etflix’s latest crime documentary, “Trial By Media” poses a thought-provoking question to its audience; how does the court of public opinion impact a judicial system and its verdicts?
Sometimes, a passing occurrence on TV can lead to unintended real-life consequences. This is just what Clooney’s newest co-production, the Netflix docuseries Trial By Media reiterates. Exactly what it aims to say, or prove, is unclear. If it aims to indicate “the media,” it fails. All it indicates is human nature and human frailty.
It highlights six instances, over different episodes, where the media played a crucial role in shaping the narrative and possibly influencing the verdict of a court case.
The stories explored in this series, span wild and tragic moments in American history throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. Each episode looks into the media’s role in publicizing the case, and how they ultimately shaped general views of crime, often for the worse.
Here’s what to know about the cases at the center of Trial by Media.
The murder of Scott Amedure
The first case tackled is known as the “talk show murder”. It is of the murder of Scott Amedure, who appeared on the 90s television program “The Jenny Jones Show” to tape an episode about “Same-Sex Secret Crushes”. In the course of the episode, (which never aired), he informs another man, Jonathan Schmitz, that he has a crush on him in a revelation that takes the man by surprise. Shortly after the taping, Schmitz murders Amedure, later claiming that it was out of embarrassment over what happened on the talk show.
Later, the Amedure family sued the Jones show for negligence and that trial was televised. It was chaotic, real courtroom drama, heavily covered by national and local news. There is no narrative strand, no sense of what is being probed.
Schmitz was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison in 1996 and was released in 2017. Amedure’s family successfully got a ruling grant of $25 million from the program; however, it was later overturned.