“Bernie,” the 2011 Linklater film starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey, chronicled the 1996 murder of 81-year-old millionaire Marjorie Nugent by her 38-year-old companion, Bernhardt “Bernie” Tiede. Tiede was sentenced to life in prison after it was determined that he shot Nugent in the back and then stuffed her into a freezer.
But recently, Tiede’s conviction has been the subject of new developments. Danny Buck Davidson, the Panola County district attorney who oversaw Tiede’s prosecution, said that evidence had come to light detailing Tiede’s childhood sexual abuse from the age of 12 to 18. After the release of Linklater’s 2011 film, new lawyers came on board to assist Tiede with his appeals. During their process, they noticed Tiede’s collection of self-help books for victims of sexual abuse and decided to pry further into his past. New psychiatric evaluation determined that Tiede’s shooting of Nugent was brought on by his traumatic history and that the shooting was the result of a “dissociative experience” triggered by Nugent’s own abusive behavior towards Tiede.
Davidson planned to file an affidavit with the court Tuesday agreeing that as a result of these enlightenments, Tiede’s sentence should be reduced. The maximum term for a “crime of passion” such as this would have been considered is 20 years, and Tiede has already served 17. Linklater will be providing testimony for the potential release, and has reportedly offered up his own home for Tiede’s rehabilitation. It is expected that Tiede will be released Tuesday on the condition that he receive counseling for sexual abuse, and that he live with Linklater in Austin.