PHOTO: Bernie Tiede leaves the Panola County Courthouse on May 6, 2014. An East Texas judge on Tuesday ordered Tiede’s second murder trial to be held in Henderson, seat of neighboring Rusk County. PHOTO by LESLIE BOORHEM-STEPHENSON
by JONATHAN SILVER
CARTHAGE — Convicted murderer Bernie Tiede’s new sentencing trial will be moved from Carthage — where he killed 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent nearly two decades ago — to Henderson, in a neighboring East Texas county, a visiting state district judge ruled Tuesday.
Tiede, the subject of filmmaker Richard Linklater’s 2011 dark comedy based on the killing, returned to a Carthage courtroom Tuesday to fight the state’s efforts to send him back to prison. Tiede was convicted in 1999 of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. But after the film was released, Tiede’s attorney presented evidence that he was sexually abused as a child, a factor they argued might have persuaded the original jury to give him a lighter sentence.
With the agreement of the original prosecutor in the case, visiting state District Judge Diane DeVasto allowed Tiede to be released on bond while his sentencing is revisited.
On Tuesday, DeVasto sided with the state’s lawyers in relocating the trial to nearby Rusk County; they were concerned they wouldn’t get a fair trial in Carthage, where Tiede is a popular figure. A signed written order from the judge was pending Tuesday afternoon, according to the Panola County District Clerk’s office.
DeVasto also granted the state’s motion to require Tiede’s lawyers to inform the state by written notice of the names and addresses of any witnesses “who he reasonably anticipates calling to testify.” DeVasto did not rule on the defense’s motion to dismiss a 19-year-old felony theft charge Tiede faces for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Nugent’s estate after her death. He was never tried on that charge.
The new sentencing trial starts in January.
JONATHAN SILVER reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.