Channel 2 Action News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution 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 from the courtroom and daily video recaps. To keep up with each day’s story and see previous coverage, go to myajc.com/crime/.
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WHAT HAPPENED MONDAY: Lots of talk about the McIvers’ estate planning, with no real resolution. The state continued to drop hints about a relationship between the defendant and a masseuse.
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY?: More testimony on Diane McIver’s will and whether changes were made to her 2006 will that is in effect.
This is our live recounting of testimony occurring in the courtroom on Tuesday, March 27:
Court has concluded for the day.
Nicole Carrol, a forensic DNA analyst for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, is testifying. Carrol confirmed the results of DNA testing performed on the .38 Smith and Wesson Revolver Tex McIver used to shoot his wife.
Carrol said she took swabs from the gun’s trigger and grip. There was some DNA on the gun but, “we did not have enough information to draw any conclusion.”
Andrew Wilcox, from a legal recruiting company in Tallahassee, has replaced Brooks on the stand.
Wilcox met Tex McIver in 2009 and they stayed in touch over the years. In September 2016, Wilcox reached out to McIver to gauge his interest in a Texas law firm’s expansion into Atlanta. McIver replied that he might be interested if the price was right — “it would have to be a lot of zeros with a one in front of them.” Wilcox took that to mean $1 million-plus. McIver made plans to meet with the law firm in Texas.
Before that took place, McIver shot his wife and the meeting never happened.
Prosecutor Adam Abbate asked Wilcox if he was aware that Tex McIver’s salary at his Atlanta law firm had been declining and if that would have impacted his ability to command a seven-figure salary.
“It would have been tricky,” Wilcox said.
Rubies were the birthstones for both Diane McIver and Angie Brooks and McIver had told Brooks she wanted her to inherit a ruby broach.
There was a hand-written note attached to Diane’s will that appeared to award her ruby jewelry to Brooks.
But Brook said she never received the items.
The jury is back and court is again in session.
We are hearing more about the McIvers’ finances from Angie Brooks, executive vice president at U.S. Enterprise. She worked with Diane McIver for 36 years and says she made frequent loans to friends and co-workers.
Brooks said she was aware that Tex McIver was among those who owed Diane money She said that frequently when Tex would visit his wife at the office Diane would ask a question.
“Do you have a check?” Diane would ask.
“Oh, darlin,” Tex would reply, according to Brooks.
Morse, the real estate expert, has finished his testimony and the court is taking a short break.
Defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer asks Morse if the documents he reviewed showed that Diane McIver had made any move to foreclose on her husband.
“No, they do not,” Morse said.
Mary Radford, the wills expert, has finished her testimony. Now we are hearing from Carlton Morse Jr., an expert on real estate law. His testimony is taking us into the McIvers’ real estate holdings and personal finances.
At the prosecution’s request, Morse performed a title search on the McIver’s Putnam County ranch. The records show that Tex McIver purchased the property in 1996. After marrying Diane in November 2005, he added her as joint owner. In December 2014, Tex McIver took out a $350,000 loan from his wife. The loan was secured by Tex McIver’s interest in the property and she could have foreclosed on him if he failed to pay.
Court is back in session and Radford is continuing her testimony. Defense lawyer Amanda Clark Palmer says that nothing prevented Diane McIver from adjusting who inherited her holdings.
“Diane could change her will at any time?” Clark Palmer asked.
“Correct,” Radford replied.
Jury is dismissed for lunch
Mary Radford, a wills expert who is also a law professor at Georgia State University College of Law is on the stand.
Among her explanations of basic law governing wills and probate she answers the question of what happens if a will can’t be located: “Statutory law is if you can’t find a will, it is presumed that that the person whose will it was, tore it up and didn’t want it anymore. If you can overcome that presumption, then the will can be probated even though you’don’t have the physical copy.”
The defense is leading attorney Rickert through testimony to highlight that if Diane McIver had wanted to rewrite her will between 2006 and her death in 2016, she likely would’ve have gone through Rickert. He testified that he worked with her on changes to her 2006 will and had also met with Harold Hudson, an estate attorney who testified yesterday. Both attorneys testified that despite meetings and emails about potential changes to Diane McIver’s will, neither ever saw or knew of a new will being written.
Defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer is asking the in-house counsel for U.S. Enterprises, Kenneth Rickert, how the McIvers normally divided up living expenses. He said his understanding was that Diane McIver covered condo expenses and Tex McIver covered ranch expenses. Before they were married, Tex was the sole owner of the ranch, but he changed the deed so that they jointly own it. If one were to die before the other, the surviving spouse would become the sole owner.
Letting jurors question witnesses is almost unheard of in Georgia. But Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney takes questions for every witness. It slows down the trial, so why does McBurney encourage it? Read more here.
Immediately after Diane McIver’s death, Rickert joined other friends who came to the McIver’s condo to pay his respects. He had a conversation with Tex McIver in which McIver asked Rickert if he could collect Diane’s Social Security benefit. Rickert said he didn’t know the answer. Tex told him that his work at the law firm had been cut back and he was only bringing in about $10,000 a month. Tex also told Rickert that the Putnam County ranch cost $20,000 to $25,000 a month to maintain and that they were going to restructure things by the end of the year.
Rickert testifies that in the days after Diane McIver’s death in September 2016, he helped Tex McIver locate Diane McIver’s will. She kept it inside a locked file cabinet at the McIvers’ condo. Rickert said they called a locksmith to open the cabinet. There he found Diane’s original 2006 will, some codicils - or written changes - and other copies of her will and Tex’s will.
One copy of the will had handwritten notes that appeared to be in Tex McIver’s handwriting. In one place a note about Diane’s wedding ring being left to Tex was circled and the note “Other jewelry?” was written next to it. There was also a note elsewhere that a name was incorrect.
In a meeting that occurred between 2009 and 2011, Diane asked Rickert to attend a meeting to talk about revising her will. Rickert said the McIvers never reached an agreement to change the will. He said he is unaware if Diane ever rewrote her 2006 will at a later date, but that she wanted to remove Catherine Johansen, with whom she was no longer friends, and she also wanted to set up a trust for her godson, Austin Schwall.
Asked about Diane’s relationship with Tex McIver’s son, Robbie, Rickert said her feelings toward Robbie “were not good.” “She had had some run-ins with him,” Rickert said before objections from the defense cut him off.
Robbie was mentioned in testimony on Monday as the only one of his three children that Tex McIver has maintained a close relationship with, and one who might have been included in Tex McIver’s will.
Attorney Rickert is reading a promissory note for a loan from Diane McIver to Claud “Tex” McIver for $755,000 plus interest, written March 1, 2005. The note was secured with the Putnam County real estate deed for the McIver ranch.
“That would give, theoretically, Diane the ability to foreclose on the property. I’m not sure that ever would have happened. Diane would’ve avoided that at all costs to keep the marriage together,” Rickert said.
He added she treated such loans in a business-like manner, “She expected to be repaid. ... If they didn’t make a monthly payment, she would send out a notice, even if they were friends.”
That loan was due in 2014, but in December 2014, Rickert prepared a renewal promissory note for Diane McIver for the same loan to Tex McIver. The December note was still secured by the Putnam County ranch, but the interest rate was slightly lower. It was due to be paid in full by Dec. 21, 2017.
The jury is now seated and Kenneth Rickert is being called to the stand. He is the general counsel responsible for all legal issues for U.S. Enterprises. He worked most closely with Diane McIver, but did not socialize with the McIvers.
“Diane was difficult, she was a tough taskmaster. Very tough and street smart. She was a hard working individual and she achieved a lot in her life,” he said. “Everyone who worked at the company knew she had a sharp tongue.”
Good morning, the jury is not yet seated but attorneys and the judge are discussing testimony that may come in the case.
The prosecution team is talking about which TV and radio reporters might be called to testify. Our reporter from the AJC, Craig Schneider, wrote an article that the prosecution is interested in, and Channel 2 Action News reporter Mark Winne also might be asked to take the stand.
Did Dani Jo Carter’s testimony help or hurt Tex McIver? After more than two full days of testimony from Carter last week -- the sole witness to the McIver shooting -- our criminal justice reporter Bill Rankin takes a close look in episode 7 in his podcast, “Breakdown: The McIver Murder Case.”