Don Samuel Don Samuel (Photo:
John Disney/ ALM)

Saying lightheartedly he has “decided to limit my practice to innocent people,” Atlanta criminal defense lawyer Don Samuel has joined the legal team defending Atlanta attorney Claud “Tex” McIver against charges that he intentionally killed his wife last year.

Samuel  told the Daily Report on Wednesday that Atlanta criminal defense attorney Bruce Harvey —who  joined McIver’s legal team in September—called him last week and asked him if he would be interested in helping to defend McIver against felony and malice murder charges stemming from the September 2016 shooting death of  McIver’s wife, Diane.  Samuel quickly agreed, saying he has “always been fascinated” by the case.

“I  started going through a lot of discovery, a lot of police reports and was just amazed at the lack of any evidence to support the charges,” said the veteran defense lawyer, a partner at Atlanta’s Garland, Samuel & Loeb. “It’s shocking that there is nothing there to support the  theory that this is a malice murder case or that there was an intentional aggravated assault to support a felony murder charge.”

In reviewing the case, Samuel said, “I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop” that might suggest a murder charge was warranted, “but I can’t find the first shoe.”

Samuel suggested that Fulton County prosecutors have hinted at a motive for Diane McIver’s death without any concrete evidence of a crime. “Motive is always the second thing,” he said. “First you have to have a crime; you have to have an intentional killing.”

Prosecutors have repeatedly suggested in court papers and at court hearings that a second will that Diane McIver allegedly drew up—but has, so far, not been found—would provide a supposed motive for her death. McIver was shot through the back while the couple was returning from a weekend at their Putnam County farm in their SUV, which was being driven by a family friend.

Diane McIver was shot after her husband asked to be given a handgun he kept in the vehicle’s front console.

McIver, his legal team and spokesmen have said that his wife’s shooting was an accident and that the 74-year-old former Fisher & Phillips partner was devastated by it.

Harvey took over as McIver’s lead defense counsel last week after Decatur attorney Stephen Maples and a team of Polsinelli attorneys led by former Fulton County Superior Court Judge William Hill Jr. notified the court that they intended to withdraw as McIver’s counsel. Maples has defended McIver since he summoned him to Emory University Hospital while Diane McIver was still in surgery after the shooting.

Harvey last week praised Hill and his team for their pretrial court battles with county prosecutors. McIver was first charged with involuntary manslaughter in December 2016.  In April, a county grand jury issued a seven-count indictment that included malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and three counts of influencing a witness. Prosecutors also persuaded Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney to revoke McIver’s bond in April after investigators and prosecutors executing a search warrant at McIver’s residence found a gun in violation of his bond conditions.

But McBurney agreed to set a new $750,000 bond when prosecutors asked to postpone McIver’s trial, which had been scheduled to begin last month, until next year.

On Wednesday, Maples told the Daily Report that the decision to place Harvey in charge of McIver’s defense was “amicable.” He said that Harvey was “a welcome addition” to McIver’s defense, adding that Samuel was “serious, brilliant, and … at the top of anyone’s list who is charged with a criminal offense.”

Hill declined comment.

Samuel and Harvey have teamed up before.  In 2000, Samuel and partner Ed Garland successfully defended Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis against murder charges stemming from the stabbing deaths of two men during a Buckhead street brawl after a late-night celebration following the 2000 Super Bowl in Atlanta.

Harvey defended Reginald Oakley, a member of Lewis’ entourage that left the Atlanta nightclub district in Lewis’ limousine as Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker lay dying in the street. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard dropped murder and aggravated assault charges against Lewis in return for the football player’s plea to misdemeanor obstruction of a police officer, securing his freedom and saving his football career.

A jury eventually acquitted Oakley and co-defendant Joseph Sweeting of all charges in the double homicide.

The two lawyers teamed up again in 2001 when they were part of a team of attorneys representing defendants indicted on federal racketeering charges associated with the Gold Club, a high-dollar strip club that federal authorities believed was an Atlanta beachhead for the New York Mafia.

Samuel defended Larry Gleit, who had served as the club’s chief financial officer. Harvey defended club dancer Jaclyn “Diva” Bush. The government eventually dismissed racketeering and money laundering charges against Gleit in exchange for a misdemeanor plea to failing to keep accurate tax records for some club employees—an offense Samuel, at the time, said was akin to “peeing in a federal park.” Bush eventually pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of failing to report prostitution.