This is a running account of the Claud “Tex” McIver murder trial. He is accused of intentionally shooting his wife, Diane, as they rode in an SUV in September 2016.
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The jury has been dismissed for the day.
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The judge has instructed jurors to not engage in outside research about the case.
Testimony will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday with Terri Jackson back on the stand. Jackson is an investigator with the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office. However, she worked in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office though March 2017 and was involved in the Tex McIver case under Clint Rucker, lead prosecutor in the case for the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.
The AJC’s coverage of the case will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Witness Terri Jackson recounts an interview with the McIver’s Buckhead neighbor Janie Calhoun in which she recalled having conversations about the sale of Diane McIver’s personal items only two or three days after the death. “(Calhoun) was upset that Mr. McIver was selling her friend’s things,” Jackson recalled Calhoun saying. “She didn’t understand why he was selling the things so soon after her death. She felt like he didn’t need the money.”
Terri Jackson an investigator with the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office is called to the stand. The judge has informed the jury that testimony will continue past 5 p.m.
Defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer questions Roger Quillen further and points out that since Tex McIver is now 75, he would have been in his early 70s when his status as equity partner ended and transitioned to income partner, earning a lower rate of pay. She points out that he had already worked longer than most by the time he retired.
Quillen said Tex McIver was not offered “senior counsel” status, which offers older partners a way to maintain a relationship with the firm.
Managing partner for Tex McIver’s former law firm, Fisher Phillips, reads from emails in which the firm urges McIver to make Dec. 31, 2016 a “hard stop” for his work with the firm. The email further read, “We have decided not to offer any monetary incentive for you to refer work to the firm.”
Jury takes a short break while some documents are reviewed by the witness.
Tex McIver had conversations with his law firm about his retirement prior to 2016, Quillen said. Tex McIver’s plans were to work through calendar year 2017 and then move from “income partner” status to take “senior counsel” status. He would’ve continued to receive an income.
After his wife was shot in September 2016, Tex McIver was put on an extended bereavement leave with pay, Quillen said. Later that year, the firm discussed with McIver accelerating his retirement date to the end of 2016. McIver was opposed to that suggestion.
“He really was hopeful that this thing he was facing would be behind him and after some mental adjustment time he would be able to get back to performing at a higher level,” Quillen said.
Witness Roger K. Quillen, chairman and managing partner for the law firm Fisher Phillips testifies on a change in status and pay for Tex McIver. Tex McIver has worked with that Atlanta-based firm, which specializes in labor and employment law, since 1972.
Quillen explains that as an “equity partner” in the firm for many years, McIver was considered a part owner of Fisher Phillips. Quillen explained when partners age and their performance diminishes, the firm may ask the partner to relinquish the status of equity partner in order to become an income partner. The change means a reduction in compensation as well as reduced performance standards.
McIver became an income partner on Dec. 31, 2013, Quillen said.
Jury is allowed a break before the next witness takes the stand.
Rucker is showing a chart tracking Tex McIver’s pay from Fisher Phillips, a labor and employment law firm based in Atlanta. His pay, which was over $601,853 in 2011 when he was an “equity partner,” dropped after Jan. 1, 2014 when his status changed to “income partner.” By 2016, his pay from the firm was $275,000.
Prosecutor Seleta Griffin said during Tuesday morning’s opening statement that Claud “Tex” McIver had money trouble before he shot his wife. Despite a drop in income, he and Diane McIver retained a lavish lifestyle and he was dependent on her income.
Janie Calhoun steps down from the stand. The next witness called is James Nations. Clint Rucker with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office steps up to handle questioning. Nations is the chief financial officer with the law firm Fisher Phillips. Tex McIver worked with that firm, which specializes in labor and employment law.
Some three years before she died, Diane McIver told McIver family friend and neighbor Janie Calhoun that she had made changes to her will and she had taken some people out that she was no longer leaving money to.
Calhoun is asked if Diane McIver ever mentioned she was going to leave the ranch they owned in Putnam County to their godson, Austin Schwall.
“Not exactly just her by herself. She and Tex both made that comment when I’ve been at the ranch before,” Calhoun said. “They would tell Austin, ‘This is going to be yours one day.’”
Calhoun is questioned about how many people were seen coming and going to McIver’s condos in the days and weeks after his wife’s death. She mentions their housekeeper and estimates there may have been 20 to 30 people total coming and going. Calhoun recalls seeing Tex McIver “crying and upset” in the days after his wife’s death.
Palmer: “Were they the perfect couple?”
Calhoun: “They seemed to be better than perfect.”
Defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer is now questioning Calhoun about her earlier testimony that she knew Tex McIver since 1997, before she met Diane McIver. Calhoun said she and Tex McIver had dated briefly but later fell out of touch. Calhoun later encountered Tex and Diane in 1999 and the two couples became friends. She testified she never saw the McIvers argue and that their relationship was a good one.
Palmer is showing Calhoun photos of the McIvers and their godson Austin Schwall. Calhoun testifies that the couple was very involved in Schwall’s life. During opening statements by the prosecution, Tex McIver wept at the mention of Schwall.
A flurry of hearsay objections come from the defense attorneys when Calhoun is asked by prosecution attorneys if she did an inventory of Diane McIver’s personal items. Calhoun said she had a conversation with Tex McIver’s sister, Dixie, about an inventory being performed of Diane McIver’s items in the weeks after her death. Calhoun recalls asking why the sale was being held so soon after the death. Calhoun said she attended the auction of Diane McIver’s belongings.
1:43 p.m. Jurors have returned and testimony with the McIvers’ neighbor Janie Calhoun is resuming.
12:30 p.m. Jurors are leaving for a lunch break. They have been instructed they may eat together but may not discuss the case. Testimony will resume at 1:30 p.m.
11:58 a.m. Jurors are getting a peek at the McIvers’ sprawling 75-acre ranch. As the prosecution takes her through a series of photos, Calhoun is describing the property, complete with a lake, a pool and a wine cellar. On the screened-in porch hangs a decorative gun and a sign that reads “We don’t call 911.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action news will bring you LIVE gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Tex McIver murder trial. Check back each day for a live blog from the courtroom and daily video recaps. Visit myajc.com/crime/ for previous coverage of the case and a link to our Breakdown podcast.
11:40 a.m. The first witness has taken the stand. Janie Calhoun was a friend of the McIvers. She said Diane “was like a sister to me.” They were neighbors in Buckhead and Calhoun was a frequent visitor to the McIvers’ Putnam County ranch. She is describing Diane’s relationship with godson, Austin Schwall.
11:15 a.m. The court is on a short break after opening statements. Testimony will resume shortly with the state calling its first witness.
11:08 a.m. The defense concludes its opening statement repeating the claim that Tex McIver shot his wife, but did not do so intentionally. They said he was dependent on his wife’s cash flow and would not have killed her and cut that off. “The evidence will show that he was her best friend and he didn't intentionally kill her, he did not murder her," Clark Palmer said.
10:54 a.m. The defense claims that Tex McIver suffered from a from a sleep disorder, known as REM Behavior Disorder. It can apparently cause people to jerk in their sleep. They may also act confused, drunk or even violent upon waking. This is important because in the version of events Tex McIver provided to police he said he had fallen asleep in the back of the SUV the night of the shooting and pulled the trigger when he was startled awake.
10:42 a.m. Clark Palmer said she was “not trying to be crass or glib” but that if Tex McIver wanted to intentionally kill his wife shooting her in their SUV with her best friend driving would not be the way to do it. She said the defense will show that the bullet might have struck the metal inside the SUV seat and might even have ricocheted back on him. “The evidence is going to show you that it is not a guarantee and not even likely that you would be able to kill somebody in this method and that’s why the shooting was accidental and not intentional,” Palmer said.
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10:34 a.m Clark Palmer describes what happened in the SUV and said it wasn’t immediately clear how bad Diane’s injuries were. She also said that Diane McIver told one of the doctors treating her at Emory University Hospital that the shooting was an accident.
10:22 a.m. Amanda Clark Palmer is starting the opening statement for the defense. She said Tex McIver loved his wife and he loved her back. She described the relationship as one others envied. “They seemed like lovebirds even after 10 years marriage...and that is why he did not intentionally shoot her.”
10:20 a.m. The prosecution has concluded their opening statement, urging the jury to return a verdict of guilty.
10:12 a.m. The prosecution says that as Diane McIver’s condition deteriorated at Emory University Hospital one her doctors prepared to intubate her, meaning Diane would no longer be able to talk. Before she did so, the doctor asked if she wanted to see her husband. “No,” Diane McIver replied.
10:04 a.m. The prosecutor teases to what Dani Jo Carter will say when she testifies. Carter was Diane McIver’s close friend and was driving the couple the night of the shooting. Carter will say that as she was rushing the wounded Diane McIver to the hospital Tex McIver urged her to “slow down.” The prosecutor also said that once they arrived at Emory University Hospital on Clifton Road, Tex McIver gave medical officials six different versions of what went on in the SUV that night.
9:58 a.m. Griffin describes Tex McIver as someone who likes control. “The easiest way for him to get control was to kill Diane,” Griffin said. The prosecutor also pulled out the .38 revolver Tex McIver used to shoot Diane and showed how he had held it in a plastic bag.
9:45 a.m. Fulton County Chief Senior Assistant District Attorney Seleta Griffin has started the prosecution’s opening statement. She is outlining the McIvers’ seemingly “storybook life” of wealth and privilege. “But things aren’t always as they seem,” Griffin said. When the shooting took place, she said, Tex McIver’s life was “spinning out of control” and he was depending on his wife financially. At the mention of Austin Schwall, the McIvers’ godson, Tex McIver becomes visibly emotional and wipes tears from his eyes.
9:40 a.m. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney is giving the jury instructions. He’s urging jurors to keep an open mind until they have heard all the evidence and closing arguments.
9:25 a.m. Good morning. We’ll be providing minute-by-minute updates as the Tex McIver murder trial gets underway today so stay with us.
Already, we have some developments. One of the jurors — a 42-year-old white male from Sandy Springs — has been excused due to a family emergency. He'll be replaced by a research microbiologist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She is a black woman. That means the jury is now composed of seven women and five men; eight whites and four blacks.