Defense in Tex McIver murder trial pits state’s star witness against herself

March 20, 2018 Atlanta - Dani Jo Carter, best friend of Diane McIver and the driver of the SUV on the night that Diane was killed, testifies on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

March 20, 2018 Atlanta - Dani Jo Carter, best friend of Diane McIver and the driver of the SUV on the night that Diane was killed, testifies on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM


What happened: The defense challenged much of what the sole witness to the shooting, Dani Jo Carter, told jurors on Monday, highlighting contradictions in her testimony and what she told police the night of the shooting.

What's next: Dani Jo Carter will return to the stand for a third day of testimony.

For the defense in the Tex McIver murder trial, Dani Jo Carter, the sole witness to the fatal shooting that claimed her best friend’s life, presented a challenge.

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After a trying first week for the prosecution, Carter breathed new life into their case, testifying that Tex McIver asked her to tell police she wasn't in the car when he shot his wife in the back. It was her word versus the defendant's, and Tex's veracity has been an issue from the beginning of this well-documented crime saga.

March 20, 2018 Atlanta - Tex McIver confers with defense attorney Bruce Harvey during the 6th day of trial for Tex McIver before Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

But the defense was able to reframe those dueling versions Tuesday by introducing a third account, the one Carter shared with police on the night of Sept. 25, 2016 as Diane McIver lay dying at Emory University Hospital. The differences between what Carter said then and what she told jurors were striking.

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.

On Monday, Carter testified she never felt threatened after they exited the Downtown Connector onto Edgewood Avenue.

But she described “lots of scary people standing at the intersection” in her interview with police. That’s when Tex McIver asked his wife to retrieve his .38 revolver from the center console of the couple’s Ford Expedition.

March 20, 2018 Atlanta - Fulton County Chief Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker reacts as defense attorney Bruce Harvey (background) tries to reject a question to Dani Jo Carter, a friend of the McIvers and the driver of the SUV on the night that Diane was killed, during the 6th day of trial for Tex McIver before Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

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Carter also told police Tex McIver was “asleep with the gun in his hand” when the weapon went off. Defense attorney Bruce Harvey made sure to highlight that he was sleeping — a key detail missing from her earlier testimony.

She said in September 2016 that she knew he was asleep because she and Diane were discussing politics; “If he had been awake he would’ve joined in,” Carter said, according to the Atlanta police transcript of her interview.

Carter also told police that after Diane realized she had been shot, Tex McIver told the women that he nodded off — another detail omitted under Monday’s questioning by the state.

“I assumed he was asleep,” Carter acknowledged Tuesday. “I’m pretty sure.”

But what about the most damning part of her testimony, that McIver asked her to tell police she wasn’t in the car when the shooting happened? After reminding jurors that Carter didn’t mention their conversation to law enforcement, Harvey sought to cast doubt on the exchange by highlighting the absurdity of the premise.

“Wasn’t that just the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard?” Harvey asked.

March 20, 2018 Atlanta - Defense attorney Bruce Harvey (left) and Fulton County Chief Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker confer during the 6th day of trial for Tex McIver before Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

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“It didn’t make sense to me,” Carter replied.

“Of course it didn’t make sense,” said Harvey. “There’s no question that Tex McIver was the person who shot his wife, right? … It was just stupid, wasn’t it?”

Carter concurred. She didn’t tell police he asked her to lie, she said, because “It was a bad conversation that sounded very bad for Tex.”

Her interview with police provided additional insights into a question that has lingered from the beginning of this saga.

For one, why did no one in the car call 911?

Carter told police, “I thought about it but what was I going to tell them? I’m going to tell 911 a location where I don’t know where I am and I’m going to sit here and wait while my friend is dying?”

Although it's unclear whether she now believes McIver intended to kill her friend of 40 years, Carter told police there was "no doubt in my mind this was a horrible accident."

Tex McIver seemed to be in shock, she said in her interview at Atlanta police headquarters.

“He said he felt like (excrement),” Carter said. “He absolutely worships her.”

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