Tex McIver murder conviction overturned

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Georgia Supreme Court grants a new trial

The Georgia Supreme Court on Thursday granted a new trial for Claud “Tex” McIver, the Atlanta lawyer who had been convicted of his wife’s murder.

In a unanimous ruling, the state high court ruled that jurors should have been allowed to consider a misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter charge, not only a murder charge, for the fatal shooting. This would have given jurors the opportunity to decide whether McIver was criminally negligent when he fired the fatal shot, not only whether he intentionally killed his wife, Diane McIver.

Justice Michael Boggs, writing for the court, said it was particularly important for the jury to have that option because the evidence of McIver’s guilt “was not overwhelming or even strong.”

“Indeed,” Boggs wrote, “the state’s evidence of intent was weak, as no witness testified to any disagreement or quarrel between McIver and Diane, and many witnesses testified that they were very much in love.”

Moreover, the state’s evidence, which sought to show McIver had a financial motive to kill his wife, “was thin,” Boggs said.

AJC coverage: The Tex McIver case

Click below for more coverage.

BREAKDOWN: SEASON 5 — THE MCIVER CASE



This is the second time this month the high court has reversed one of the state’s most high-profile murder convictions. Last week, it granted a new trial for Justin Ross Harris, who had been found guilty of murdering his 22-month-old son by leaving him in a hot car. The court found the judge overseeing that case had improperly admitted too much prejudicial evidence of Harris’ extramarital sexual relations.

In a statement, McIver’s lawyers said they were delighted with the decision.

“He was deprived of a fair trial because the jury was not given the opportunity to find that the shooting was entirely the result of negligence, as opposed to an intentional killing,” attorneys Amanda Clark Palmer, Bruce Harvey and Don Samuel said in a statement. “He was entitled to a fair trial and did not get a fair trial.”

Jeff DiSantis, a spokesman for District Attorney Fani Willis, said the DA “will evaluate the case and make a decision on how to proceed in the near future.”

Tex and Diane McIver were seen as a wealthy and connected power couple. Tex McIver, 79, was a labor lawyer with deep ties to the state Republican Party. Diane McIver was an executive at U.S. Enterprises, known for her work ethic and sharp tongue.

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AJC file photo

AJC file photo

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AJC file photo

The killing occurred Sept. 25, 2016, when the couple returned home to Atlanta from their 84-acre ranch in Putnam County. After they entered the city, McIver asked for his .38-caliber revolver from the center console because he thought they had driven upon a Black Lives Matter protest, according to testimony.

McIver, with the gun in a plastic bag on his lap, was sitting in the back seat behind his wife. Her best friend, Dani Jo Carter, was driving the Ford Expedition.

When they came to a traffic light on Piedmont Avenue, Diane McIver, 64, told her husband to wake up and not fall asleep. Tex McIver then fired a shot through the front seat into his wife’s back.

McIver did not call 911. Instead, he directed Carter to take his wife to Emory University Hospital, where she died during surgery.

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Tex McIver (seated in the center) is surrounded by attorneys (from left, Amanda Clark Palmer, Bruce Harvey and Don Samuel) as they review questions from the jury during testimony in the Tex McIver murder trial. Lead prosecutor Clint Rucker is in the foreground on the right. Bob Andres bandres@ajc.com

Tex McIver (seated in the center) is surrounded by attorneys (from left, Amanda Clark Palmer, Bruce Harvey and Don Samuel) as they review questions from the jury during testimony in the Tex McIver murder trial. Lead prosecutor Clint Rucker is in the foreground on the right. Bob Andres bandres@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Tex McIver (seated in the center) is surrounded by attorneys (from left, Amanda Clark Palmer, Bruce Harvey and Don Samuel) as they review questions from the jury during testimony in the Tex McIver murder trial. Lead prosecutor Clint Rucker is in the foreground on the right. Bob Andres bandres@ajc.com

In the opinion, Boggs noted there was testimony McIver fired the revolver as a result of being startled awake. There was expert testimony that indicated he was holding the gun sideways in his lap and did not have it raised in an upright position when it was fired. And there was evidence that McIver suffered from a sleep disorder that could produce involuntary movements when he was suddenly awakened.

“From this evidence, the jury could have concluded that the revolver was not deliberately or intentionally fired, but rather, as McIver suggests, discharged as a result of his being startled awake, reflexively or involuntarily clutching at the bag holding the firearm, and inadvertently contacting the trigger,” Boggs wrote.

Boggs also asked, “If McIver intended to fatally shoot Diane, why would he do it in the presence of Carter, and why would he do it in Midtown Atlanta, within a few miles of several major hospitals, instead of on a rural interstate, far from any medical aid?”

The court upheld McIver’s conviction for influencing a witness. For that, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison. As of this week, he has served 4 years and 10 months in custody, his lawyers said.

The fifth season of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Breakdown podcast — “The Tex McIver Murder Case” — covered the entire trial.

THE MCIVER TRIAL

Sept. 25, 2016 – Tex McIver fatally shoots his wife Diane in their SUV near Piedmont Park.

Oct. 6, 2016 – In his first public comments, McIver tells The Atlanta Journal-Constitution it was an accident.

April 23, 2018 – A Fulton County jury convicts McIver of felony murder and other crimes.

June 30, 2022 – The Georgia Supreme Court overturns McIver’s murder conviction.