Trash TV turned deadly in 1995, the term "gay panic" became a courtroom defense.
Long before camera crews followed people around in their everyday lives to make them the train wreck celebrities of reality television, shows such as “Jerry Springer” and “Sally Jessie” put the drama on stage in what was deemed “Trash TV,” but for one of these programs it turned deadly in 1995.
The Jenny Jones Show was a somewhat popular entry into the amalgam of disaster zones which played out in syndication. Lurid sensationalism involving cheating spouses, shaming make-overs, and KKK members were all topics on these shows and they drew in the daytime ratings.
However, one mid-90's Jones episode, which never made it to air, put an end to all that when producers allowed a gay man to reveal his secret crush on a heterosexual friend.
Straight Jonathan Schmitz came on the show reportedly unaware that a young man named Scott Amedure was going to vow his love for him, which he did. The scene was awkward and uncomfortable for both guests, but after the show, Schmiitz distraught about the revelation bought a shotgun and shot Amedure twice in the chest.
The incident made headline news and eventually resulted in a 25 to 50-year prison sentence for Schmitz. That sentence was cut short and Schmitz was released from prison on August 22, 2017, after only 22 years.
According to New Now Next, LGBT advocates are not pleased with Schmitz early parole and say it is yet another example of violence in the community, even today.
“The parole of Jonathan Schmitz is a reminder of the violence that LGBTQ Americans face across our country and right here in Michigan,” said Stephanie White of Equality Michigan. “It’s also a reminder of just how important it is that we work to dismantle the LGBTQ bias that leads to things like the ‘gay panic’ defense in our courtrooms. We have a great deal of work still to do.”
The parents of Scott Amedure sued Jenny Jones and won $29 million, only to have that ruling overturned in appeals. The judge saying the show “had no duty to anticipate and prevent the act of murder committed by Schmitz three days after leaving the studio.”