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Talk Show Murder Trial, Part 3

Opening arguments began Thursday in the retrial of murder defendant Jonathan Schmitz.

This is the third time the so-called talk show murder case will be played out inside a Michigan courthouse, reports CBS News Correspondent Drew Levinson. A guilty verdict in a previous criminal trial was thrown out, and a civil trial ended in a finding of negligence against the show and its distributors, who were ordered to pay damages.

But unlike the trial that got so much publicity three months ago, this time, Jenny Jones is not the center of attention. In fact, Jones, who testified during Schmitz's first criminal trial and the civil trial, is not even being called as a witness for the retrial.

Attorneys for Schmitz aim to prove he was provoked into the act by the man he is accused of killing.

The judge has ruled that the defense will not be allowed to present evidence of Schmitz's extensive history of mental illness. Under Michigan law, diminished capacity cannot be used as a defense against a charge of second-degree murder.

Prosecutors say Schmitz murdered Scott Amedure after the two appeared on a taping of The Jenny Jones talk show.

During an episode about same-sex secret crushes, which never aired, Amedure admitted his affection for Schmitz, who was later convicted of second-degree murder. The decision was overturned because of a judge's error.

In April, Amedure's family won a $25 million civil suit against the talk show. The jury agreed the program played a part in the murder by ambushing an emotionally unstable Schmitz with the news.

Warner Bros. lawyer James Feeney said he will ask for a new trial or for a reduction in the award, contending the jury was improperly instructed before deliberations.
Now Schmitz's attorney claims Amedure harassed and stalked his client before and after the show. The defense is calling this a passion crime and is hoping for the lesser charge of manslaughter.

In the defense's opening argument Thursday, attorney Jerome Sabbota contended that Amedure provoked Schmitz and that Schmitz deserved only to be convicted of manslaughter.

"What happens is that Scott Amedure lights a fuse and every time that fuse starts to flicker out, Scott Amedure relights it," he said.

Sabbota played the Jenny Jones segment for the jury and Schmitz's own 911 call that he made confessing to the shooting.

Sabbota said the evidence would show that Amedure pursued Schmitz and lied to him to get him to appear on the show.

"I won't ask you to set him free. I want you to convict him of what he did," Sabbota told the jury.

The jury also heard from eight witnesses, including Amedure's roommate and the officers who arrested Schmitz. Roommate Gary Brady told about seeing Schmitz show up at Amedure's mobile home, wearing the green bow tie and tuxedo shirt Schmitz wore to his restaurant job.

Brady said Schmitz came in once, spoke briefly to Amedure, then went back out o his car and got a camouflaged-painted shotgun.

"There was another knock on the door," Brady said. "He (Amedure) said 'Gary, help! He's got a gun, he's going to shoot."

Oakland County sheriff's Deputy Craig Stout took Schmitz's confession. He said Schmitz was angry about being humiliated on national television.

"He wasn't showing any open emotion," Stout said. "He had kind of a worried look on his face."

Schmitz sat quietly throughout the testimony, mostly staring at the defense table.

Prosecutors will counter that the crime was not impulsive, but planned. With a verdict of manslaughter, Schmitz could get up to 15 years in prison; however, with second-degree murder, he could get up to 50 years in prison.

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