Jury awards $25 million in 'Jenny Jones Show' lawsuit
May 7, 1999
Web posted at: 1:20 p.m. EDT (1720 GMT)
PONTIAC, Michigan (CNN) -- A jury on Friday ordered producers of "The Jenny Jones Show" to pay more than $25 million to the family of a gay man who was slain after revealing during the taping of a show that he had a crush on a male guest.
The jury of five women and four men, after deliberating under seven hours over two days, found the show and its owner, Warner Bros., negligent in the death of Scott Amedure, 32. He was killed a few days after the 1995 taping.
Eight out of nine jurors had to approve a verdict; one juror told the judge that he had voted against it.
Amedure's father, Frank, hugged lawyers and family members after the verdict was read. The family had sought a damage award of $71.5 million.
Besides funeral expenses of $6,500, jurors awarded $5 million in damages for Amedure's suffering before he died, $10 million to the family for the loss of his companionship and $10 million for the loss of money Amedure would have earned.
"Anyone involved in the business of interviewing ordinary people ... ought to be very concerned about the chilling effect this decision will have on them," defense lawyer James Feeney said outside the courtroom.
"These are issues that have much broader implication than just 'The Jenny Jones Show."' He said the defense would appeal.
|A jury deliberated nearly seven hours before ordering the show's producers to pay $25 million in damages|
Amedure's family had argued that a mentally ill Jonathan Schmitz was lured onto the talk show in 1995, believing he would meet a woman, and was humiliated into murder when his secret admirer turned out to be Amedure. Schmitz, who admitted shooting Amedure, has said he is heterosexual.
Schmitz was convicted in 1996 in Amedure's death but the verdict was thrown out on appeal. He awaits a retrial in August.
Lawyers for Warner Bros., the show's owner, argued Schmitz was told his secret admirer could be a man or woman, and the show played no role in Amedure's death.
A producer testified that Schmitz hadn't seemed upset after the taping. Producers also contended Schmitz might have killed Amedure because the two had a sexual encounter, a charge plaintiffs' attorney Geoffrey Fieger denied.
Jurors watched the taped episode showing Amedure talking about a sexual fantasy involving Schmitz, and Schmitz's reaction when the fantasy is shown to him -- he buries his face in his hands.
CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack called the jury verdict a "substantial" and "astounding" one.
Talks shows with sensational themes should "be very, very careful" and check on the psychological backgrounds of their guests, Cossack warned.
CNN News Group, owned by Time Warner unit TBS, includes Cable News Network and an array of related news and information services including CNN Interactive.
Correspondent Ed Garsten contributed to this report.
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