ATLANTA (AP) — A jury on Monday found a prominent Atlanta attorney who fatally shot his wife guilty of murder and influencing witnesses, capping a weekslong trial that had riveted the attention of this Southern city.
Jurors returned the verdict Monday afternoon against 75-year-old Claud “Tex” McIver in the September 2016 shooting death of his 64-year-old wife Diane. Seated and wearing a dark suit, the defendant showed little emotion as the jury decision was read. Jurors also found him guilty of possession of a gun during the commission of a felony and of aggravated assault.
The murder conviction carries a sentence of life in prison, and it remains up to the judge whether he will have the possibility of parole. No immediate sentencing date was set, and McIver was immediately handcuffed and led out of the court.
No one has disputed that he shot his wife in 2016, but the defense had said the shooting was an accident. Defense attorneys also said at trial that McIver loved his wife dearly and that the shooting was a tragic accident. Prosecutors had said, however, that McIver intentionally killed his wife because he was in dire financial straits and coveted her money.
The jury found McIver not guilty of malice murder but guilty of felony murder. Felony murder means a killing happens during the commission of a felony, in this case aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The aggravated assault conviction implies intent.
McIver also was found guilty of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and influencing witnesses. The influencing witnesses charge stems from McIver’s having told the driver of the SUV and only witness to the shooting to tell police she wasn’t present when the shot was fired.
The McIvers were affluent and well-connected. He was a partner at a prominent labor and employment law firm and served on the state election board. She was president of U.S. Enterprises Inc., the parent company of Corey Airport Services, where she had worked for 43 years.
Dani Jo Carter, a close friend of Diane McIver, was driving the couple’s Ford Expedition on the evening of Sept. 25, 2016, as the three returned from a weekend at the McIvers’ horse farm in Putnam County, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Atlanta. Diane McIver was in the front passenger seat and Tex McIver was in the back seat behind his wife.
With traffic heavy on the interstate, Carter exited in downtown Atlanta. A short while later, McIver fired the gun, hitting his wife in the back. Carter drove to Emory University Hospital, where Diane McIver died.
Both in their second marriage, the McIvers were both wealthy when they wed and kept their finances separate.
But with the recent loss of his equity partnership in his law firm, Tex McIver’s income had decreased dramatically and he depended on his wife financially. Prosecutor Clint Rucker said in his closing argument that McIver coveted his wife’s money and was better off with her dead than alive.
Defense attorney Bruce Harvey countered that the state’s case was full of innuendo and unfulfilled promises and characterized it as an “accident in search of a motive.” His co-counsel, Don Samuel, acknowledged that their client was far from perfect but insisted that he loved his wife dearly and it was illogical to think he would kill her intentionally.
After Monday’s verdict, defense lawyers did not immediately respond to an emailed message seeking comment.