DALLAS (AP) — The East Texas convicted killer portrayed in the film "Bernie" should not have gotten an early release due to new claims that he was abused as a child and by the elderly widow he shot, the widow's relatives argued this week.
Bernie Tiede is out on bond after a judge agreed last month that his original life sentence for shooting 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent was too harsh.
Nugent's family members say they weren't told about the deal to release the 55-year-old Tiede, and that he should be sent back to prison.
Tiede's attorneys argued in a May hearing that he was abused as a child and mistreated by Nugent, causing him to kill her during a brief dissociative episode.
Prosecutor Danny Buck Davidson, who pushed hard to convict Tiede in 1999 over the objections of some people in the town of Carthage, said at the hearing that he agreed. He also said Tiede deserved to be convicted of second-degree murder, which carried a maximum 20-year sentence.
But Nugent's son and grandchildren said in a court filing Tuesday that Davidson's change of heart wasn't enough. They said Tiede should have revealed the abuse when he was convicted, and that it could not be considered new evidence now.
"Nothing in Texas law supports setting aside a jury's valid, error-free sentence simply because a prosecutor wishes to re-evaluate his exercise of prosecutorial discretion nearly two decades after the relevant events," their filing said.
The Nugent family made its filing with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which must decide whether to affirm Tiede's release. Davidson did not return a phone message Wednesday morning.
For now, Tiede is living with Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater, who made the movie that brought new attention to his case. Jack Black played Tiede, a small-town funeral director who befriended Nugent, portrayed by Shirley MacLaine, after her husband's funeral.
Tiede and Nugent lived lavishly and took more than a dozen trips. But Tiede shot Nugent four times in the back in 1996, then hid her body in a freezer and lied about her whereabouts for almost a year.
The movie depicted Tiede as a sympathetic figure who gave money to charitable causes and helped local businesses, while Nugent was seen as a crotchety cheapskate. Nugent's relatives have protested that portrayal.