Bernie Tiede appeals prison sentence, cites retrial 'infected by outside influence'

Updated: Mar. 22, 2017 at 1:00 PM CDT
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Bernie Tiede interviews with media after his re-sentencing (Source: KLTV staff)
Bernie Tiede interviews with media after his re-sentencing (Source: KLTV staff)
Marjorie Nugent's granddaughter Shanna hugs former Panola County captain David Jeter who took...
Marjorie Nugent's granddaughter Shanna hugs former Panola County captain David Jeter who took Bernie Tiede's confession in 1997. (Source: Pool cam)

TEXARKANA, TX (KLTV) - A mortician who killed an East Texas woman and was immortalized in a Hollywood film has filed an appeal over being sent back to prison for life.

Bernie Tiede was re-sentenced to 99 years in prison in 2016 for the murder of Marjorie Nugent, who he had become a companion of in the Panola County town of Carthage. In 1996, the 81-year-old Nugent was killed in her Carthage home at the hands of Tiede who put her body in a freezer for nine months. A re-sentencing trial was ordered by the Court of Criminal Appeals after lawyers for Bernie introduced evidence that suggested he was sexually assaulted as a child.

Attorneys for Tiede filed the appeal Tuesday in the Sixth Court of Appeals, requesting an oral argument before the court.

In the appeal, Tiede's attorney Jonathan Landers of Houston, asks why an alleged deal between Tiede and Panola County District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson for a twenty year sentence was not honored.

Landers also questions a "biased" grand juror on the panel that indicted Tiede in 1997. According to the appeal, an interview with a grand juror said that they "never really cared for" Tiede and always thought he was a "phony." The grand juror reportedly said that he knew Tiede was a 'bad person.'

The appeal also argues that the 2016 re-sentencing of Tiede in nearby Rusk County was "infected by outside influence." Landers mentions that Bernie's attorneys had suggested to have the trial moved out of East Texas altogether, suggesting a venue in the Houston area in Harris or Galveston Counties. However, Visiting Judge Diane DeVasto decided to move the case to adjacent Rusk County.

In the appeal, Tiede's attorney brought up an instance where during a lunch break in the re-sentencing, protesters were out in front of the courthouse holding signs that said "Hollywood should not hijack justice" and "He should be back in prison." However, Judge DeVasto instructed the bailiffs to take the jury on the other side of the courthouse to not see the protesters.

The appeal also mentions a last minute issue that was brought up during deliberations where a waitress at a local restaurant mentioned one of the jurors had been discussing matters of the jury. That night, the court brought two jurors into the courtroom and both denied speaking about the case.

After the re-sentencing in 2016, prosecutors from the Texas Attorney General's Office said it was an open and shut case.

"When you really look at what the murder was, it was execution. You don't execute people and you don't execute 80-year-old people," said Special Prosecutor Lisa Tanner said after the April 2016 re-sentencing.

Nugent's granddaughter said justice prevailed over Hollywood in sending Tiede back to prison.

"Justice 1, Hollywood 0," said Marjorie Nugent's granddaughter, Shanna Nugent.

A response from the State of Texas has not been filed with the Sixth Court of Appeals at this time. After the re-sentencing, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement:

"Our office is on a mission to achieve justice for victims and families in Texas. Our prosecutors and staff work tirelessly for the people of Texas, and we thank the jury for their service and diligent work in ensuring a just verdict."

+Back behind bars: Bernie Tiede sentenced to 99 years or life in prison
+One day before trial, attorneys argue over Bernie Tiede's 1997 confession
+Bernie Tiede released from prison on bond
+Juror talks about Bernie Tiede trial and sentence
+Bernie Tiede wins appeal
+More coverage of the Bernie Tiede case

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