A veteran criminal defense lawyer defending Claud “Tex” McIver in the 75-year-old lawyer’s murder trial sought to replace the prosecutors’ narrative that McIver is a killer who tried to cover up his crime with a different story.
Defense attorney Bruce Harvey on Tuesday began a gentle cross-examination of Dani Jo Carter—the sole witness to the shooting and longtime friend of Diane McIver. Harvey portrayed Tex McIver as a courtly gentleman who truly loved the wife he claims he accidentally shot and killed after falling asleep while holding a gun. Prosecutors claim he had a financial motive.
Carter testified that a weekend visit to the McIvers’ ranch prior to the shooting was “relaxed” and “wonderful.”
“There was nothing, nothing, nothing that indicated to you that this was a day that was any different than any other day,” Harvey asked. Carter agreed.
Carter was driving the McIvers home from the ranch and exited the interstate onto a downtown Atlanta street when McIver, who was riding in the back seat, asked his wife for a gun he kept in the vehicle’s front console. Diane McIver, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, handed it to him. Several miles later, the gun fired as Carter was stopped at a traffic light, piercing the front seat and fatally wounding his wife.
Harvey spent lots of time quietly attempting to rehabilitate his client.
“There is one simple word we have heard before, and that word is ‘darling,’” Harvey said in a running monologue frequently punctuated by assents from Carter. “Tex McIver is a Southern gentleman, and he referred to Diane all the time as ‘darling.’”
That, Harvey said, included the last words McIver ever spoke to his wife when he said, “Darlin’, would you hand me my gun.”
McIver was smitten from the very beginning by the woman he would eventually marry, Harvey said, adding that McIver was “gracious to Diane and gracious to those around him.”
Harvey also reminded Carter that, as Atlanta police interviewed her shortly after Diane McIver died, she described the couple as “lovebirds.” Carter, he said, also told police the couple’s relationship was “as close to perfect as you could get. … He absolutely worshipped her.”
Harvey also sought to convey during his cross-examination that, as Carter ran into a traffic jam on the interstate, Tex McIver was asleep in the back seat. Although Diane McIver and Carter were chatting animatedly about politics, a subject McIver relished, he remained quiet in back.
Harvey also sought to convey to the jury that after McIver, fearful of the downtown neighborhood the SUV was driving through, asked for his gun, he soon fell back asleep. “Y’all were talking. Tex hasn’t said another word, right?” Harvey asked.
Again, Harvey reminded Carter that, when a detective interviewed her within hours of her friend’s death, she had told him, “I’m sure he [Tex] went to sleep with the gun in his hand,” and that Tex told her after the gun went off, “I discharged a bullet. I was asleep.”
Carter said she didn’t recall Tex saying he was asleep but acknowledged it was included in the statement police recorded. Carter, Harvey said, had also told the detective who interviewed her, “There is not a doubt in my mind that it was completely one of the most horrible accidents that I know about.”
“I did say that,” Carter replied.
During her cross-examination, Carter also acknowledged that she was aware Tex McIver had a sleep disorder that often made it difficult for him to distinguish between dreams and reality and that, when he was asleep, he would occasionally “lash out.”
“You understood that Diane was afraid that he was going to hit her?” Harvey asked.
“Yes,” Carter replied.
Harvey also sought to limit potential damage from Carter’s testimony that, while emergency room personnel were trying unsuccessfully to save Diane McIver’s life, Tex McIver had suggested that she not tell police she was the sole witness and was driving the SUV when the gun went off. Carter had earlier testified that McIver told her, “You just need to tell them you’re down here as a friend of the family.”
“Wasn’t it the dumbest thing you’d ever heard?” Harvey asked.
“It didn’t make sense to me,” Carter responded.
“Of course it didn’t make sense,” Harvey replied. “There is no question that Tex McIver is the person who shot his wife, right? … Nobody was denying that, correct? It wasn’t a mystery. You drove the car.” It was “just stupid,” he added.
And, when Carter informed McIver she wouldn’t lie, Harvey said McIver assured her, “I’m not telling you to do that.”
Harvey also reminded Carter that she did not tell police that McIver asked her not to tell anyone she was a witness. But Carter said she didn’t tell the detective what McIver had said because, “It was a bad conversation. It sounded very bad for Tex.”