Man who shot and killed gay admirer freed from prison after 22 years
A convict who murdered a gay man for expressing attraction to him will be released from jail this week after more than two decades behind bars.
Scott Amedure, of Lake Orion, Michigan, was shot and killed in 1995, days after he confessed his attraction to Jonathan Schmitz while the pair were both appearing on Jerry Springer-style TV show The Jenny Jones Show.
The murder took place just days after The Jenny Jones Show taping, with Schmitz buying a shotgun and shooting Mr Amedure twice in the chest.
Schmitz,who was 24 at the time of the killing, was found guilty of second degree murder.
The murderer was sentenced to 25 years behind bars, but was released from a Jackson, Michigan prison on August 22 this year – 22 years on from the killing.
The case is a poignant one as it is one of the most prominent examples of a ‘gay panic’ defence.
In court, Schmitz confessed to committing the crime but argued that Amedure’s homosexual overtures angered and humiliated him.
He later pursued a legal appeal, insisting that his response was justified for the humiliation he had suffered.
Incredibly, his conviction was briefly overturned by a Michigan jury in 1999, but was reinstated following a further appeal.
Stephanie White, executive director of Equality Michigan, said: “The parole of Jonathan Schmitz is a reminder of the violence that LGBTQ Americans face across our country and right here in 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.”
Mr Amedure’s family had also pursued a wrongful death suit against Warner Bros and the producers of The Jenny Jones Show, arguing that they had been negligent in the approach to the TV segment.
The family were initially awarded $25 million in damages, but the judgment was subsequently overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals.
The ‘gay panic’ defence became a national conversation after Mr Amedure’s murder. It grew stronger after the murder of US student Matthew Shepard.
Mr Shepard was killed in October 1998 on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming, by two men he had met in a bar.
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Local residents Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, both 21 at the time, were charged with his murder.
The thugs attempted to argue in court that that they suffered “a moment of insanity” when Mr Shepard allegedly made sexual advances to him.
Matthew Shepard was robbed, beaten and left to die tied to a fence.
In 2009 President Obama signed the the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named in his honour.
The law added federal-level hate crime protections for crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.