Jury selection reveals potential challenges for Tex McIver defense

03/05/2018 — Atlanta, GA - Claude “Tex” McIver sits with his attorneys during the first day of jury selection for the case before Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney on Monday, March 5, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

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03/05/2018 — Atlanta, GA - Claude “Tex” McIver sits with his attorneys during the first day of jury selection for the case before Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney on Monday, March 5, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Even though no one has produced a copy, jurors in the Tex McIver trial will hear about his late wife's second will — a potentially crucial piece of evidence in a fatal shooting that prosecutors argue was financially motivated murder.

Jury selection may prove more time-consuming than originally assumed. Of the 31 people who were questioned Monday, 16 were excused, many because they found McIver’s version of events difficult to swallow.

"When I heard the gun went off accidentally, that just didn't ring true," said one prospective juror, who was excused. "Someone has to pull the trigger. They just don't accidentally discharge."

McIver says he fell asleep in the back seat of the couple's Ford Expedition while holding his .38 caliber Smith and Wesson in his lap that fateful day in September 2016. He says the gun went off accidentally; the bullet hit his wife, Diane, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. Her close friend, Dani Jo Carter, was driving.

Stay with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for every twist and turn in the Tex McIver murder trial. We'll provide minute-by-minute courtroom action as well as in-depth legal analysis of what it all means. Find links to our daily coverage, the "Breakdown" podcast, and previous stories at our website, myajc.com/crime

The prosecution is searching for jurors who will be able to separate allegedly “dumb” or racially tinged statements made by McIver from the crimes he is accused of committing, said Dunwoody attorney Esther Panitch, who is closely following the trial.

McIver, 75, is also charged with attempted bribery, obstruction and three counts of influencing witnesses in the days after the fatal shooting.

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03/05/2018 — Atlanta, GA - A binder containing information pertaining to the Tex McIver case sits on the Fulton County District attorney’s desk during the first day of jury selection for the case before Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney on Monday, March 5, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

03/05/2018 — Atlanta, GA - A binder containing information pertaining to the Tex McIver case sits on the Fulton County District attorney’s desk during the first day of jury selection for the case before Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney on Monday, March 5, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

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03/05/2018 — Atlanta, GA - A binder containing information pertaining to the Tex McIver case sits on the Fulton County District attorney’s desk during the first day of jury selection for the case before Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney on Monday, March 5, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

"None of (McIver's) negative qualities, save for those related to money, have anything to do with his possible motive," Panitch said.

But they do make the defense’s job more difficult. Jurors will hear, for instance, how McIver told his former spokesman that he had his gun in his lap because he was fearful of the neighborhood, mentioning a Black Lives Matter protest nearby. Seeking to avoid heavy traffic, Carter had pulled off the Downtown Connector onto Edgewood Avenue.

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03/05/2018 — Atlanta, GA - Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney raises his hand to repeat an oath for the possible jury to repeat during the first day of jury selection for the Tex McIver case in a Fulton County courtroom on Monday, March 5, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

03/05/2018 — Atlanta, GA - Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney raises his hand to repeat an oath for the possible jury to repeat during the first day of jury selection for the Tex McIver case in a Fulton County courtroom on Monday, March 5, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

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03/05/2018 — Atlanta, GA - Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney raises his hand to repeat an oath for the possible jury to repeat during the first day of jury selection for the Tex McIver case in a Fulton County courtroom on Monday, March 5, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

But McIver didn’t mention Black Lives Matter in his initial statement to police.

“What was the rationale for changing those statements?” lead prosecutor Clint Rucker asked.

The defense said that information adds a racial component that is irrelevant to the case.

Jurors will also hear testimony regarding the controversial estate sale of Diane McIver's jewels and clothing a few months after she died.

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03/05/2018 — Atlanta, GA — Fulton County Chief Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker reads over notes during the first day of jury selection for the Tex McIver case before Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney on Monday, March 5, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

03/05/2018 — Atlanta, GA — Fulton County Chief Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker reads over notes during the first day of jury selection for the Tex McIver case before Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney on Monday, March 5, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

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03/05/2018 — Atlanta, GA — Fulton County Chief Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker reads over notes during the first day of jury selection for the Tex McIver case before Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney on Monday, March 5, 2018. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

While McIver’s decision not to call 911 after the shooting will be allowed, the state may not introduce testimony that the defendant opted to bypass Grady Memorial Hospital, even though as a Level I trauma care center it is considered by many to be the best option, treatment-wise, for a shooting victim in Atlanta.

Jury selection resumes Tuesday. The judge must decide which individuals from the large jury pool qualify for service and which ones should be removed because of hardship or bias.

Forty-two prospective jurors must be qualified from the pool, from which 12 jurors and four alternates will be selected.

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On Sept. 25, 2016, Claud "Tex" McIver shot his wife Diane in the back as a friend drove the couple through Midtown in their SUV. McIver says it was a tragic accident. AJC legal affairs writer Bill Rankin and reporter Craig Schneider take you inside the case against him in Season 5 of the AJC's "Breakdown" podcast, "The Tex McIver Murder Case."