Jury Deliberating Talk Show Case — (The Chicago Tribune)

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The Chicago Tribune

November 08, 1996

The jury in the “Jenny Jones” murder case began deliberating Friday whether Jonathan Schmitz should be held responsible for shooting a gay man who revealed a crush on him during a taping of the talk show. Scott Amedure, 32, was slain three days after the taping, during which he detailed his sexual fantasies involving Schmitz. Schmitz, a heterosexual, had gone on the show to meet his “secret admirer.” The case has focused attention on “ambush” television and titillating daytime talk shows. The defense didn’t deny that Schmitz, 26, shot Amedure but claimed that he was already in fragile mental condition and that the humiliation at the hands of the talk show’s producers pushed him over the edge. They argued that Schmitz was ambushed during the March 6, 1995, taping because he was led to believe his admirer was a woman.

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Defense in talk-show killing renews request for host to testify

The Grand Rapids Press

Greta Guest,   The Associated Press

23 October 1996

PONTIAC – An attorney for a man accused of killing his gay secret admirer wants a judge to reconsider his ruling that talk show host Jenny Jones does not have to testify at the trial. James Burdick contends in a motion that circumstances have changed since Oakland County Circuit Judge Francis X. O’Brien ruled in pretrial proceedings.

He noted that the prosecution was allowed to elicit testimony from Donna Riley about Jones’ activity during the March 6, 1995, taping of her show and the defense should be allowed to confirm this testimony with Jones. Riley was an acquaintance of Jonathan Schmitz and Scott Amedure, who appeared on “The Jenny Jones Show” taping about same-sex crushes.

Schmitz is charged with first-degree murder in Amedure’s shotgun slaying. It occurred three days after Amedure, 32, confessed his homosexual fantasies for Schmitz during the taping in Chicago.  Assistant Prosecutor Roman Kalytiak said the testimony from Jones is irrelevant.

“The tape of the show is the best evidence,” Kalytiak said.   An attorney representing Telepictures Productions, which owns “The Jenny Jones Show,” argued last November that there was no need for Jones to testify because her only involvement with Schmitz and Amedure was on the tape. The lawyer said Jones is not responsible for selecting show topics or guests.

O’Brien was expected to hear arguments on the new motion today.

Burdick also filed a motion asking that Carole Lieberman, a Beverly Hills, Calif., psychiatrist who frequently testifies in criminal trials, be allowed to testify on Schmitz’s behalf.    Lieberman stated in an evaluation written after spending 10 hours with Schmitz earlier this month that, “Jonathan Schmitz has had a painful, traumatic and chaotic childhood . . . being physically and emotionally abused by his mother and alcoholic father and feeling chronically inadequate because of his size.”

Defense attorneys contend Schmitz was lied to, embarrassed and humiliated when his secret admirer on the talk show was not the woman of his dreams, but Amedure. They say the show triggered Schmitz’s existing problems with manic depression, alcoholism and a thyroid condition and led to Amedure’s death.

Prosecutors contend that Schmitz methodically planned Amedure’s killing and had many opportunities to change his mind while stopping to withdraw cash from his bank and buying a shotgun.

Prosecutors wrapped up their case Tuesday after presenting jurors with crime scene evidence and testimony from 15 witnesses over six days.  The defense called its first witness Tuesday – Dr. Habib Vaziri, who treated Schmitz during six sessions in early 1994, a year before the shooting.  Vaziri testified that Schmitz suffered from depression brought on by low self-esteem, problems with drug and alcohol abuse and an abusive father.   Vaziri said under cross-examination that Schmitz had improved after taking an anti-depressive drug similar to Prozac during the two months he treated him.  But after missing two appointments in April and May 1994, Vaziri did not see Schmitz again until testifying in his murder trial Tuesday. He did not testify about the impact the “Jenny Jones” appearance had on Schmitz.

Lieberman has said she believes the show triggered Schmitz’s psychiatric problems “such that it caused him to begin a descent into madness and self-destruction until he exploded. He did not want to be alive when the show aired.”

If allowed to testify, she stated she will analyze the taping frame-by-frame for the jury.  Lieberman regularly offers her psychiatric evaluations on talk shows. She’s appeared on “The Jenny Jones Show” three times.

Schmitz, 26, of Lake Orion faces a mandatory life sentence in prison if convicted.

(Copyright 1996)