Tex McIver pleads guilty to lesser charges in wife’s fatal shooting

Involuntary manslaughter charge draws recommended 8-year sentence
Claud “Tex” McIver (center) during the first day of jury selection in his December retrial that was promptly put on hold pending the state's appeal of an order restricting its evidence. The 81-year-old former attorney pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Claud “Tex” McIver (center) during the first day of jury selection in his December retrial that was promptly put on hold pending the state's appeal of an order restricting its evidence. The 81-year-old former attorney pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Former attorney Claud “Tex” McIver pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of involuntary manslaughter over the 2016 shooting death of his wife, Diane McIver, and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

McIver, 81, also pleaded guilty to charges of reckless conduct and associated gun possession.

“Diane’s the best friend I ever had. She’s the best partner I could possibly imagine and I will always, always love her,” McIver said in court. “She died as a result of my actions, plain and simple. I’ve worn my wedding ring since the day we were married and I intend to wear it until the day I die. I hope we’re at a point where we’re not judging each other and we can all move on. She’s my angel and she’s waiting for me in heaven.”

Also sentenced to seven years on probation, McIver will receive credit for the time he has spent in custody.

Amanda R. Clark Palmer and Donald F. Samuel, McIver’s attorneys, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that McIver’s prison sentence ends mid-2025, but he could be paroled before then.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert C.I. McBurney called the plea deal “a healthier and cleaner way” to resolve the case than a retrial, which could result in a not guilty verdict. He said Diane McIver was “a bright light that was snuffed out.”

“Mr. McIver shouldn’t have had that loaded gun in his hand with his finger on the trigger,” the judge said. “For those who seek purely punishment through this process, you’re going to be disappointed.”

McIver had been awaiting retrial on charges of felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and associated gun possession.

The negotiated plea ends an appeal by the state of an order limiting its evidence in the retrial, which began in December but was delayed pending the outcome of the appeal. McBurney had barred prosecutors from alleging at the retrial that McIver intended to kill his wife, as McIver was acquitted in his first trial of malice murder.

McIver has always maintained that he shot his wife by accident as they were being driven through Atlanta by a friend in September 2016. He claimed he had fallen asleep holding his .38-caliber revolver in his lap while seated directly behind his wife and that the gun fired inadvertently.

In 2018, McIver was tried on single counts of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, as well as three counts of influencing a witness. He was acquitted by the court on two of the influencing counts. A jury acquitted McIver of malice murder but found him guilty of the remaining charges.

McIver was sentenced in 2018 to life in prison.

In June 2022, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned all of McIver’s convictions except the one for influencing a witness, ruling in large part that the jury should have been allowed to consider misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter.

Once he completed a five-year prison sentence on the upheld conviction, McIver stayed in custody pending retrial on the charges for which his convictions were overturned.

Married in November 2005, the McIvers were a rich, successful and politically connected power couple. They had a luxury 3,400-square-foot condominium in Buckhead and an 85-acre ranch in Putnam County.

Claud "Tex" McIver and his wife, Diane McIver, are shown in undated family photos. FAMILY PHOTO

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McIver was a partner at a national labor and employment law firm. Diane McIver, 64, had risen to the top of U.S. Enterprises Inc., after more than four decades with the real estate and advertising business founded by Billy Corey.

Corey was in court Friday to present a statement, read on his behalf by an employee from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. In his statement, Corey said Diane McIver’s death “was no accident.”

“One man, one hand and one bullet ended her life and caused a lifetime of misery and loss for so many others,” Corey stated. “There will never be another Diane McIver. Diane was full of life and she should never have been taken away from us in such a careless and malicious way. She is today missed as much as she was on that tragic day.”

The shooting happened on Sept. 25, 2016, as the McIvers were being driven through downtown Atlanta by Diane McIver’s best friend, Dani Jo Carter, returning to Buckhead from their ranch. Diane McIver was in the front passenger seat of their SUV and McIver was seated directly behind her.

McIver has said he fell asleep while holding his .38-caliber revolver. The gun fired as the SUV traveled along Piedmont Avenue near Piedmont Park, striking Diane McIver in the back. She later died at Emory University Hospital.

Carter spoke in court Friday, telling the judge that she is still angry about her best friend’s death. She said her life had been marred since the incident, noting that she was harassed afterward by McIver to make statements to authorities and the media in his favor. She said she was accused of being complicit in Diane McIver’s death, and that the fallout from the incident almost ruined her marriage.

“The stress has been tremendous,” Carter said. “I’m just angry.”

As a term of his probation, McIver cannot have contact with the Carters, Corey and Corey’s employees. He is also barred from visiting Corey’s business property.

McIver also abandoned any rights to a settlement in a lawsuit over Diane McIver’s death as part of his plea deal.

A friend of McIver, Rachel Styles, spoke in support of him Friday, saying Diane McIver’s death was clearly an accident. She said McIver had served enough time in prison.

Georgia’s high court accepted the surrender of McIver’s law license in April. He had been an attorney in Georgia since 1973.