There’s an accountant, a CFO and a retired sales representative who keeps a loaded handgun in his vehicle’s glove box, or center console, when he travels. Just like Claud “Tex” McIver, accused of intentionally shooting his wife Diane, once did.
Half of the 12-person jury, selected Monday afternoon following nearly six grueling days of questioning, reside in north Fulton County, as McIver still does. Nine are white; six are men.
What’s next: The trial will get underway at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning as each side delivers opening statements.
But the jury also includes two educators who have never shot a gun, a former Lyft driver and nursing assistant and a politically active woman who once attended a Black Lives Matter protest. According to McIver’s former spokesman, the defendant pulled out his gun because he was unnerved, in part, by a BLM rally in the Edgewood district. Minutes later, that gun would fire a single bullet into Diane McIver’s back.
Demographic differences aside, the 12 jurors and four alternates were selected because they had one thing in common: They’ve yet to form fixed opinions on McIver’s guilt or innocence. Some said they knew nothing of the case; others, very little. That’s all about to change, with opening statements scheduled first thing Tuesday morning.
Judging by the answers from would-be jurors — who were eventually excused — there’s no constituency particularly favorable to McIver. Black or white, male or female, rich or poor, almost all who had formed an opinion on the case said they don’t believe the shooting was an accident. Only one would-be juror (out of more than 100 that were actually questioned) said he believed McIver’s account that the gun was unintentionally discharged.
Dunwoody attorney Esther Panitch, who’s not involved in the McIver case but has followed it closely, said the defense “is probably happy they’ve got a strong north Fulton base, like him. But no one really knows whether that will matter.”
In advance of the trial beginning, the judge heard final motions about testimony each side wants to include or exclude. Judge Robert McBurney decided jurors will hear evidence about Diane McIver’s alleged second will. The state doesn’t have a copy but wants to introduce witnesses who say they heard her discuss a revised will that would transfer ownership of the couple’s Putnam County ranch from Tex to their godson.
A second will that would be less favorable to Tex McIver might provide a motive for murder. Prosecutors contend that when McIver fatally shot his wife in September 2016 it was financially motivated.
Rachel Styles a close friend of Diane McIver, testified Monday that she was asked to make copies of a document that Diane later told her was “my new will.”
“I can’t trust anyone else,” Diane said, according to Styles.
Styles said no one else heard their conversation She said she didn’t examine the document because she didn’t want to lose Diane’s trust.
When the judge asked Styles when Diane made the request, Styles appeared confused.
“I can’t remember exactly because I had no idea what I was making a copy of so it was very insignificant to me,” she said. “So I didn’t really make a mental note that it was that important.”
When McBurney pressed her again, Styles said it occurred “at least a year and a half to two years” before her friend’s death.
Under cross-examination, Styles acknowledged Diane’s company, U.S. Enterprises, was looking to sell its outdoor advertising business and that she was intent on keeping the negotiations secret.
“Is it possible the document you copied was related to the sale and that Diane wasn’t telling you the truth about it?” defense co-counsel Amanda Clark Palmer asked.
“It could be, yes,” Styles said.
Terry Brown, Diane McIver’s personal assistant, also testified that, two or three years before her death, Diane gave him a document with the words “Last Will and Testament” on the cover page.
“She said she was making changes,” the former assistant testified. He said Diane told him she ran their marriage “like a business.” “I don’t believe (Tex) even knew where she banked,” Brown said.
The defense argued against the hearsay evidence, saying other witnesses, including Diane’s attorney, would testify that there was no second will.
“That is the point here,” defense co-counsel Don Samuel said. “We have other witnesses who are going to contradict what they say.”
But McBurney appeared to rule in favor of the state, telling lead prosecutor Clint Rucker that he can mention the second will — central to proving Tex McIver’s alleged motive — in his opening statement.
The judge delayed a decision on whether journalists who interviewed McIver after the murder would be compelled to testify.