In 1995, Jenny Jones' popular talk show ran a segment on secret crushes. Audiences cheered as Scott Amedure revealed his admiration for acquaintance Jonathan Schmitz — but the episode's history is mired in horror.
A few days after the filming, Amedure was found dead.
According to CBS, Schmitz had killed Amedure over his same-sex crush, shooting him dead in his mobile home three days after the taping. He turned himself into police, saying he committed the crime because he was embarrassed on national television.
Now, more than two decades later, Schmitz is walking free.
The episode, which never aired due to the fallout from the murder, has recently been made available. In it, Schmitz can be seen demurely saying that he is "completely heterosexual," while looking uncomfortable.
“What you are seeing on the tape is a 24-year-old man facing the studio audience and the camera with what I consider to be an ambush,” Richard Thompson, the prosecutor in the case, told The Washington Post in 1995. “He is visibly upset. People are laughing. It’s like a Roman circus where the audience gives a thumbs up or thumbs down to everything that is going on.”
The trial around the murder was deeply controversial as well. According to The Washington Post, Schmitz was found guilty in 1996, but the verdict was overturned due to jury selection errors. The defense had attempted to argue that Schmitz was manic-depressive and that he had been stalked by Amedure. A second jury in 1999 returned the same verdict.
A Michigan civil jury found the show's producers liable for the death and awarded the victim's family $25 million, a decision which was also later reversed.
Schmitz could have been in jail until 2037, but was granted parole after a March hearing.