ATLANTA — Day 15 of testimony in the Tex McIver murder trial has wrapped up.
Monday was the first day back in court after a week off for spring break.
McIver, an Atlanta attorney, is accused of intentionally killing his wife, Diane, as they rode in their SUV in Sept. 2016. McIver claims the shooting was an accident.
Channel 2 Action News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution will bring you LIVE gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Tex McIver murder trial. Check back each day for a live blog from the courtroom and daily video recaps. Visit our Tex McIver murder trial special section for an interactive timeline, history of the case and much more.
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5:10 p.m. The jury is dismissed for the day. We will return at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Jurors questioned Crane on why he didn’t work to correct the errors he saw in the reporting done in the AJC and the Fulton County Daily Report. He said he did reach out to both reporters and was able to correct initial reports and that the stories were accurate in their final version.
Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker told the judge that he can count on one hand the number of witnesses remaining to be called to the stand by the state.
The reporting that continued by the AJC and the Fulton County Daily Report was accurate, but other reports grew inaccurate and focused on the racial aspect of the shooting, Crane said.
“It was a very minor aspect of the initial coverage but it went viral,” Crane said. “It did become a racial story. It was my remarks, taken out of context.”
On the cross-examination by defense attorney Don Samuel, he asks Crane if he was asked to lie to the police or the district attorney or anyone else by McIver. Crane said he was not.
Samuel asked, “Tex said he didn’t know who all these people milling around were, correct? Nobody at that time said anything about Black Lives Matter.” Samuel adds, “He was completely speculating as to who these people were. One thing we know is that he was scared.”
Samuel references protests that had been held recently by Black Lives Matter near Lenox Mall and along the interstate in Atlanta and in Charlotte, N.C. where the protests had turned violent.
Crane said McIver never made any reference to anyone’s race as the SUV drove through downtown Atlanta. He simply said he was worried about his safety.
Crane, answering a question from attorney Clint Rucker, recalls being asked again in person by Tex McIver to retract the statement Crane made about Black Lives Matter to local media. McIver said to him: “I need you to fall on your sword and take the words back.”
“When he made this request of me, as I had already said no multiple times, he could not look me in the eye,” Crane said. “I reminded Tex he had told me, in initial conversations, that I knew they would be asking me if he or Diane had been drinking.” Tex replied they had not. Crane pointed out to Tex that “I had already damaged myself by relaying something that wasn’t true.”
We’re on a courtroom break, but the jury has been listening to McIver's spokesman at the time, Bill Crane. Crane said he and Tex had vetted the account of the shooting given to the AJC and Fulton County Daily Record mentioning Black Lives Matter and a bump in the road that caused the gun to go off. Initially, McIver was pleased with the article and believed it bolstered his case. But then Tex began receiving blowback from his law partners and from his own lawyers. McIver and his former attorney Steve Maples asked Crane to retract the comments. Crane refused.
“I was willing to do a lot to help a friend,” Crane said. “But i was not willing to put my reputation, my credibility at risk. I made clear on the phone multiple times to Mr. McIver that wasn’t a line I was willing to cross.”
Crane said there was blowback from the legal firm about the Black Lives Matter remark that was appearing in the news media as the reason why Tex McIver had armed himself in the moments before the shooting.
“If you subtract the Black Lives Matter protest ... what you have left is Mr. McIver being afraid of homeless people. And I told him if you start changing your story, you’re only going to cause yourself a bigger problem.”
Initially Tex McIver told Crane he felt the issue of protesters was hurting his legal case, but he seemed satisfied with Crane’s advice.
Crane is recounting mistakes made in stories published and broadcast in the media following the shooting. Social media postings turned cruel.
“The story nationally evolved into: Rich white guy, fearing Black Lives Matter protesters, kills wife,” Crane said. “I counseled the only way to knock it down is for the defendant, Mr. McIver, to give his version or for the driver to give their versions. Because I wasn’t in the car. I was relaying what I had been told.”
Much criticism has been directed at Tex McIver for reason he allegedly gave for taking out a gun the night of the shooting. Bill Crane refers to earlier protests that had taken place near the McIver's condominium as being the source of his concern as the SUV went through Atlanta.
“(Tex McIver) was concerned, knowing of the “unrest” that had occurred that (earlier) weekend,” Crane said. “Mr McIver, again, a friend, is a news junkie, so he was aware and concerned about that.”
Crane said he advised McIver to give a statement on the shooting to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it being the newspaper of record, and the Fulton Daily Record, which is the legal community’s record. On Sept. 28, 2016, AJC reporter Craig Schneider and Fulton County Daily Report staff writer Meredith Hobbs spoke to Crane.
Now taking the stand is Charles William “Bill” Crane, a political analyst and commentator on WSB TV. He also owns a public relations firm.
On Crane’s first phone call with Tex McIver after the shooting, Crane said, “He (Tex) was very distraught. He was very emotional.” Tex relayed news of the shooting and Diane McIver’s death to Crane. “I was not talking to Tex McIver on these early calls as a client (but) as a friend of 30-plus years dealing with a drama.”
From news coverage and social media concerning the death of Diane McIver and Tex’s role in it, Crane said, “It was clear storm clouds were brewing fast,” so he volunteered to help Tex deal with local news reporters.
In another phone call on April 27, 2017 from Tex McIver in the Fulton County Jail to his brother, John “Spike” McIver, he asked for some phone calls to be made to his attorney: “...Tell him Tex is having a tough time in jail, please accelerate everything.”
“Our prayers weren’t enough,” Tex McIver said to his brother. “I read the judge as negative from the very first day.”
A third phone call is also played between Tex and Anne Schwall, mother of his godson Austin Schwall. In it they discuss not being able to allow young Austin to call or visit.
In a phone call from the Fulton County jail with his sister, Dixie Martin, she immediately instructs McIver to stop talking to the media. “I’ve been advised to advise you to back off the calls. They want you to back off from everything: Calling and any interviews.”
McIver expresses disappointment with his attorneys at the time and asks for “grief books” that were in his bedroom, reading glasses, his attorney and $100 in cash.
He also tells her that he is not doing well and that being put under suicide watch is a possibility.
Martin tells him, “We’re doing some creative financing.”
Fulton County Senior Assistant District Attorney Jill Hollander is explaining a phone call recording system at the Fulton County Jail that records inmate calls. Both the inmate and the party receiving the call hear a recording that informs both the call is being recorded.
This testimony is likely to go to the 3 counts of influencing a witness that McIver faces. The witnesses he’s charged with influencing are Patricia Diane “Dani Jo” Carter, Charles William Crane and Thomas Lee Carter Jr.
The first phone call happened April 28, 2017 with Dixie Martin, McIver’s sister.
Jurors are not yet back but attorneys and the judge are discussing the presentation of recordings of three phone calls made by Tex McIver from jail during the time he was in custody. Transcripts will also be provided.
Sellers has wrapped up his testimony and the jury has taken a lunch break. They are expected back at 1:15 p.m.
Dr. Sellers is cross examined by defense lawyer Don Samuel.
Samuel suggests that people react to grief differently.
Sellers agrees but adds that there are some things in all those responses that are “universally consistent.”
Prosecutor Cara Convery picks up that thread immediately on her redirect of the Emory surgeon.
“Did you observe any of those things that are universally consistent with grief from Mr. McIver,” Convery asks.
“I did not,” Sellers replies.
After declaring Diane McIver dead, Sellers went in search of Tex McIver along with fellow surgeon, Dr. Blayne Sayed.
McIver wasn’t in the surgery waiting area but eventually entered with his lawyer, Steve Maples.
Dr. Sayed suggested McIver take a seat.
“Don’t tell me what to do boy,” McIver replied, according to Sellers.
“It caught us off guard, at least a little bit,” Sellers said. But Sellers said, given the circumstances, he gave him “some latitude.”
Sellers said they then told McIver that his wife had died.
“He was sitting with his knees on his elbows and looked up and said ‘I’m really trying hard not to lose it,’” Sellers recalled.
A few minutes later, McIver asked Dr. Sayed a question.
“He looked up and said ‘this is the hardest thing you do isn’t it?’” Sellers recalled. McIver then went on to recount his time in the Army when he said he had to have similar conversations.
Sellers said the bullet had struck Diane McIver in the abdominal cavity where it damaged one kidney, part of her stomach and her pancreas. Blood had flown into the large abdominal cavity. One vertebrae also seemed to have been hit, Sellers said.
After putting clamps on the damaged blood vessels to stem the flow, Sellers tried to stabilize McIver. But every time they removed the clamps her blood pressure plummeted.
At 12:45 a.m. on Sept. 26, Sellers declared Diane McIver dead.
The jury has returned and Sellers is testifying. He was the on-call general surgeon on the night Diane McIver was brought in with a gunshot wound.
When he arrived in the operating room, Diane McIver was already prepped for surgery, her chest cavity open. He said he immediately noticed there was a lot of blood.
Dr. Marty Sellers, a surgeon who operated on Diane McIver at Emory University Hospital, has taken the stand outside the presence of the jury. He says that his wife told him last month that jury selection in the McIver trial was beginning and he was surprised he had not been interviewed by lawyers because of his involvement at the hospital.
Griffin has concluded her testimony and jurors are taking a short break.
Defense lawyer Bruce Harvey is now cross examining Griffin, the Fulton County DA’s office investigator.
He was brief and confirmed with Griffin that, despite extensive searches, there had never been a second will recovered.
“That’s correct, only testimony,” Griffin replied.
Griffin is describing searching for Diane McIver’s alleged second will. That search eventually took her to the McIvers’ Buckhead condo, where she spent four hours and looked in the safe Diane McIver kept in her walk-in closet. Tex McIver also had access to that safe, she said.
More than 20 banker boxes were seized from the condo containing papers and records. Griffin also looked in the couple’s Putnam County ranch and storage unit kept by Diane McIver.
She testified that none of the searches turned up a second will.
The jury is back in the courtroom. Prosecutor Adam Abbate is examining Johnna Griffin, an investigator with the Fulton County district attorney’s office.
Before the jury returned to the courtroom following a week-long break, lawyers sparred over whether to allow them to see the 2013 Ford Expedition where Tex McIver shot his wife, Diane.
Prosecutor Clint Rucker argued the jury should be allowed to see the SUV and even sit in the seats to deepen their understanding of what happened.
Defense lawyer Bruce Harvey objected, saying that jurors have already seen a physical reproduction of the Expedition’s interior as well as a four-dimensional interactive of it.
Judge Robert McBurney said he is inclined to let the jurors visit the SUV but reserved a final judgment.
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