Shortly after Dani Jo Carter and Claud “Tex” McIver arrived at Emory University Hospital with an unconscious Diane McIver, who was bleeding out from a gunshot wound, Tex McIver asked Carter to retrieve his cellphone from his Ford Expedition.
As he scrolled through his contacts, Carter said the Atlanta attorney looked at her and said, “I know this doesn’t look good.”
“I knew he was calling his attorney, because that’s what attorneys do,” Carter recalled as she testified at the Atlanta attorney’s murder trial, which entered its third week Monday.
Then, she said, McIver looked past her at two uniformed police officers passing by. “I don’t trust these guys,” he warned, before adding “Dani Jo, I hate to see you get wrapped up in this. I’ve seen how these things can go down.”
McIver urged her to say, if questioned by anyone about the shooting, that she came down to the hospital as a friend of the family, Carter testified.
“I leaned down and I said, ‘Tex, I just drove you to the damned emergency room.’”
McIver replied “Well, they don’t know that,” she said.
“That took my breath away,” Carter told the jury.
“If I just drove down here as a friend of the family, there was no reason for me to be down at Emory hospital in Decatur, where I never go with no car on a Sunday night just 15 minutes after his wife had been shot,” she told the jury. “How was I supposed to explain that?”
She testified that she told McIver, “I can’t lie.”
Carter was driving the McIvers’ Ford Expedition on Sept. 25, 2016, when McIver, sitting in the SUV’s back seat, fired the bullet that killed his wife. McIver has always said the shooting was an accident.
Carter recounted for the jury how she and the couple were returning to Atlanta after a weekend at the McIvers’ 75-acre ranch near Lake Oconee. As they drove through Atlanta on the interstate, they rolled into a traffic jam, and Carter pulled off the highway onto a downtown street in a gentrifying neighborhood.
Diane McIver, who was president of billboard company U.S. Enterprises, began navigating for Carter as they headed north to Buckhead.
Tex McIver spoke up as they left the interstate, warning that leaving the highway was “a bad idea” because ”it’s a bad area.”
Then he asked his wife to hand him a revolver wrapped in a plastic grocery bag stored in the console. Several miles later, the SUV was stopped at a traffic light in an upscale neighborhood across from Piedmont Park when Carter said she heard an explosion.
“I did not realize it was a gunshot right away,” she said. “Diane swung around and said, ‘Tex, what did you do?’” Carter recalled.
McIver replied that “the gun discharged,” Carter said. Carter said she looked around and saw “a puff of smoke” and McIver holding the gun, still partially in the bag.
“I thought the gun was pointing down, from what I could see,” she said.
Having known Diane McIver for more than 40 years, Carter said she “expected her to light into” her husband. Instead, Diane McIver said, “Tex, you shot me.”
Tex McIver didn’t reply, Carter recalled.
Within seconds, Diane McIver’s breathing become labored, Carter said. Carter said she asked Tex where the nearest emergency room was. The car was at 14th Street and Piedmont Avenue, just a few blocks from McIver’s law firm office at Fisher & Phillips. Piedmont Hospital was just 3 miles north.
Instead, McIver instructed Carter to take his wife to Emory, a 20-minute drive via a circuitous route through residential neighborhoods. McIver never called 911, even though his cellphone was beside him, Carter said.
Carter said, as she ran red lights and raced to get Diane McIver to the emergency room, Tex McIver warned her to slow down. Diane McIver, she said, began making “horrible noises.”
“I thought she was dying,” Carter said.
McIver, she recalled, had begun holding his wife’s head and was calling her name. But he never tried to locate the wound or try to stanch the bleeding. At one point, Carter said McIver asked if his wife was still breathing.
And he warned Carter as she drove through one dark neighborhood, “I needed to be careful, because there might be people out there walking with baby carriages.”
Carter said that, while hospital personnel were trying to save Diane McIver, Tex McIver called Decatur criminal defense attorney Stephen Maples, a man whom he would introduce to Emory medical personnel treating his wife as his best friend and his “rock.” Maples, she said, arrived within 15 minutes of McIver’s call.
Carter said that, as Diane McIver was rushed to surgery, Dr. Susanne Hardy briefed Tex McIver, Maples and Carter that Diane McIver said the shooting was an accident just before they intubated her. A short time later, two Atlanta police officers pulled Carter aside. They asked her to retrace the route she had taken to the hospital from the scene of the shooting and then took her to police headquarters in downtown Atlanta.
“I was sitting there for a long time by myself,” she said. “I was upset. I was angry. I was in there all by myself and found out that my best friend died. … I was scared. I didn’t like being down there in that building. I was totally alone.”
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the location of McIver’s office.