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‘Jenny Jones’ Civil Trial Begins

March 31, 1999

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) _ ``The Jenny Jones″ show and its distributor ``lit the fuse″ that led to a guest’s shooting death, an attorney for the victim’s family said today during opening statements in a lawsuit.

A waitress, a machinist, a retiree and a decorator are among jurors chosen Tuesday.

Scott Amedure was killed in 1995, three days after revealing a crush on a heterosexual acquaintance, Jonathan Schmitz, during a taping of the show. Schmitz was convicted of second-degree murder in 1996, but the conviction was overturned last fall due to an error in jury selection. Schmitz’s retrial is pending.

Amedure’s family contends in the $50 million lawsuit that the show’s producers lied to Schmitz about the gender of his admirer, disregarded warnings about the dangers of surprising guests and had no concern about Schmitz’s mental state. The suit names the show, distributor Warner Bros. and producer Telepictures Productions.

In his opening statement, attorney Geoffrey Fieger said he will show ``that they lit the fuse that resulted in Jonathan Schmitz committing this god-awful and unspeakable act.″

Defense lawyers were expected to present their opening statements later.

Attorneys for Warner Bros. have said they will present testimony to show Schmitz was never lied to and repeatedly was told his secret admirer might be a man or woman. Lawyers have indicated they also will argue that the show’s responsibility ended when the two men walked out of the studio.

Telepictures lawyer Jim Feeney said outside court today that he has witnesses who will testify that Amedure and Schmitz had a sexual relationship after the show’s taping.

``There is no question they had a relationship and it was sexual and that Scott Amedure told his mother of that,″ Feeney told reporters outside the courtroom this morning. ``We’re confident we’re going to present very extensive evidence as to the relationship between these two guys.″

Schmitz made no such claim when he was on trial.

The judge ruled in a pretrial motion this morning that Feeney must give the names of those witnesses to Fieger, the Amedures’ attorney. If Fieger finds those witness’ stories questionable, he can request an evidentiary hearing on whether they can testify.

Fieger today called such testimony prejudicial, irrelevant and questioned whether such witnesses or testimony even exists.

Jones is listed as a witness in the case. Feeney said it was likely she would testify early next week.

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