In a case that put “ambush television” on trial, a “Jenny Jones Show” guest Tuesday was spared a mandatory life in prison and convicted of second-degree murder for shooting a gay man who revealed a crush on him during a taping.
In deciding against a first-degree murder conviction, the jury found that 26-year-old Jonathan Schmitz acted without premeditation in the 1995 slaying of Scott Amedure, 32.
Schmitz could get anywhere from eight years to life in prison, with the possibility of parole.
Jurors said they concentrated almost entirely on Schmitz’s state of mind when he shot Amedure, who revealed an attraction to Schmitz three days earlier as a studio audience whooped and hollered.
Juror Joyce O’Brien said that for Schmitz, it was like “someone pulls the rug out from under you.”
“Even a sane person might have trouble dealing with all that stuff,” O’Brien said.
The case had focused attention on “ambush” television and titillating daytime TV tactics, with Schmitz’s lawyers arguing that the show misled him into believing he was going to meet the woman of his dreams.
They said he was publicly humiliated when his secret admirer turned out to be a man. That, coupled with his history of depression, suicide attempts, a thyroid ailment and other problems, left him incapable of forming the intent necessary to commit first-degree murder, his lawyers said.
“We all felt he had a definite mental problem … and the show exacerbated that,” said another juror, Dale Carlington.
The show’s producers denied misleading Schmitz to get him to go on the episode, which was titled, unbeknownst to Schmitz, “Same-Sex Secret Crushes.”
The show was never aired but was played for the jury. In it, Amedure outlined sexual fantasies of Schmitz involving “whipped cream and champagne” and rhapsodized about his “cute, little, hard body.”
Schmitz reacted with an embarrassed smile but no apparent anger. He turned away when Amedure put an arm around him and tried to kiss him. “I’m definitely a heterosexual, I guess you could say,” Schmitz said.
Three days later, Schmitz bought a shotgun, drove to Amedure’s mobile home and killed him at his doorstep.
Schmitz’s parents testified their son behaved oddly as early as 3 years old, when he would bang his head against the wall in anger. They said by the time he was 16, he was battling weeks-long periods of depression. Later, he attempted suicide.