The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action news are bringing you LIVE gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Tex McIver murder trial. Check back each day for a live blog from the courtroom and daily video recaps. Visit myajc.com/crime/ for previous coverage of the case and a link to our Breakdown podcast.
This is our live recounting of today’s testimony:
6 p.m. Court is done for the day
After jurors were dismissed at 5 p.m., Judge Robert McBurney heard an hour of oral arguments from both sides on counts 5, 6 and 7 facing Tex McIver, all involving influencing witnesses.
McBurney said he will make a decision on Wednesday about the 3 charges.
Prosecuting attorney Adam Abbate is refuting Samuel’s arguments on Count 7, saying that McIver’s efforts to influence Dani Jo Carter didn’t have to be successful to be illegal. Judge McBurney asks “How is that an effort to get Ms. Carter to withhold information from law enforcement?”
The request for a directed verdict seems unlikely to get resolved today.
A “directed verdict” is a ruling issued by a trial judge after determining that there is no legally sufficient basis for a reasonable jury to reach a different conclusion.
Defense Attorney Don Samuel is making an argument for a directed verdict on one of the counts facing Tex McIver Count 7 - that he illegally influenced a witness when he left a voicemail with Dani Jo Carter’s husband asking her to stop communicating her recollections of the shooting to law enforcement. Samuel said that is the opposite of what McIver was doing, Samuel said.
In the voicemail, played earlier in the trial for jurors, McIver said, “Dani is about to send me to prison.”
But Samuel argues, “He never says ‘Don’t let her talk.’ He wanted her to go to a deposition and talk.” He reminds the judge that both Dani Jo Carter and her husband Thomas Carter testified they did not go to that deposition because they wanted to avoid the media. Not because of anything McIver said.
4:55 p.m. The jury is dismissed
Tomorrow will begin with more cross-examination of Davenport at 9 a.m.
Don Samuel earlier requested a directed verdict on motions 5, 6 and 7; all involving influencing witnesses. He’s now going to explain to Judge McBurney on why he should grant the request.
Arcilla Mining and Land Co. evaluated the value of Tex McIver’s holdings in Arcilla for use in the trial. Arcilla bought out McIver’s interest in the company in January 2017. At that time the minority shares McIver held in Arcilla Mining and Land Co. were purchased for $700,000.
Earlier, it was estimated that all McIver’s current holdings were estimated at $1.5 million to $2.5 million. That estimate includes other interests.
The defense has called its first witness: McKenzie Davenport, the chief financial officer of Arcilla Mining and Land Company located east of Macon. Tex McIver owns a 10 percent interest in the company, which mines kaolin, a white chalky mineral used to manufacture paper and bathroom fixtures among other things.
Because he was unaware he would be called as a witness until recently, Davenport watched a portion of the trial in which Dean Driskell, an accountant and expert witness on Tex McIver’s finances, testified on the McIvers’ income and net worth earlier in the trial.
Defense attorneys are going to argue that the judge should issue a directed verdict on all counts that Tex McIver is facing. A “directed verdict” is a ruling issued by a trial judge after determining that there is no legally sufficient basis for a reasonable jury to reach a different conclusion.
The prosecution is arguing that the jury needs to decide Counts 1 to 4: Murder, felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
The defense attorneys will now call witnesses until 5 p.m.
3:30 p.m. The state rests after 16 days of testimony.
The jury is being given a short break and today’s testimony will end at 5 p.m. The defense team working for Tex McIver may call their own witnesses next, but they also have the option to call no witnesses. The state bears the burden of proving the charges, as Judge Robert McBurney is explaining.
Defendant Tex McIver has been out of the courtroom since 2:22 p.m. in order to hear none of the testimony about the autopsy. He has now returned to his chair. McBurney said he will have a conversation with McIver about whether he wants to testify in his trial.
Pathologist Heninger is saying that depending on the position of the seat Diane McIver sat in at the time of the shooting, the angle of the bullet also changes.
Defense attorney Bruce Harvey is saying that a pathologist may not be qualified to speculate on the path of the bullet.
Prosecutor Clint Rucker is bringing in a mannequin to illustrate the location of the shot and the path the bullet took through the body. Defense attorney Bruce Harvey is objecting to the display. The judge has agreed to allow the demonstration to proceed.
They are using a long rod to show the trajectory of the bullet as it traveled through Diane McIver’s body, which also illustrates the angle of the gun when it was fired.
Diane McIver’s body had two bullet holes: one in the left side of her back that was the entrance wound, and one in the left side of the front of her body that was the exit wound.
The bullet struck part of her vertebrae when it went into her back and also hit a rib.
The bullet went through the lower part of Diane McIver’s chest cavity and also hit her diaphragm, which would’ve interfered with her breathing, according to Heninger’s testimony.
Cause of death was ruled to be a gunshot wound to the back.
Dr. Michael Heninger, a forensic pathologist for the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office is testifying about the autopsy done on Diane McIver. Tex McIver appears to have left the courtroom before any autopsy photos are shown. Heninger is describing the condition of Diane McIver’s body as the medical examiner’s office was preparing to begin the autopsy. Photos and video recordings of the autopsy images will not be made, at the judge’s request, but the jury will see them.
Dickerson is asked in questions from the jury: Tell jurors what it was McIver said to you that left you with the distinct impression he wanted you to offer money to the District Attorney.
“Specifically, his words were: “It would be ok with me if you share it (the success fee). And because the only person I proposed reaching out to was the District Attorney himself ...”
Court was late resuming after a long lunch break. Jeff Dickerson, a prominent Atlanta communications consultant and long-time friend of District Attorney Paul Howard, is still on the stand. Prosecutor Clint Rucker is preparing to do his redirect examination.
Dickerson is asked if Tex McIver hired him because of his relationship with Howard. Dickerson said he believes that was in part true.
“Is asking you to share your success fee with an elected public official like Mr. Howard unusual?” Howard asked.
“It’s unheard of,” Dickerson said.
“What was said to you was ‘If you want to share the success fee, you can,’” Defense attorney Don Samuel added.
“That’s correct,” Dickerson said.
The jury is taking a lunch break. Dickerson will be back on the stand for Rucker’s redirect.
Samuel’s questioning of Dickerson becomes aggressive as he drills down on specifically what McIver did — or did not — say when he offered him money to get the charges dismissed or reduced.
“He didn’t say there’s money in this for Paul Howard if he dismissed the charges,” Samuel asked.
“He didn’t use those words,” Dickerson replied.
“You took it to mean you could bribe Paul Howard,” Samuel said.
“His words left me with the distinct impression that he was asking me to share this amorphous success fee with Paul Howard,” Dickerson said.
Later on, Dickerson said he told McIver he would never approach Howard with an overture involving money.
“I told him I would never do such a thing and the district attorney would never accept it,” Dickerson said.
Samuel asked if McIver ever brought the matter up again.
Dickerson said he did not.
Defense attorney Don Samuel is now cross examining Dickerson.
Dickerson said bonuses – or “success fees” – are not uncommon in the public relations business. They are linked to getting a client a desired result.
Dickerson also said that early on he advised Tex McIver that he shouldn’t go through with the public estate sale of his dead wife’s furs, jewels and designer clothes. Dickerson told McIver the optics were bad, especially coming on the heels of other negative press coverage. McIver first said he would call off the sale, Dickerson testified, but then changed his mind after learning he would be charged a cancellation fee.
Dickerson said he parted ways with McIver in the spring of 2017 after the Atlanta attorney granted WSB-TV an interview from the Fulton County Jail. Dickerson said he didn’t know about the interview and didn’t think it appropriate. He also thought his public relations advice was being ignored.
In January 2018, Dickerson had lunch with Paul Howard at Mary Mac’s. During that lunch he told the district attorney about McIver’s offer of a bonus.
The jury is back after a brief break. Dickerson is still being questioned by Rucker.
Rucker asks Dickerson if he believed McIver was joking when he mentioned a bonus for Dickerson — that he could share with the district attorney — if the criminal charges were reduced or dropped.
“No,” Dickerson replied.
Dickerson said that after meeting with McIver he texted Paul Howard saying he wanted to talk with him about “a new client.”
After learning the client was McIver, Howard didn’t text back.
“I think that says a lot,” Dickerson said he told McIver.
“We’re not going to get Mr. Howard to engage on that effort. It’s not going to happen.”
Jeff Dickerson, a prominent Atlanta communications consultant, has taken the stand. Dickerson was a longtime panelist on the public affairs television show “The Georgia Gang” and once worked as an editorial writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Under questioning from prosecutor Clint Rucker, Dickerson said he is a longtime friend of Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.
In late 2016 or early 2017, Dickerson said he met with Tex McIver and his lawyer, Steve Maples, and soon signed on to act as a media strategist and spokesperson.
Dickerson said he and Tex McIver had a conversation about getting the charges against him dropped or reduced. Dickerson said he might be able to help with that by meeting with Howard.
“He said he would offer me a bonus if I were to make that happen and it would be OK with him — I think those were his words — if I were to share that with others,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson said it soon became “clear to me that he was making reference to the district attorney.”
Dickerson said he would never make such an overture to Howard because it would be at “the least unethical and at the most illegal.”
Fitzgerald testifies that Tex McIver made a phone call from Longhorn Steakhouse in Coyners the night of the shooting. The next phone call he made was from Emory University Hospital to his lawyer, Steve Maples. This backs up earlier testimony which said McIver never called 911 after shooting his wife.
His testimony also shows phone calls between Tex McIver and Bill Crane, his spokesman who testified Monday.
The defense doesn’t have any questions for Fitzgerald.
Under questioning from Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Cara Convery, Fitzgerald is explaining how he analyzes cell phone use by tracking towers the calls are routed through.
The FBI agent is no stranger to high-profile criminal trials. He testified in the Dunwoody day care murder trial here in Georgia, outlining calls made by Andrea Sneiderman after learning her husband had been shot.
Fitzgerald also testified in the case of Adnan Syed, the Maryland man made famous by the podcast Serial. Syed has just been granted a new trial.
Jurors have taken their seats and court has begun.
FBI Special Agent Chad Fitzgerald has taken the stand. He’s a specialist in cellular communications.
It’s worth noting who’s in the courtroom to watch today’s proceedings. Tex McIver’s sister, Dixie Martin, is again in the audience; so is Dani Jo Carter, Diane McIver’s close friend who was driving the SUV when the shooting took place. Billy Corey, Diane McIver’s longtime boss and mentor, is also there.
Good morning and welcome to day 16 of the trial.
The lawyers are taking care of business before the jury enters the courtroom.
Over defense objections, Judge Robert McBurney will allow the jury to see several autopsy photos of Diane McIver.
Left out will be some more graphic pictures that could unfairly prejudice jurors.
Prosecutor Clint Rucker said the state is expected to rest by lunchtime after calling three more witnesses. The defense could begin this afternoon.
In 15 days of testimony in the Tex McIver murder trial, we’ve seen over 60 witnesses. See photos of the witnesses so far.
Monday’s testimony focused on the earliest reports of the incident that became public following Diane McIver’s shooting and death. Read the AJC story here that was the focus of Bill Crane’s testimony on Monday.
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