November 17, 2014
AUSTIN -- The Texas Court Appeals is carefully weighing Bernie Tiede's future after he gave a written confession to killing Marjorie Nugent, determining whether it is a crime of passion or premeditated.
The movie "Bernie" portrays the life of a man -- who some call the nicest man -- in Carthage, Texas, who snaps, murdering the elderly widow he's charged with caring for.
That's not how the victim's family says it happened.
"The movie made a joke out of my grandmother's murder, which I find disgusting," said Marjorie Nugent's granddaughter, Shanna Nugent.
In a written statement, Bernie Tiede confessed to shooting Marjorie Nugent four times in the back. He received a life sentence, which Nugent's family considers fair.
"He stole her money," Nugent said. "He killed her. He conned her in every single way."
In May 2014, the state temporarily released Tiede from prison, ordering him to live with "Bernie" director and friend Richard Linklater in Austin while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals considered new evidence. The evidence relates to both Tiede's history of being sexually abused and allegations of an abusive relationship between him and Nugent.
A psychiatrist said both of those things caused Tiede to have a disassociated episode, or a detachment from reality, in which he killed Nugent.
"In my opinion, he acted on an impulse," a defense psychiatrist said.
Nugent's family disagrees.
"It's planned, it's premeditated and Bernie Tiede is not Jack Black," Nugent said.
In his confession, Tiede also admits thinking about hitting Nugent in the head with a bat, but not wanting her to suffer.
Even Danny Buck Davidson, the Panola County district attorney -- played by Matthew McConaughey -- once leading the charge against Tiede, has since changed his tune. He now believes 17 years is enough punishment.
Now Shanna Nugent and her family say they're reliving the worst phase in their lives.
"I believed everyone was good and I don't believe that anymore," Nugent said.