Bernie Tiede, the convicted murderer portrayed by Jack Black in Richard Linklater’s 2011 dark comedy Bernie, was released from prison on Tuesday after a lifetime sentence was reduced to time served. There were a few conditions, in addition to a $10,000 bond. The oddest and most notable of them: living in Linklater’s garage apartment.
A successful funeral director and popular figure in Carthage, Texas, Tiede admitted to shooting 81-year-old millionaire Marjorie Nugent in 1996 and hiding her body in a freezer while he continued to spend her money. He was convicted in 1999 and had been imprisoned ever since – but Linklater’s movie brought increased scrutiny to the case.
New defense lawyers prodded Tiede to admit that he had been repeatedly sexually abused as a teenager, a secret he hadn’t shared with his defense team at his trial. After new psychiatric examinations revealed deep lingering trauma, county district attorney Buck Davidson (who was played by Matthew McConaughey in the film) agreed that he would not have pursued such a stiff sentence. In Texas, the maximum sentence for a murder committed in the heat of the moment – as Davidson now acknowledges Tiede’s was – is 20 years max, so Tiede likely would’ve already been released for good behavior if he’d been initially prosecuted under those terms.
In addition to the $10,000 bond, Tiede needs to receive counseling for sexual abuse, remain in the Austin area, maintain employment as a legal clerk, and live in Linklater’s garage. “Myself and others are determined to help him in any way we can,” the director said, according to the Texas Tribune.
Not everyone is thrilled with the court’s reduced sentence. The victim’s granddaughter, Shannon Nugent, told the paper, “This doesn’t feel like justice for her.”