After 16 days of testimony and nearly 70 witnesses, the state has established that Claud “Tex” McIver is manipulative, cunning and dishonest.
But a cold-blooded killer? That’s a tougher sell. Although, in the days and weeks after his wife’s death, the defendant did his best to help the make the case for murder. In many ways, he was the prosecution’s strongest witness.
The prosecution rested its case Tuesday with testimony from Jeff Dickerson, a crisis communications consultant who said McIver offered him a “bonus” if he could get the charges against him dropped. Dickerson said McIver told him that, if successful, “it would be okay with him, I think were his words, if I shared it with others.”
The consultant, paid partially through checks drawn from Diane McIver’s estate, sought clarification and said “it became clear to me that he was making reference to the district attorney.” Dickerson is friends with Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.
“It’s amazing to me that (McIver) is an attorney because just about everything he did was the exact opposite of what you’d tell your client to do,” trial watcher and Atlanta criminal defense attorney Page Pate told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
But in a case dependent on proving motive, Pate said he believes the state fell short.
“Yeah, he needed money. A lot of people do,” he said. “But they didn’t prove he was better off with her dead than alive.”
In her opening statement, prosecutor Seleta Griffin said “all the events on September 25, 2016 (the night Diane McIver was shot) were planned, intended and calculated.”
“Really? He planned there would be traffic (on the Connector)?” said Noah Pines, a criminal defense lawyer and former DeKalb County prosecutor. “He planned they would pull off (on Edgewood Avenue)? There was a lot of over-promising done in this case.”
Griffin also told jurors they would hear McIver give six different versions of what happened the night of the shooting. She specifically mentioned the account from a doctor claiming McIver told her Diane asked for the gun and placed it behind her back, in essence shooting herself.
But that’s not what they heard from Emory University Hospital emergency room doctor Selin Caglar when she took the stand during the trial’s first week and was pressed about who held the gun.
“I don’t understand why I’m here. I don’t know who was holding it,” Caglar said.
She testified that McIver told her he took out the gun and it went off when they “went over a bump.”
He said the same thing to Bill Crane, a longtime friend who acted as his spokesman in the immediate aftermath of Diane McIver’s death. He also told Crane (and Dickerson) he wasn’t drinking, though, according to Carter, the McIvers shared a tumbler of red wine on the drive from their Putnam County ranch to Longhorn Steaks in Conyers, where they drank some more.
“The state has proven beyond all doubt that Tex McIver is an entitled, lecherous racist,” Atlanta attorney Esther Panitch said. “He verbally pined over his wife’s best friend days after he killed Diane. After hearing testimony from Bill Crane regarding Black Lives Matter and the surgeon who witnessed McIver call a fellow doctor, a person of color, ‘boy,’ we should all want Tex nowhere near us.”
Yet Panitch agrees prosecutors over-reached and said their unsubtle hints that McIver was having an affair with his masseuse, Annie Anderson, could backfire. Interestingly, the defense announced Tuesday they will call Anderson as a witness.
No one could say the state failed to cross every “t” and dot every “i.” Slowly. Deliberately. Repeatedly.
“Complicated. Messy. Inconsistent,” was how Pate termed the state’s case. “It was as if they decided to throw everything they had up there to see what sticks.”
Pines went even further.
“There’s a lot of ‘Who cares?’ in this case,” he said. “Why are you asking for a nurse’s qualifications? Stuff like that. Their case has not been as tight as it should’ve been.”
Former Cobb County prosecutor turned defense attorney Philip Holloway said the Fulton district attorney has a “tendency to overcharge” and believes that’s what happened here. Howard has not been in the courtroom to try the case, but has left the work to Fulton Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker.
“In the McIver case it’s impossible to know what exactly, if anything, was in his mind at the moment the gun discharged,” Holloway said. “So we are at the point where the DA is somehow certain he knows so he made the decision to increase the charges to include malice murder.”
In some instances, state witnesses may have done more to help the defense. Anne Schwall, the mother of the McIvers’ godson, Austin, testified she still thinks highly of Tex and considers him a father figure.
Rachel Styles, who worked with Diane McIver at U.S. Enterprises, said she believes the defendant is “a very honorable, trustworthy man.”
And Catherine Johansen, an estranged friend who paid the $1,600 due for Diane’s cremation while McIver dithered, said Dani Jo Carter, the sole witness to the shooting, told her Tex was asleep when the gun went off.
That version is in line with the McIver’s final account on what happened inside the couple’s Ford Expedition. It’s a story Carter, the lone witness to the shooting, didn’t tell police or share with jurors when she testified.
What went right
Throughout much of the case, Diane McIver’s friends and colleagues from U.S. Enterprises, including her boss and mentor Billy Corey, have watched the proceedings in person. It’s clear from their testimony that they are suspicious of the defendant.
One of the more effective witnesses for the prosecution was Jay Grover, a longtime friend and colleague of Diane McIver’s who testified that Tex seemed preoccupied with money after his wife’s death.
Two days after the shooting, Grover said McIver asked him “if he knew anything about Social Security,” wondering if he could collect his dead wife’s benefits. Grover said McIver was also soliciting help in a bid to obtain a seat on the board of directors at an Oklahoma-based tobacco company, a gig that would earn him six figures annually.
Also effective for prosecutors: A courtroom display of the defendant’s massive firearms collection — 44 in all — with an excerpt from a jailhouse interview McIver gave to a TV reporter.
“Guns are not my thing,” McIver said. In that same interview he claimed to be more successful than his wife, Diane. In fact, a state witness said she was worth more than twice as much money as her husband.
“There’s no way he’s walking out of there acquitted on all charges,” Pate said. He expects Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney will direct jurors to consider lesser charges.
In the end, the victim’s own words to emergency room doctors left prosecutors with an impossible task.
“She said it was an accident,” Pines said. “That’s the part the state just can’t get around.”
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