'Trial By Media' On Netflix: Where Is Jonathan Schmitz Today In 2020?

Photo: Youtube
'Trial By Media' On Netflix: Where Is Jonathan Schmitz Today In 2020?

Before there was reality TV, there were daytime talk shows. In the 1990s, the airwaves were populated with shows that promised the most outrageous behavior possible form guests and audience members alike. Hosts like Geraldo Rivera and Ricki Lake oversaw surprise paternity tests, confessions of infidelity, and all manner of fights and happened from the antics of the guests. Studio and home audiences alike were delighted by the spectacle. 

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In 1995, The Jenny Jones Show did a secret crush episode, where a man named Scott Amerdure was the guest revealing his crush. He had been selected for the show after answering an ad looking for gay people willing to tell a same-sex friend they had feelings for them. The object of Amedure's affections was Jonathan Schmitz, a straight guy who had been warned that he might be hearing from a man or a woman before coming on the show.

Three days after the taping, Schmitz murdered Amedure in his home. He was convicted of the crime and Amedure's family sued the show for putting the events in motion. Now Netflix is revisiting the case with their new true-crime series Trial By Media.

Trial by Media on Netflix: Where is Jonathan Schmitz today? 

The Jenny Jones Show was designed to bring up strong reactions from everyone. 

Like all popular talk shows of the time, The Jenny Jones Show thrived on outrageous guest behavior. This episode was no different. From the moment the cameras started rolling, Jones was priming the audience for a big reveal. She introduced the segment by talking about ways you might let a crush know about your feelings, concluding by saying "Or would you tell him you were gay and you hope he is too on national television?" Amid cheers and laughter, Schmitz came onto the stage to find Scott Amedure and a female mutual friend. Jones let him wait a moment before telling him it wasn't the woman who had the crush on him but was actually Amedure. She even had Schmitz watch tape of Amedure explaining a vivid sexual fantasy he had about Schmitz.  Schmitz sat there with a frozen smile on his face and told the whole crowd that he was heterosexual and his feelings for Amedure were just friendship. 

Three days after the show taping, Schmitz killed Amedure.

In the days that followed, Schmitz and Amedure returned home and Amedure tried to keep their friendship going. He made a tragic misstep, however, by leaving a suggestive note on Schmitz's windshield, which only heightened Schmitz's discomfort. Schmitz withdrew money from his bank account to buy a gun and ammunition. After a short confrontation at Amedure's home, Schmitz got his gun from his car, walked back into the house and killed Amedure. 

Immediately after the killing, he called 911 and confessed to what he had done. 

His murder trial resulted in a conviction. 

Schmitz was tried for first-degree murder and his defense was that the experience of taping the show and the expectation that it would be broadcast to the whole country had been so humiliating that he broke down. Trial by Media shows courtroom footage where the legal team explained that he had suffered from depression in the past and the condition was exacerbated by a thyroid condition that wasn't well managed. The jury ultimately convicted him of the lesser charge of second-degree murder and he was sentenced to 25-50 years in a Michigan prison. After serving two years, he got a new trial, where his conviction was upheld. 

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The Amdeure family sued The Jenny Jones Show.

The Amedure family held The Jenny Jones Show and its parent company Warner Brothers just as responsible for Scott Amdeure's death as Jonath Schmitz. They hired a well known Detroit area attorney named Geoffrey Feiger to represent them in a multi-million dollar civil suit. The resulting trial was a field day for the media. The coverage of the "Jenny Jones Killer" trial was endless, especially when Jones herself testified. The proceedings were broadcast gavel-to-gavel on Court TV. ironically, Warner Brothers also owned Court TV so the suit against one of their shows was a profit-bonanza on another of their properties.  

The Amedure family won their initial lawsuit, with a jury awarding them $29 million dollars but the verdict was overturned on appeal several years later. The family never received any money from the process. Jones has never admitted any culpability in the events.

Schmitz was released from prison in 2017.

After serving 22 years of his sentence, Schmitz was paroled for good behavior. He and his family never made any statements to the press at the time but Amedure's brother Franke spoke about his feelings. 

“I guess it’s like any other person who’s lost a family member to murder — they wouldn’t feel comfortable about the murderer being released,” Amdeure said at the time. “It might be easier if he [Schmitz] was old, an old gray-haired man. But he’s still pretty young at 47 — he’s still got a lot to go, and my brother doesn’t.”

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“But there’s a side of, at least me and maybe some of my family members, that we do feel he was victimized in all of this, and so we can empathize with all of that,” Amedure continued.

Schmitz in 2017, Photo: MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS/AP

Schmitz keeps a low profile now.

After being on television drove Schmitz to commit a murder and spend the next two decades in prison, it's no surprise that he hasn't sought any publicity since his release. His family brought him home from prison and none of them have ever done any interviews or made statements since as far as we can tell. 

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.