Criminal Justice

Lawyer calls murder trial of former Fisher & Phillips partner 'an accident in search of a motive'

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Jurors in Fulton County, Georgia, began a second day of deliberations on Wednesday in the murder trial of former Fisher & Phillips partner Claud “Tex” McIver, who is accused of fatally shooting his wife while sitting in the back seat of an SUV.

Jurors heard from about 80 witnesses during 20 days of testimony in the trial of the Atlanta lawyer, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. In a separate story on closing arguments, the Journal-Constitution describes the case as a “bizarre, captivating and, ultimately, tragic saga.” Law360 and the Daily Report also have stories.

Defense lawyer Bruce Harvey asserted during his argument that the trial “is an accident in search of a motive,” while another defense lawyer, Donald Samuel, said the state’s asserted motive was based on “speculation and red herrings.”

The defense had asserted that McIver had asked his wife to hand him the gun because he thought the neighborhood they were driving through was unsafe. According to the defense, McIver had accidentally pulled the trigger after falling asleep in the back seat. His wife, Diane McIver, was sitting in the passenger seat while her friend was driving.

The defense had introduced evidence that Tex McIver had a sleep disorder that causes people to act out their dreams and to be in a state of “confusional arousal” when awakened.

Diane and Tex “were in love,” said Samuel during the closing. “You can pooh-pooh that, you can say that’s ridiculous. There was no doubt about it. They were like little teenagers in love.”

Prosecutors countered that McIver killed his wife because he was facing financial problems. The prosecution had introduced testimony that McIver’s law firm income had dropped from an average of $570,000 a year during his first seven years of marriage to Diane McIver to $275,000 for the fiscal year that ended four days before her death.

Diane McIver was already wealthy when she married her husband, and had lent him $750,000 for a half-interest in the ranch they owned, said prosecutor Clint Rucker. After the marriage, there was a disagreement over whether the couple’s godson or Tex McIver’s son should inherit the ranch, he said.

Tex McIver may have wanted “to rely on the sugar mama,” but Diane McIver wasn’t that type of woman, Rucker said. Financially, Tex McIver was “much better off with her dead than with her alive,” Rucker said.

Judge Robert McBurney, ruled Monday that jurors would not be allowed to consider a charge of misdemeanor voluntary manslaughter, according to Daily Report coverage. Jurors are considering felony charges that include malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, and possession of a pistol during the commission of a felony.

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