Opening statements in McIver trial bring new revelations, rationales

He exuded the aura of a man in full — happily married, wealthy and envied. But by September 25, 2016, Claud "Tex" McIver's life was spiraling out of control, prosecutors alleged today in a blistering opening statement rife with new revelations.

Money was tight. He was no longer a partner at his law firm. Debts were piling up. And his wife, Diane, held the purse strings, said Fulton County Chief Senior Assistant District Attorney Seleta Griffin.


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 on ajc.com each day for a live blog  and video from the courtroom. Visit myajc.com/crime/ for previous coverage of the case and a link to our Breakdown podcast.


In the first day of what may be a three-week long trial to decide if the former attorney is guilty of malice murder in the shooting death of his wife, the question of McIver’s sagging income and cash flow loomed large. His wife Diane McIver was a successful businesswoman who was known to keep a careful accounting of her finances.

Killing her was the easiest way for Tex McIver to regain control over his life, the state alleged, and maintain ownership of his beloved Putnam County ranch, which Diane, according to witnesses, intended to bequeath to the couple's godson. It may have appeared haphazard, but the fatal shooting of Diane McIver in the back was, according to Griffin, "planned, intended and calculated."

It’s a theory that belies reality, countered the defense. Tex and Diane’s marriage was “better than perfect,” said one witness, and even the prosecution acknowledged theirs was a “storybook life.”

“They seemed like lovebirds even after 10 years of marriage … and that is why he did not intentionally shoot her,” defense co-counsel Amanda Clark Palmer said.


RELATED: A look at key players in the Tex McIver murder saga

MAP: How the McIver shooting unfolded 


Yes, McIver was was dependent on his wife, Palmer acknowledged. He needed her cash flow, she said, and that was cut off when she died.

But Diane’s death did wonders for her husband’s bottom line.

“He went from negative $5,000 to over $1.1 million cash instantly,” Griffin said. “And he was the executor and beneficiary of Diane’s $7 million estate.”

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

After attempting to establish motive, the state went after McIver’s veracity — specifically the shifting accounts of his wife’s death.

He told one doctor at Emory Hospital that Diane had asked for the gun and was holding it behind her back when it went off. That was the explanation Diane offered to her treating physician at Emory, Dr. Susanne Hardy, who, Griffin said, expressed skepticism.

“And then Diane says, ‘He was holding it behind my back,’” Griffin said. “Then about 30 seconds pass and Diane states, ‘It was an accident.’ “

When Diane McIver was shot, her best friend, Dani Jo Carter, was driving. Her account, sure to be among the most scrutinized testimony of the trial, figured prominently on Tuesday.

The state claims McIver encouraged her to tell police she was not in the car when the shooting occurred, part of a pattern of suppressing witnesses and manipulating evidence. He later exerted pressure on Carter’s husband to keep his wife silent, Griffin alleged.

But this was after McIver had already told police Dani Jo was in the car, said Palmer.

“Why on earth would he call her up and say now you have to change your story?” she said.

The defense didn't have as clear an answer when confronted by allegations that McIver allegedly asked Jeff Dickerson, whom he had hired to handle his public relations, to try and persuade Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard to make his charges go away. Dickerson, once an Atlanta Journal editorial writer, had known Howard for more than 20 years, Griffin said.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

“You can get this case dismissed,” Griffin said, relating what McIver allegedly told Dickerson. “If you do there’s a large bonus in it for you. And I won’t mind if you share it with the DA.”

McIver allegedly attempted to offer this bribe in early 2017, prosecutors have said in court filings.

It was a “stupid” comment by her client, Palmer said, but not a serious one.

Despite McIver’s self-inflicted wounds, the defense returned to what may be its strongest argument: Who plots to kill his wife in the presence of her best friend?

It was a plan that could’ve easily backfired, literally. Fired into the back of the seat, the bullet that killed his wife could’ve just as easily deflected and hit him, Palmer said.

“The evidence is going to show you that it is not a guarantee, or even likely, that you would be able to kill somebody in this method,” she said.

A state expert will testify otherwise, Griffin said. Based upon the trajectory of the bullet, and the injuries to Diane, the expert concluded that the gun was aimed at her back.

“It wasn’t on (his) lap. It wasn’t accidentally discharged,” Griffin said.

Both sides offered jurors a glimpse into what transpired inside the McIver’s Ford Expedition before and after the shooting. Not surprisingly, Carter and McIver remembered those harrowing moments differently.

Carter said they were sitting at red light when the gun went off. McIver remembered hitting a bump. She recalled seeing a puff of smoke. He never mentioned it.

“Dani Jo is panicking,” Griffin said. “She is freaked out. In her mind she’s thinking Piedmont would be the closest hospital. But she can’t remember how to get there.”

McIver directs her to Emory. As they approach a roundabout, McIver, according to Carter, admonishes her to slow down because there may be mothers pushing their babies in carriages.

“At 10 o’clock at night,” Griffin said.

Strange, but there’s no accounting for a person’s behavior in a crisis situation, countered Palmer.

Explaining what led to the shooting was another challenge for the defense.

McIver, according to Palmer, suffers from REM Behavior Disorder, which can cause people to jerk in their sleep. It can lead to confusion and sometimes violent reactions upon waking. McIver told police he had fallen asleep in the back of the SUV and pulled the trigger when he was startled awake.

Regardless, the prosecution dropped hints that Tex was determined to kill his wife that weekend. Was shooting her in the car his last best chance?

According to the state, eight hours before the shooting, Tex asked a ranch hand to drive Dani Jo Carter home. The significance of that request was not explored but is likely to resurface as the prosecution begins to make its case for murder

.