RELATED: Atlanta police: Diane McIver fatal shooting case ‘more complicated’
IN-DEPTH: ‘If I’m not feeling guilty, I’m feeling grief”
And now Dani Jo Carter, who was behind the wheel of the McIvers’ Ford Expedition when the gun went off, had hired an attorney.
On Wednesday, jurors heard the voicemail that McIver had left Carter’s husband. And, as has so often been the case throughout this bizarre saga, McIver did himself no favors.
“Dani is about to send me to prison,” he said on the recording. “Please erase this — this voicemail message, but call me right away. Y’all have no idea the problem this is causing. It’s innocent, but it’s absolutely nuclear to me. Please, please call me.”
Ill-advised? No question about it. Damaging to the defense? It certainly doesn’t help.
“As a lawyer, Tex should know better than to leave a voicemail like that because of the impression it could leave on the listener,” said Atlanta attorney Esther Panitch, who is closely following the trial.
But intent is key, Panitch said.
“As a practical matter, he didn’t actually influence anyone to do anything,” she said. “He didn’t mislead.”
McIver had wanted Carter to sit with his attorneys for a deposition and to provide a statement to the media. As Diane McIver’s close friend, and the only witness to the shooting, her absolution could quell the doubts that had begun to surround Tex McIver’s version of events.
But Carter was starting to feel uneasy about McIver’s handling of the situation.
“Why is it OK for him to get an attorney but not OK for my wife to get one?” her husband, Thomas Carter, testified Wednesday.
They hired a lawyer to deal with the media, which was eager to hear her account. The Carters turned to their friend, Dale Cardwell, a former local TV reporter and consumer advocate.
According to Dani Jo Carter, McIver “appeared to be in a strategy situation, not a grief situation,” Cardwell said.
But McIver, according to the defense, was concerned that Carter’s decision to retain counsel made him look guilty.
“It’s not that he said, ‘Let’s get our stories straight,’ right?” defense co-counsel Bruce Harvey asked Thomas Carter, who concurred.
Need to catch up on testimony you’ve missed? Go to our subscriber page myajc.com/crime/, or find links on our daily live blog on ajc.com
Earlier, Carter's wife wrapped up two days' worth of testimony that included two opinions about the defendant and two accounts of what happened before, during and after the fatal bullet struck Diane McIver in the couple's SUV.
Dani Jo Carter testified she never felt threatened after they exited the Downtown Connector onto Edgewood Avenue, contradicting Tex McIver’s statement to police about why he had retrieved his gun. But, just hours after the shooting, she told police there were “lots of scary people standing at the intersection.”
Carter also told police McIver was “asleep with the gun in his hand.” But jurors only heard that during her cross-examination.
“The defense was able to use her prior statements to support their defense” that the shooting was an accident, said Marietta criminal defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant, who is not affiliated with the case. “The state needed her to say that Tex’s actions after the shooting made her change her mind about this being an accident.”
It’s unclear whether Dani Jo Carter still believes, as she told police, that McIver didn’t intend to shoot his wife.
But she did make it clear that her feelings toward Tex had changed. Asked if she still thought fondly of her close friend’s husband, Carter replied tersely: “No.”
Let our criminal justice reporter Bill Rankin lead you through the twists and turns of the McIver murder case. Listen to his Breakdown podcast to learn more about the case.
WHAT'S NEXT: Testimony from some of the law enforcement officers who observed and interviewed McIver in the hours and days after the shooting.