On March 6th, 1995, twenty-four-year-old Jonathon Schmitz left his Michigan home to travel to Chicago. He was contacted by the Jenny Jones Show and told that he had a secret admirer. Jonathon was looking forward to seeing who the admirer was and attended out of curiosity.
As he walked out on to the stage, he saw his friend Donna Riley and a friend of hers named Scott Amedure. Jonathon, blushing, seems surprised and hugs Donna Riley. That’s when Jenny Jones told him that Scott Amedure was his admirer. “You lied to me” Schmitz said with an awkward giggle. He then proclaims that he is heterosexual and not interested in Scott that way. The events of that day, however, started a downward spiral for Jonathon that shocked everyone.
Three days after the taping, Jonathon Schmitz found a sexually suggestive note on his door from Scott Amedure. This angered Jonathon, so he went and withdrew money from his bank account. Using this money, he purchased a gun and ammunition. He went over to Scott’s trailer and knocked on the door. He confronted Scott about the note, to which Scott just smiled. Jonathon told him he had to turn his car off, but he was actually going to get the gun.
He returned to the trailer and pointed the gun at Scott. A thrown chair suggests that Scott tried to defend himself, but Jonathon shot him twice in the chest. Scott Amedure died almost instantly.
The LGBTQ+ “panic” defense strategy is a legal strategy that asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is to blame for a defendant’s violent reaction, including murder. It is not a free-standing defense to criminal liability, but rather a legal tactic used to bolster other defenses. When a perpetrator uses an LGBTQ+ “panic” defense, they are claiming that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity not only explains—but excuses—a loss of self-control and the subsequent assault. By fully or partially acquitting the perpetrators of crimes against LGBTQ+ victims, this defense implies that LGBTQ+ lives are worth less than others.
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