The murder trial against Claud “Tex” McIver may be delayed from its Oct. 30 start date as the Atlanta attorney’s defense team seeks time to review tens of thousands of his wife’s emails.
Defense attorney Joe Sharp said Friday that prosecutors recently handed over a thumb drive containing 90,000 emails from McIver’s wife, business executive Diane McIver. The emails were shared as part of the pre-trial discovery process, during which opposing attorneys agree to share the evidence they possess.
Sharp said the defense hardly had time to look over the emails in time for the Oct. 30 trial.
“There’s no way we can get through 90,000 emails in the next 25 days,” he said during a pre-trial motions hearing.
The emails, he added, appear to be from Diane McIver’s work computer. She was president of Corey Airport Services. It’s unclear what value they might have in the trial. Tex McIver is accused of killing his wife for her money.
Friday’s hearing showed the intensity of the case heating up as the trial nears. Fulton County Judge Robert McBurney was already discussing jury selection, and the opposing attorneys have made public some strategies they will pursue. McIver, who has said the 2016 shooting was an accident, looked far more focused and attentive than in prior court appearances. The gray hair that he had allowed to grow shaggy, was well cut. The beard that had become an unkempt mess was neatly trimmed into a mustache and short goatee.
More than anything, that faraway look in his eyes is gone; he was actively engaged in the proceeding and conferred often with his legal team.
It remains unknown whether the trial will be postponed. Sharp, the defense attorney, said he does not want the trial delayed unless his client is released from jail on bond in the interim. Prosecutors have said they will oppose any bond for the politically-connected McIver, who is also charged with trying to influence witnesses.
At the same time, the prosecution has its own homework to do before the trial. They are still waiting to look through some 30 boxes of records, computers and other materials gathered during an April search of McIver’s Buckhead condo. The court is still sorting out those materials that prosecutors can view, versus those protected under client-attorney privilege.
Nonetheless, lead prosecutor Clint Rucker said his sights are set on an Oct. 30 start date.
“We are going to be ready Oct. 30 by hook or by crook,” he said.
Friday’s hearing also revealed some flash-points between the two sides. Sharp accused prosecutors of purposely holding back the emails from the defense until the last minute, aiming to “jam us up before trial.”
Prosecutors responded that they had only received the emails some weeks ago.
The McIver trial is expected to draw widespread media interest, and national news outlets are already approaching the players for interviews. The case has offered a heady mix of wealth, race, class, love and - depending which side you believe - possible betrayal. McIver shot his wife in the back while they were passengers in an SUV driving near Piedmont Park on Sept. 25 of last year. She died hours later.
Also on Friday, the defense team requested that the judge hold separate proceedings that divide the murder-related charges from those in which McIver is accused of trying to influence witnesses. He is accused of asking one witness to say she was not present in the car when the shot was fired. He also allegedly asked his public spokesman to retract part of his statement. That statement said McIver pulled out the gun because he suspected that the car happened upon a Black Lives Matter rally. The assertion created a backlash in the African-American community.
McIver’s defense team say they are concerned that prosecutors will use the charges of influencing witnesses in an effort to smear McIver and prejudice a jury against him on the murder charges.
“It’s the smear effect,” Sharp said. He added that he wanted the jury to consider each charge separately on its own merits.
Judge McBurney, however, said that even if the charges are separated, he thinks it’s likely that arguments on the witness tampering charges would be admissible in the murder proceeding.
The parties convene again Thursday, when they will discuss jury selection.
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