Murder trial opens for attorney who claims he shot wife by accident

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By: CBS, Associated Press
March 13, 2018

ATLANTA. Ga. (CBS/AP) -- No one disputes that a well-connected and influential Atlanta attorney fatally shot his wife. The question jurors must consider over the coming weeks is whether he did it on purpose.

The six man, six woman jury was selected Monday, reports CBS affiliate WGCL; and while they have not been sequestered, the judge warned jurors against watching news coverage of the trial.

Claud "Tex" McIver, 75, faces charges including murder in the September 2016 death of his wife, 64-year-old Diane McIver. Lawyers for both sides delivered their opening statements Tuesday in a trial that is expected to last through the end of the month.

Prosecutor Seleta Griffin told jurors in her opening statement that the McIvers appeared to live a storybook life but, she said, there were problems beneath the surface and Tex McIver intentionally killed his wife. Defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer countered that the seemingly perfect relationship was genuine and the shooting was a tragic accident.

The couple was wealthy and politically connected. He was a partner at a prominent labor and employment law firm and vice chair of the state election board. She was president of U.S. Enterprises Inc., the parent company of Corey Airport Services, where she had worked for 43 years.

Both were financially well-off when they married, a second marriage for both of them, and they kept separate finances. They lived in a lavish condo in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood and also spent a lot of time at a property they called their ranch in rural Putnam County, about 75 miles east of Atlanta.

The couple was returning home from the ranch on the evening of Sept. 25, 2016. Dani Jo Carter, a close friend of Diane McIver, was driving the couple's Ford Expedition, Diane McIver was in the front passenger seat and Tex McIver was in the back seat.

Hitting heavy traffic in Atlanta, Carter exited the interstate downtown. A short while later, McIver shot his wife in the back. Carter drove to Emory University Hospital, where Diane McIver died.

Bill Crane, a McIver family friend, told local news outlets several days after the shooting that the McIvers had taken a revolver from the center console when the SUV was approached by several people at an intersection. The McIvers were nervous about unrest surrounding Black Lives Matter protests and feared a carjacking, Crane told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A few days later, McIver's attorney at the time, Stephen Maples, told the newspaper there had been no concern about unrest or protesters. Instead, he said, the McIvers pulled out the gun as a precaution after seeing people in the street in an area where homeless people hang out.

In both accounts, the gun was still in McIver's lap and discharged accidentally as they drove near Piedmont Park.

McIver was charged in December 2016 with a felony charge of involuntary manslaughter and a misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct. A Fulton County grand jury indicted McIver in April 2017 on charges including malice murder and influencing witnesses.

The indictment says McIver tried to convince Carter the night of the shooting to tell law enforcement officers she wasn't in the SUV when the shot was fired and later told her husband to tell her to stop talking to police. The indictment also says McIver asked Crane to retract a statement he'd made to news media on McIver's behalf.

The case is about "maintaining an image of wealth and power that the defendant created for himself," Griffin said.

At the time of the shooting, McIver was no longer a partner in his firm and his income had dropped by more than half, but he was trying to maintain his fancy lifestyle even as his life was "spinning out of control," Griffin said.

Diane McIver made far more money than her husband and had given him a $350,000 loan that was secured by the ranch. She had made it clear she wanted to leave the ranch to their godson, something she could do if she foreclosed on the loan and took control of the ranch, Griffin said.

At the time of her death, Diane McIver made the money, controlled their Buckhead home and could take the ranch if she chose, Griffin said.

"The easiest way for him to gain control was to kill Diane," Griffin said.

Clark Palmer told jurors the main thing they need to know is that Tex and Diane McIver were very much in love.

"He loved her. He truly loved her, deeply loved her," Clark Palmer said. "They had a relationship that people were envious of."

It's true that Tex was making less money than he had in the past, but that was planned as he was preparing to retire and he wasn't in dire financial straits, Clark Palmer said. But he did rely on Diane's income, and it would be inconsistent for him to have wanted to cut off that flow of money, Clark Palmer said.

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