An Emory University police officer testified Thursday that he overheard Atlanta attorney Claud “Tex” McIver in the hospital emergency room asking his attorney, “What do I say? What’s the plan?” as McIver’s wife was dying.
Officer Frank Stroupe testified in McIver’s ongoing murder trial that emergency room personnel were treating McIver’s wife, Diane McIver, for a gunshot wound as he passed by the waiting room where McIver and his lawyer, Stephen Maples, were talking.
McIver, who has never denied firing the shot that killed his wife, is on trial on charges of malice murder, felony murder and three counts of influencing witnesses. McIver and his lawyers have always insisted the gun fired accidentally inside the couple’s Ford Expedition as family friend Dani Jo Carter was driving the couple home from a weekend at their 75-acre ranch.
Prosecutors claim McIver had a financial motivation after he lost his equity partnership at Atlanta’s Fisher & Phillips in 2014.
McIver, his wife and Dani Jo Carter, the sole witness to the shooting, arrived at Emory University Hospital’s emergency room at about 10:15 p.m., according to trial testimony.
“I couldn’t tell you the whole conversation,” Stroupe said. “It was in passing.” But, he added, “It really stuck out that he was asking, ‘What should I say? What’s the plan?’”
Stroupe said he didn’t include that conversation in his report.
“The comment you’re talking about was not important enough to write down?” asked Amanda Clark Palmer, a member of McIver’s defense team.
Stroupe explained that he would not have included what he described as “specific investigative information” in his report “because that was not the role I was serving at the time. … I was a sort of liaison between the victim and the subject and [the Atlanta Police Department].”
Stroupe testified that he overheard the conversation shortly after Maples arrived at the emergency room.
“He came in kind of like he was managing the situation,” Stroupe recalled. “He presented, maybe, a business card and said he was an attorney. And he went into the room where the defendant was and started speaking with him.”
Stroupe said he was summoned to the ER by hospital security, who notified him Diane McIver had been shot. Stroupe said night nurse supervisor Terri Sullivan approached him in the ER to share her own observations.
Stroupe didn’t say what Sullivan told him. But Sullivan testified last week that she overheard McIver and Maples talking as she passed by the ER waiting room. Sullivan testified that she overheard Maples tell McIver and Carter, “This is what you’re going to tell them.”
“I had the impression there was a plan being enacted,” Sullivan told the jury. “They were kind of huddling like … a sports team, kind of holding on in a small circle.”
Stroupe said he didn’t initially attempt to speak with McIver but that he did talk to Carter, who told him that McIver “had the gun that shot her.” He said he didn’t recall whether Carter had told him the shooting was an accident.
Stroupe said he learned the shooting likely had taken place in the city of Atlanta while talking to Carter, and he subsequently summoned Atlanta police to the hospital. He also said he and another police officer then located the Expedition, which had been parked by the hospital valets and secured it until police arrived.
Two Atlanta police officers who were dispatched to Emory to investigate also testified Thursday that Maples introduced himself shortly after they arrived. Investigator Brian Ricker said that, when he and Detective Malik Robeson-Els walked in, “The first thing that happened is the attorney hands me a business card. He said he was an attorney and, I believe, a childhood friend of the defendant.”
Ricker said neither he nor his partner had any substantive conversation with McIver. Instead, they asked Carter, who was driving the couple’s SUV, to help them retrace the route and pinpoint where the gun was fired.
A report Ricker wrote stated that at one point during that drive, Carter observed “there were a lot of scary people” at the Edgewood Avenue exit where she had left the interstate.
That remark bolsters accounts that Maples gave to news media within days of Diane McIver’s death to explain why Tex McIver was holding the gun. Ricker’s report stated that Carter also told him McIver asked his wife to hand him a gun from the SUV’s center console “for their safety.”
“She thought Mr. McIver was asleep and then fell back asleep when he had the gun?” McIver defense lawyer Bruce Harvey asked.
“Correct,” Ricker replied.