Attorneys for Bernie Tiede, re-sentenced by an East Texas jury last week to 99 years or life in prison in the killing of wealthy Carthage widow Marjorie Nugent, say they will request a new trial.
Tiede's attorneys say they will argue that their high-profile client deserves a third shot at sentencing because the case should have been moved out of East Texas, they weren't allowed to call crucial witnesses and an outburst by Nugent's son could have prejudiced the jury.
Tiede, a former mortician who became a full-time companion to Nugent, shot her four times in the back in 1996, hid her body in a freezer and went about his life as if nothing had changed. Nugent's body was discovered nine months later.
Tiede said in a confession that he was ending an abusive relationship. His defense didn't hold for a San Augustine County jury in 1999, when he was first given a life sentence. The murder inspired the 2011 dark comedy "Bernie," which led to an attorney revisiting his case and discovering sexual abuse that could have been a mitigating circumstance in Nugent's death. Tiede was granted a new trial in 2014 to re-evaluate his punishment.
The second time around, a jury in Rusk County heard special prosecutors from the state attorney general's office paint Tiede as someone who enjoyed the high life, keeping the company of older, widowed women for their money. They said he killed Nugent when he feared that his mismanagement of her money would be revealed. Tiede's attorneys said their client, a generous, loving man, was the victim and that Nugent was a bitter and relentless woman who alienated friends and family and emotionally abused Tiede.
Tiede's legal team has 30 days to raise reasons why their client deserves a new trial. Mike DeGeurin, one of Tiede's attorneys, said he requested a change of venue so the trial would not be in East Texas. The judge denied the request, he said. The court also blocked some of their witnesses from testifying, DeGeurin said.
The defense also plans to highlight fiery testimony from Nugent's son, Rod Jr., who said before leaving the stand that Tiede should face the death penalty.
"I did get the judge to stop it after it’d been said and instruct the jury to disregard it," DeGeurin said. "I don’t know. It’s hard to disregard something like that. The law seems to assume that the jury will do whatever the judge tells them to do, but it’s kinda hard to wipe that out of your mind."
Hollywood's characterization of Tiede did not hold because two juries in two cities saw all the facts of the case, said Marjorie Nugent's granddaughter, Shanna Nugent.
"Bernie Tiede wasn’t this really nice guy who took care of this old woman," she said. "He was a man who basically perpetrated a one-victim Ponzi scheme on a newly elderly widow. He stole $3.8 million from her, and then when he was about to be caught, he executed her."
With Tiede back behind bars for the rest of his life, the granddaughter said, the Nugent family will focus on preventing others from experiencing what their family did.
"I think financial elder abuse is a real problem. Having men try to romance older, wealthy women in order to get their money is actually a real crime that’s on the rise," she said. "And I think more people need to be on the lookout for that."