Dallas Morning News
By Tod Robberson
December 2, 2014
The family of elderly murder victim Marjorie Nugent sent a letter Monday to the prosecutor in the case, Panola County District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson, asking that he recuse himself from appearing before the court for the convicted murderer’s new sentencing hearing. If Davidson doesn’t recuse himself, it’s a near certainty that murderer Bernie Tiede, whose exploits were portrayed sympathetically in the 2011 film Bernie, will remain free despite having received a life sentence for the 1996 murder. First degree murder.
You’ll notice that I got the word “murder” in that first paragraph a lot. That’s because Tiede killed Nugent with absolute and admitted premeditation, and he’s about to walk free forever after only 17 years in prison.
He embezzled millions of dollars of her money. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last week granted a new sentencing hearing over the objections of the panel’s chief justice, accepting Tiede’s assertion that this was an act of “sudden passion” brought on by a dissociative episode relating to his alleged sexual abuse as a teenager. None of this was presented or proven in a court trial.
Davidson has befriended Bernie film director Richard Linklater and embraced Linklater’s campaign to win Tiede’s freedom. Davidson attended the Bernie premier and is reported to have hosted Linklater in his home. This is hardly the picture of objectivity that a prosecutor needs in order to represent the cause of justice.
According to the Nugents, Davidson lied before a judge when the judge asked whether Davidson had notified the family members of the murder victim about the effort to cut short Tiede’s prison sentence. The judge noticed that none of the family members were present in court and asked Davidson specifically if he had notified the family, and he answered, “Yes, ma’am.”
“This was an outright falsehood, and violated your ethical requirement of candor toward the tribunal. As you fully know, neither you nor your office made any effort to contact Ms. Nugent*s family about these new proceedings either before they began, or afterward,” wrote attorney Johnny K. Merritt on behalf of the family, in a letter to Davidson.
Because the family was never notified, they never had an opportunity to argue against Tiede’s release. Which meant there was no one in the courtroom to argue on behalf of the victim. No wonder the proceeding was lopsided in favor of the murderer.
“For the sake of keeping objectivity in Texas’ criminal justice system, Davidson needs to recuse himself,” Shanna Nugent, Marjorie Nugent’s granddaughter, said in a statement. “Davidson is an elected official, charged with keeping criminals in prison and keeping our communities safe. Yet he openly collaborates with the defense team of a convicted murderer. That special treatment for a murderer should frighten every Texan, as well as everyone in Panola County.”
Davidson has no business standing before the court in this case. A woman was murdered in cold blood, and the prosecutor is now standing in defense of the killer. That’s twisted Texas justice at its worst.