had a gun, but it was too late-- Jonathan shot him twice in the chest.
Jonathan fleed and Scott’s body was found just moments later, and said that there was still smoke coming out of his chest.
Jonathan fled the scene and drove toward his sister’s house. He stopped at a gas station and just 15 minutes after the crime, Jonathan called the police and confessed. He told the operator that he felt humiliated by the Jenny Jones Show, and that Scott had “fucked him on national tv”.
The Jenny Jones Show was then accused of negligence, saying that this ambush style of television played a role in the death of Scott Amedure.
Scott’s roommate, Gary, called 911, but by the time they arrived, Scott was already dead. They found a chair that appeared as if Scott had tried using it to defend himself.
Jonathan admitted to everything, even stating that he decided to commit the murder the moment he saw the note from Scott.
It was claimed that Jonathan suffered from bipolar disorder and Graves disease. Graves disease causes like a thyroid hormonal imbalance and some of the symptoms are irritability and irrational, sometimes violent behavior.
They claimed that Jonathan was homophobic and that the experience on the Jenny Jones Show humiliated him. They called this the “gay panic defense” which basically claims that he became enraged and temporarily insane after receiving unwanted sexual advances from another man.
Jonathan’s father testified and gave insight into their home life. His father was clearly homophobic, and Jonathan apparently told Donna that his parents questioned his sexuality in the past.
While on the stand, Jonathan said to a lawyer “well how would you feel if someone thought you were gay?!” so whether or not Jonathan is or was gay, it’s clear that he grew up in a home that discouraged it.
Jonathan was convicted of 2nd degree murder. He was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years-maximum 50 years in prison. Jonathan’s lawyer urged him to sue the show and use all his appeals. He appealed his sentence in 1998. It was overturned and his case was retried, but it had the same outcome.
Jonathan ended up being released in 2017 after serving 22 years. He was granted parole for good behavior.
Scott’s family also agrees that none of this would’ve happened if it weren’t for the Jenny Jones Show. The way they see it, two young men lost their lives that day.
Amedure did say, however, that Schmitz was victimized by the television show.
"I do, and some of my family members do, feel that Jonathan Schmitz was only as much to blame as the 'Jenny Jones' show," Amedure said. "Their people are criminals for what they did. Jonathan Schmitz was sort of like a fall guy in their conspiracy."
Jones, whose show was on the air from 1991 to 2003, has always denied culpability in Amedure’s murder.
"It was not the 'Jenny Jones murder,'" Jones told People in 1999. "It was the 'Jonathan Schmitz murder.'"
In 1999, the Amedure family, retaining Geoffrey Fieger as lawyer, sued The Jenny Jones Show, Telepictures, and Warner Bros. for the ambush tactics and, as the Amedure family considered it, their negligent actions that resulted in Amedure's death. In May, the jury awarded the Amedures $29,332,686.
The jury found that The Jenny Jones Show was both irresponsible and negligent, contending that the show intentionally created an unpredictable 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.
Jenny claims 0 responsibility. She and the shows producers admitted that they did not ask about Jonathan’s mental health at all.
The jury ruled that Jenny Jones and Warner Bros had to award the family between 25-29 million dollars. The family never saw a dime of that money and the Jenny Jones Show appealed that decision multiple times. In 2002, Michigan state court threw out that original ruling, stating that the show had no legal responsibility to protect a guest on the show after it aired. Jenny said she was elated by the decision and continues to insist that the Jenny Jones Show couldn’t have possibly prevented this murder.
I was listening to Morbid podcast, they covered this case, and Alaina said something I really agree with. Jonathan is definitely responsible for this. But Jonathan was also put in a really hard position and I agree that the Jenny Jones Show acted irresponsibly. I think it’s unfair to ambush people like that and at the very least not have some kind of psychologist on set, or like perform some kind of psychological evaluation on guests before they appear on the show. I mean, for all we know, if it weren’t for the Jenny Jones Show, maybe Jonathan could’ve kept living his life, even if he were homophobic. Maybe he would’ve gone the rest of his life without ever hurting another person. Or maybe he would’ve found out about Scott’s feelings in private and just having that happen not-on live television would’ve been just slightly uncomfortable instead of completely mortifying.
Like I said before, the 90s were a really tough time to be gay, and while Scott was very open and proud of his sexuality, Jonathan was just not on the same page. And that’s ok! But like, everyone has their own boundaries and their own timelines. Its never ok to out someone or force someone to come out when they’re not ready. In the 90’s in particular, you couldn’t even be bicurious without people laughing at you or treating you like garbage. Or like particularly for men, gay men in the media were 100% of the time portrayed as feminine or wanting to be female. It was literally like a joke and for people who did come out, that was a ballsy move. I mean I remember growing up in the 90s and being terrified of having homosexual thoughts. Like it was shameful-- I grew up thinking something was wrong with me for having homosexual thoughts.
So I can only imagine whether you’re openly gay, or in the closet, or even a straight person, for someone to put you on live television and force you to confront that topic like that, must be mortifying. Even just the pressure of accidentally saying the wrong thing and having the entire world see you making a fool of yourself.
In the 2002-2003 TV season, Jones' program became the lowest-rated daytime talk show, and after the last original episode aired that spring, Jenny Jones was canceled in the summer of 2003. Reruns continued to air until September 12 of that year.
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