Bernie in Austin

The real Bernie could be released from prison to live with Richard Linklater

The real Bernie could leave prison to live with Richard Linklater

UPDATE: Bernie Tiede was released on bond Tuesday and will live with Richard Linklater in Austin. 


The Texas Tribune is reporting that Bernie Tiede, the subject of the 2011 film Bernie by Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater, could be released from prison on Tuesday — and the conditions are quite surprising. According to the Tribune, Tiede, who is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Marjorie Nugent, would be released to live with Linklater in Austin. He would also be required to receive counseling for sexual abuse. 

In 1996, Tiede shot his 81-year-old companion Marjorie Nugent and stuffed her body into a deep freezer. Nugent and Tiede, who met at a funeral home where Tiede worked in the small East Texas town of Carthage, built a friendship around shopping, seeing performances and traveling. 

The bizarre relationship became the subject of Linklater's dark comedy, Bernie, in which Tiede was portrayed by Jack Black and Nugent by Shirley MacLaine. The film's release resurrected interest in the case and eventually resulted in new attorneys signing on to assist Tiede with his appeal. During further investigation, Tiede's new lawyers discovered that he had been repeatedly sexually abused as a teenager. 

"As they investigated the case, they noticed Tiede had a small collection of self-help books for victims of sexual abuse," reports the Texas Tribune. "When pressed by a counselor, Tiede admitted that he had been abused — something he had not told his lawyers during the 1999 trial." 

The attorneys contend that if jurors had known of the abuse, he would have received a lighter sentence, and would likely already be out of prison. Panola County District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson, who oversaw Tiede's prosecution, agrees. "I’m not telling you I like it, but there’s not much I can do about it now," he told the Tribune. 

A state judge will hear testimonies from psychiatrists who have evaluated Tiede, as well as Linklater. According to the Tribune, Davidson expects Tiede to be released on bond Tuesday. If he is released, Tiede will live in Austin under the supervision of Linklater, until the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals approves the reduced sentence.

Bernie Tiede
Bernie Tiede could be released to live with Richard Linklater.  Courtesy of