The man whose murder conviction inspired the dark comedy "Bernie" is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday in an effort to stay out of prison.
Tuesday's hearing for Bernie Tiede in the East Texas town of Carthage is being held ahead of a trial scheduled for Jan. 11.
The Austin American-Statesman reports the trial will have a twofold purpose: A sentencing phase for his murder conviction and a trial on theft charges.
Tiede's theft charge has been pending since he was found guilty of murder.
Defense lawyer Jodi Cole will argue that Tiede's theft change should be dismissed because it violates his right to a speedy trial, particularly after several potential witnesses have died. Prosecutors say the statute of limitations doesn't apply after an indictment has been issued and that there are other witnesses still alive who could present the same information.
Since Tiede was released from prison on bond in May 2014, Prosecutor Danny Buck Davidson has stepped aside under pressure from members of the victim's family who want Tiede back in prison and convicted of theft for spending about $618,000 of Nugent's money.
Davidson aggressively prosecuted Tiede for murder in 1999, believing him to be a coldblooded killer who carried on with life as if nothing happened. But newly discovered evidence that Tiede had been sexually abused by his uncle explained many of his actions before and after the murder, Davidson has said.
Last year, Davidson joined defense lawyers who asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to grant a new sentencing trial so jurors could hear the evidence of abuse before deciding Tiede's punishment.
Davidson has been replaced by Assistant Attorney General Lisa Tanner, who opposes the defense motions.
"This is not the state's recommendation and no plea agreement currently exists," she wrote.
Tiede served 17 years in prison for killing wealthy widow Marjorie Nugent and storing her body in a freezer. He was released last year after Davidson agreed that the former mortician was wrongly sentenced to life imprisonment.