Bernie Murder Trial Begins This Week

The murder trial for Bernie Tiede begins this week in Rusk County. In this trial the sole issue for the jury to consider is the proper punishment Tiede should receive for the murder of Marjorie Nugent. Tiede was originally convicted of the murder in 1996. His case was reversed for a new punishment phase.

The case was made famous in the movie Bernie which was released in theaters in 2011. No doubt the popularity of the movie had a lot to do with the reversal of the punishment phase. Now Tiede’s attorneys will try to convince a new jury that he deserves probation or a short term in prison.

In 1990 Tiede was working as an assistant mortician in Carthage Texas and befriended Nugent after he helped with her husband’s funeral. They soon became friends and Tiede quit his job to become Nugent’s assistant. Nugent disappeared and for six months Tiede began distributing large sums of Nugent’s money to various churches and organizations. It was then discovered Tiede had shot Nugent and placed her body in a freezer.

It will be interesting to see how many of the jury pool have read about the case or seen the movie. The defense will try to use experts to convince the jury that Tiede’s past sex abuse helped trigger the shooting. They will also try to show Nugent as an abusive person who pushed Tiede into committing murder. They hope to get a finding of sudden passion from the jury which will limit the range of punishment to 20 years. If Tiede receives a 20 years sentence he will probably be released because of the back time he has accrued.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office is now handling the prosecution and they will be asking the jury for a life sentence. The prosecutors will try to show that any sexual abuse Tiebe suffered (If there was any) has nothing to do with the reasons for committing the crime. They will try to show Tiebe is a cold-blooded murderer of an elderly lady who was so callous he dumped her body in a freezer and then began spending her money.

Despite the Hollywood movie this trial may not have a Hollywood ending. The prosecution may present a strong case and the evidence may not  portray Bernie as the sympathetic character he was in the movie. Bernie has a good chance of getting some significant time.

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