ATLANTA — On April 17, 2018, day 21 of the Tex McIver murder trial, the courtroom was packed as prosecution lawyers and Tex’s attorneys prepared to make their closing statements and to learn the fate of the Atlanta attorney charged with murdering his wife in 2016.
Closing statements from both sides were passionate and intense.
During his closing argument for the defense, Don Samuel stated that his client, while flawed, was not the villain he was made out to be by prosecutors.
While doing so, he laid out a long list of doubts the defense had about the case, adding that if the jury believes even one of them, they’d have to find Tex McIver not guilty.
Defense Attorney Bruce Harvey meanwhile reviewed the evidence in the case and focused his argument on Tex’s handgun.
He also attacked the state's case that Tex took his wife to a hospital that was farther away than nearby Grady hospital, costing Diane valuable time. Harvey then brought up the remaining charge of influencing a witness, addressing Dani Jo Carter’s testimony that Tex told her to say she wasn’t driving the car that night.
Ultimately, he condemned what he called all the rumors surrounding the case, adding "we do not convict people on the clouds and fogs of speculation but on the bedrock of fact, that’s what we do."
Afterward, Clint Rucker stood before the jury one final time for the prosecution. He placed a large photograph of Diane McIver on an easel in front of the jurors and asked in a quiet voice: “who?”
Rucker then argued that Tex McIver planned and carried out the murder of Diane in order to maintain his lifestyle.
For more than an hour, Rucker reviewed the prosecution’s evidence in the case, focusing on Tex’s financial turmoil and the ongoing disagreement between Tex and Diane about the ranch in their wills. Rucker highlighted what he characterized as Tex’s lies about what happened that night, and how those lies persisted in the weeks following Diane’s death.
He underscored that there’s no way Tex, an experienced gun owner, could have accidentally shot and killed his wife.
Before ending, Rucker reminded the jurors what Diane McIver told Dr. Suzanne Hardy at Emory the night she was shot: When Dr. Hardy asked her if she wanted to see Tex, Diane said “no."
But before the jury left to deliberate, Tex’s defense team asked Judge Robert McBurney to give jurors the option to find Tex guilty of misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter instead of murder. But the judge denied the request.
In addition to aggravated assault, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and influencing a witness, the charges of malice murder and felony murder remained.
When the case was handed off to the jury, it became clear that there was not going to be a quick verdict. Twenty four hours passed, during which time the jury asked a handful of questions for the judge. The one that captured the most attention: If the jury finds Tex not guilty on all other counts, can he still be guilty of influencing a witness?
CourtTV Lead Anchor Vinnie Politan, who was covered the trial for 11Alive at the time, stated he thought the jury was tipping its hand.
They even asked if they could return to the McIver's SUV, this time with the gun that was in Tex’s hand when Diane was shot. The request was eventually granted, and the jurors each took turns getting in the front seat, then the back.
Yet at the end of the day, with the weekend arriving, there was still no verdict.
On Tuesday, April 24, 2018, the jury reached a verdict.
McIver faced four charges connected to his wife's death including:
- Count 1: Malice murder
- Count 2: Felony murder
- Count 3: Aggravated assault
- Count 4: Possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony
The jury found him guilty on all counts, except malice murder.
Many who knew Tex reacted strongly to the verdict. One of the McIvers’ neighbors in Buckhead stated he was shocked, while the couples’ close friends, Jayne and Andrew Ward, said the verdict didn’t make any sense at all.
In the days that followed, some of the jurors began to speak publicly.
One of them mentioned some in the group wanted to convict Tex on the malice murder charge but at least half of them felt like they didn’t have the evidence to reach that decision.
On May 23, 2018, Judge Robert McBurney was set to hand down Tex McIver’s sentence for the murder of his wife Diane McIver. But before learning his fate, Tex decided to make a final statement in court. What he said was not what anyone expected.
He began by talking about the support he received, stating that “the outpouring of support has been beyond anything that any of us expected.” He then talked about letters from supporters around the world - one from Dublin, Ireland, and another from Perth, Australia.
“In addition to those that I have never met, I have a list that I won't bore the Court with of about 60 individuals locally that have been very helpful to me in terms of their support. Neighbors bringing me food while I was in house arrest; friends delivering Chick-fil-A, one of my huge, huge favorites and one of the things I miss the most, I guess, about the food in jail. But they have been remarkably kind to me...astounding.”
Tex then mentioned his family, his sister, his grandchildren, and his godchildren, of which he said there were "approximately 23," as far as he can "reconstruct and remember," And then, finally…he brought up his wife, Diane McIver.
Last, I want to thank what I refer to, and many people in this room have heard me refer to, as my Diane. I found it very painful to hear her described in the trial in some ways that I simply didn't know who that person was. I clearly, as the president of an organization, at the office I'm sure it is necessary, because I was a leader in my firm, that you need to be firm, you need to be difficult sometimes, you need to be hardened. But that wasn't my Diane.
The luckiest day of my life is when Diane chose me. And in doing so, we started a relationship that was -- can only be described as amazing. We loved each other like small children, unabashedly devoted to each other and so on. What many people could not possibly know -- because it has never been revealed and I am going to give up the secret today -- we felt so strongly about each other and we were together so much that we actually had a secret among us. And that was that we would be different places, we would look at each other and we would say, sometimes even in unison, is this truly real, is this real. And it was one of those if it is not real, don't pinch me because this is the greatest dream I've ever had and I don't want to wake up. But is this real.
Tex continued, describing his ability to connect with Diane without words.
In fact, it became, if people are able to believe it, telepathic. I could be on the other side of the room at an event or I could be busy in our cow pasture and my conscience would hear these words: Is this truly real. I would spin around, look to where she was, see her gaze, and know that she had telepathically communicated those words to me, is this truly real.
Wrapping up his statement, he talked about his wife leaving her “earth suit” behind.
Since this tragedy, I have spent 263 nights in a jail cell by myself but not alone. She has joined me there. It is a presence. It is hard to describe. But she has left her earth suit. And after the three different ceremonies that we had for her -- two in Atlanta for celebration of life and one in Texas for celebration of life -- where we tried to say goodbye to her, she never said goodbye to me and she's been there. It is as if she's on the other side of a curtain or in another dimension.
It really is true that if you are that close to each other -- and this is, obviously, my first experience with it -- that they are there. They are absolutely there. And I have never felt alone in that respect. It has meant so much to me in that way.
On this Earth, she was my life and made me complete. Certainly not that way now. But if I might just say to her directly -- because I know she's here; I feel her presence as I'm speaking these words -- darling, you have brought me more joy and fulfillment that few men on this Earth have ever known. Thank you, and until we are together again, because it is truly real, it is truly real. Thank you.”
However, no matter what Tex McIver had to say, a life sentence was inevitable, Tex would not be eligible for parole until he’s 100 years old.
In August, just a few months after he was sentenced to life in prison, a live auction and tag sale was held to sell the McIvers' Putnam County ranch and everything in it, from the couple’s over-the-top Christmas decorations to Diane's wedding dress. Strangers would flood the McIvers’ shangri-la, trying on Tex's oversized belt buckles and Diane's diamond jewelry.
But Tex’s fight was far from over, as his attorneys announced plans to file an appeal and ask for a new trial.