It was the interview that set off a firestorm, injecting race into the Claud “Tex” McIver saga and raising suspicions about exactly what happened inside the Ford Expedition the night Diane McIver was shot in the back and killed.
Monday’s testimony from Bill Crane, who gave that interview to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was potentially just as problematic for McIver as his murder trial resumed following a one-week hiatus. Crane said McIver vetted statements provided to the AJC and the Fulton County Daily Report, about his wife’s death. But, after McIver received negative feedback from the article, he asked Crane to retract the comments before finally denying he said them at all.
But defense co-counsel Don Samuel turned the tables on Crane, saying his remarks about Black Lives Matter were misrepresented when the story went viral. Crane agreed.
“He’s not telling you to lie to police. He’s not telling you to lie to the D.A. He’s not telling you to lie to the courts,” Samuel said. Rather, Samuel said, his client just wanted Crane to defuse a controversy the public relations professional was responsible for creating.
The AJC article was posted online on September 30, 2016, five days after the shooting. In it, Crane said that the couple’s Ford Expedition hit a bump, causing a gun in his lap to accidentally discharge. The driver was not identified in the article and Crane said the McIvers had not been drinking before the shooting.
But his comments about Black Lives Matter got all the attention. Crane said McIver asked for his gun because he was “alarmed about recent unrest surrounding several Black Lives Matter protests in the area and fearing a carjacking.”
At first, McIver “was satisfied and pleased and thought at the time they (the articles) would be helpful to his case,” Crane testified.
That would soon change. Injecting fear of racial protests into the account “sensationalized a racial aspect of the story I never saw,” Crane said.
McIver told him the remarks were not well-received by his attorneys and some partners at his law firm.
“Not all his partners were as conservative as he may be,” Crane said. “And my lawyers are telling me this Black Lives Matter comment is killing me,” he said, quoting McIver.
Crane met with McIver and his then-attorney, Steve Maples, who asked Crane to retract his comments. He testified that he understood their quandary but refused, saying his integrity was at stake. “The genie was out of the bottle,” Crane said he told them.
McIver and Maples tried to put the genie back in, granting an interview to the AJC, six days after the first one, disavowing much of what Crane had said.
Maples said in October 2016 that the McIvers “were not thinking of Black Lives Matter, or anything racial” when they decided to pull out their .38 revolver from the center console of their SUV. They merely saw some people milling about in an area known to have homeless people, and took a precautionary measure, Maples said.
The McIvers were, in fact, drinking that day, the attorney said. And the discharge from the gun was not caused by a bump on Piedmont Avenue, Maples said.
But, according to Crane, his old friend continued to press him to retract his remarks in that first interview. A few weeks later, at a memorial service for Diane McIver, Crane said McIver told him, “I need you to fall on your sword. I need you to make this go away.”
Now, McIver was claiming he never said any of the controversial comments attributed to him by Crane.
“When he was telling me, ‘I didn’t say it,’ he couldn’t make eye contact with me,” Crane testified.
They stayed in touch, however, meeting for lunch in December. McIver asked Crane again to retract his comments. Crane repeated his refusal.
During that meeting, McIver learned Atlanta police were prepared to charge him with involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct.
Samuel, in his cross-examination of Crane, stayed focused on the racial controversy.
“The phrase Black Lives Matter did not come up that night,” Samuel asked, referring to the night of the shooting. “He’s trying to explain to you why he needed a gun in his lap. He was completely speculating who these people were.”
“He did not say, I need someone to lie for me,” Samuel concluded.
McIver’s racial insensitivity, real or perceived, could be a problem for the defense. Prior to Crane’s testimony, jurors heard from one of the emergency room doctors who operated on Diane McIver the night she died. Dr. Marty Sellers testified he was taken aback when the defendant snapped at his colleague, Dr. Blayne Sayed, who had asked McIver to have a seat before telling him his wife had died.
“Don’t tell me what to do, boy!” McIver snapped to Sayed, a person of color. Sellers classified it as non-threatening but aggressive.
McIver showed little emotion and no tears when told of Diane’s fate, Sellers said, while acknowledging everyone handles grief differently.
“Did you observe any of those things you’d say were universally consistent with grief, in your conversation with Mr. McIver?” prosecutor Cara Convery asked Sellers.
“No, I did not,” he replied.
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