Josh Rudolph was not going to let a technological lapse get in the way of his fix, not with the star witness in the Claud “Tex’ McIver murder trial on the stand.
So when all the live streams — as many as five on a regular basis — of the daily legal drama went down a few weeks ago, Rudolph jumped in his car and drove 45 minutes to the Fulton County courthouse to watch Dani Jo Carter, the sole eye witness to the shooting of Diane McIver, testify.
It’s not every day you get to observe a Tom Wolfe novel unfold in real time.
The bizarre circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Atlanta businesswoman Diane McIver by her husband are compelling enough. Those who believe it was an accident are as passionate as those convinced Tex McIver intended to kill his wife of 10 years.
But this is no mere whodunit. The case, fueled by relentless media coverage, has provided a glimpse into a world few know. The McIvers lived lavishly. Testimony has revealed Diane converted a bedroom into a walk-in closet and had more than 100 fur coats. She and her husband shared a personal masseuse who often traveled with them on overseas vacations. Their “ranch” in Putnam County costs $21,000 a month to maintain.
Then there’s the unlikely defendant, a white, politically connected attorney who’s either a victim of circumstance or his own greed. Perhaps both.
And if that’s not enough there’s also a racial component injected by the defendant himself. In an early account of the shooting shared with the media by his former spokesman, Bill Crane, McIver said he armed himself that night because he was worried, in part, about Black Lives Matter protesters. McIver, through his former attorney, later denied that version of the story but the damage had been done.
“If I as a black man had given an explanation like that, I would be arrested and there would be calls for a murder indictment by the DA,” said former Atlanta City Council member Derrick Boazman in October 2016, two months before Atlanta police charged McIver with reckless conduct and involuntary manslaughter.
The charges were upgraded the following spring to felony murder by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.
Ironically, it’s McIver’s seemingly anachronistic views that makes Atlanta media consultant Grayson Daughters, an avid follower of the trial, think the shooting was probably unintentional. She said she knows his type well.
“Here’s this bumbling old geezer who sees a black person and has to get his gun out to protect the ladies,” said Daughters, 56. “He can’t handle the fact that he’s lost his partnership, that his wife makes more more than him so he gets into this horrible mess and thinks he can spin this thing, he can manage this thing. It’s his last gasp to exert control while they still have it. He thinks he can run this game but learns it’s not his game anymore.”
The case illustrates just how insular Atlanta can be, she said. The McIvers may have called Atlanta home but Buckhead was their bubble.
“They’ve never been on the Beltline. They’d never get on MARTA,” Daughters said. “They hold to their old stereotypes of downtown Atlanta. It shows how out of step with the times that they are.”
That was evident in Carter’s testimony about her final conversation with Diane McIver as they drove north on Piedmont into Midtown. As they passed through Ponce de Leon Avenue, Carter mentioned the area’s most famous tenant, the Clermont Lounge, and its iconic stripper, Blondie. Diane had never heard of it though she had lived and worked in Atlanta for some 40 years.
The district attorney, while not personally prosecuting the case, is another intriguing character in this spellbinding saga. Howard has never shied away from a high-profile case and his record includes both spectacular victories — convicting 11 of 12 defendants of racketeering in the 2015 Atlanta Public Schools trial — and embarrassing defeats, perhaps none more so than the Ray Lewis case. Howard charged the Baltimore Ravens star linebacker with murder in 2000 but ended up reaching a deal in which Lewis pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
Daughters said she thinks Howard “overreached,” and most attorneys interviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution say they don’t believe Tex McIver’s intent to kill has been proved. The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Monday and the state will have a little more time to change their minds.
However, informal Twitter polls and Facebook group discussions seem to indicate a majority of those following the trial believe McIver is guilty.
Amanda Forlio isn’t among that group. She’s not an Atlantan, either. A good many of the trial’s followers on social media hail from elsewhere. While they may not be invested in all the local subplots, Forlio, a 39-year-old publicist living in Brooklyn, said the trial has “occupied all my time.”
Forlio has followed other sensational trials but said this one is especially intriguing “because there are so many different layers to it.
“They (the McIvers) kind of had everything and it ends like this,” she said. “It’s interesting and a little scary.”
Forlio came into the trial thinking Tex McIver was guilty. Now she said she’s convinced the shooting was a horrible accident.
“The state made big promises and so far they haven’t delivered on them,” Forlio said. “Inconsistent statements don’t make a man guilty.”
For Rudolph, McIver’s various accounts of what happened inside the Ford Expedition on that September 2016 night indicate just that.
“If he’s not guilty he sure doesn’t act like an innocent man,” he said, adding he found Carter’s testimony especially compelling: That Tex McIver encouraged her to tell police she was not driving the couple’s SUV when he shot his wife from the back seat.
If McIver walks “I’ll be surprised,” said Rudolph, 30. His co-workers at the TMS Distribution Center in Gwinnett County, where the trial is a hot topic, aren’t so certain.
“It’s kind of shocking to see someone in his position being charged with something like this,” Rudolph said.
Let alone be found guilty. After 15 days of testimony and more than 60 witnesses, a verdict could come down within the next two weeks. But the debate is likely to linger.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.