Longview News Journal
December 20, 2014
By Glenn Evans
Marjorie Nugent’s family believes correspondence between the Panola County district attorney and the people who made a movie about the elderly woman’s killer will show a conflict of interest in the case.
Bernie Tiede’s life sentence was vacated in May on a joint motion by DA Danny Buck Davidson, who in 1999 won a life sentence against Tiede for the November 1997 fatal shooting of 81-year-old Nugent.
A 2011 Hollywood feature film called “Bernie” about Tiede and Nugent’s dysfunctional relationship started a ball rolling toward May’s hearing. Tiede, on $10,000 bond, now is a court-ordered house guest of the film’s director, Richard Linklater.
“Richard Linklater said in Variety (entertainment magazine), Danny Buck Davidson as far back as two years ago asked how he could help get Bernie out of prison,” Nugent family spokesman Ryan Gravatt said. “You just do a simple Google search, and you can find (Davidson) arm-in-arm with all the people that are associated with that movie.”
Davidson, who told a visiting judge in May that Tiede’s new sentence should be the 15 years he already served, did not return a call seeking comment for this story.
Gravatt and Shanna Nugent, Marjorie Nugent’s granddaughter, say their open records request reached Davidson on Tuesday.
The request is voluminous, seeking all electronic and other correspondence between Davidson and Linklater, screenplay co-writer Skip Hollandsworth and stars of the movie, including Jack Black, Shirley MacClaine and Matthew McConaughey. The latter actor, a Longview High School graduate, portrayed Davidson in the film.
The request seeks documentation of any financial gain Davidson might have made through the film, a list of promotional events and a list of meetings and phone conversations with the movie’s producers and actors.
“I think it’s very important to realize the guys who wrote the movie, directed and wrote and put the movie on, paid for Bernie’s defense lawyer,” Shanna Nugent said. “So, if Danny Buck had a relationship with those guys, he should have been conflicted-out of presiding in the writ (of habeas corpus) hearing.”
Requests under the Texas Public Information Act start a clock ticking and require a prompt reply. The government entity holding the information is allowed to send documents it is uncertain are public to the Texas attorney general for a determination.
The entity must notify the requester within 10 business days of the request of how it is responding.
A spokesman for the attorney general’s office also said the state may ask additional time for voluminous requests.
Pending theft indictment
An attorney in Addison, Shanna Nugent also has hounded Davidson about a felony theft indictment that remains pending against Tiede.
The family contends Tiede stole from their matron long before he shot her four times.
“We know for a fact Bernie Tiede stole $2.5 million from my grandmother,” she said, basing her claim on research the family has conducted into the $5 million Rod Nugent left his widow, Marjorie, in 1990.
“We don’t know where the other $2.5 million went. ... He gave $30,000 to $60,000 to the community.”
Tiede planned and killed Marjorie Nugent to cover the theft, the granddaughter said. Tiede’s successful plea in May was that he shot Nugent in a sudden, uncontrollable rage when her controlling behavior triggered trauma from childhood sexual abuse.
That claim had not been presented in the 1999 trial, and it was cited by Davidson as new evidence in his consent with Tiede’s defense motion to vacate the life sentence.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has since agreed with the Panola District Court and ordered a second punishment trial on the murder conviction. The appeals court set Monday as a deadline for the court in Carthage to issue a warrant bringing Tiede back from Austin to East Texas.
However, a filing by the Nugent family, asking the Austin court to reconsider its agreement with the Carthage court, places the timing of Tiede’s transfer in question.
Neither the second sentencing trial nor a trial on the theft charge had been scheduled by Friday.