The defense team for Claud “Tex” McIver is falling apart, as two of his lawyers announced that they are no longer representing the prominent Atlanta attorney accused of murdering his wife.
The shake-up leaves McIver with one lawyer, Bruce Harvey, who joined the case a few months ago. This development may raise the prospect of another delay in the trial set for March 5, should Harvey need more time to prepare.
On Monday, William Hill, who has served as lead defense attorney, filed a court notice that he is withdrawing as counsel.
Attorney Stephen Maples also told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is leaving the case.
Neither attorney elaborated as to the reason for their departure.
On Sept. 25, 2016, McIver shot his wife Diane in the back as a friend drove the couple through Midtown in their SUV. Diane was dead within hours. McIver, a prominent and politically connected lawyer, says he loved his wife and that the discharge of his .38 revolver was a tragic accident.
But the Fulton County district attorney believes McIver intended to kill Diane and will try him for malice murder.
Maples has represented McIver from the start. He is an old friend, and McIver summoned him to the hospital when Diane McIver was shot. Maples may therefore be called as a witness during the trial.
Hill arrived later in the case, assuming the role of lead defense attorney. He also brought along two of his firm’s attorneys to help out.
The departure of the attorneys could be a positive development for McIver, said Esther Panitch, a criminal defense attorney who has followed the case.
She was critical of the performance of Maples and Hill, challenging their guidance over McIver and pointing to several problems that have arisen for him in the aftermath of the shooting. They included McIver's decision to auction off many of his wife’s furs, jewels and possessions, and his granting of numerous interviews to the media.
“This is evidence that his attorneys had no control over him or they weren’t closely monitoring him enough,” said Panitch, who is not involved in the case. “He either didn’t get advice or didn’t respect the source enough to accept the advice.”
She also questioned the attorneys' experience in defending a person charged with murder.
Maples responded that he has represented some 40 people accused of murder over the years.
McIver will benefit from having Harvey steer the case, Panitch said.
“Bruce Harvey is as experienced a defense lawyer as you will find,” she said.
But he might not have time enough to prepare before the March 5 start date of the trial, Panitch said. The trial has already been delayed once, as it was slated to begin in late October.
The shuffling of attorneys is not the first shakeup among those working on the case. Early on, McIver used public relations representative Bill Crane as a spokesman, and then replaced him with Jeff Dickerson, who has also since departed.
The restructuring in his legal team represents the latest odd twist in the case. Elsewhere, McIver’s attorneys have been fighting for months to get him released on another bond. About a month ago, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney granted that bond. Yet McIver remains in the Alpharetta annex of the Fulton County jail.
“Tex appreciates all the hard work that Mr. Hill and his team have given to his defense," Harvey said Monday."It’s time to get an innocent man out of jail – that’s priority number one right now.”
McIver is the subject of an AJC “Breakdown” podcast titled “The Tex McIver Murder Case.” You can listen to the episodes at AJC.com, or go to the iTunes store to binge listen the entire series.