Tex McIver Murder case
Defense attorneys Friday attempted to show Atlanta detectives were originally on the right track in thinking Diane McIver’s shooting death was an accident, before prosecutors intervened and charged her husband with murder.
Defense lawyer Bruce Harvey pointed out, as the third week of testimony in McIver’s murder trial came to a close, that Atlanta Police Detective Darrin Smith had suggested during an interview with Dani Jo Carter early in the investigation that it was an accident. Carter is the sole witness to the shooting.
“You said, ‘We’re just trying to figure out what happened. If it’s an accident, it’s an accident,’” Harvey said. “Ms. Carter told you, ‘It’s a horrible accident.’ In response, you said, ‘It sounds like that’s what it is.’”
“That’s correct,” Smith replied.
Harvey also attempted to distinguish between what he labeled an “accidental shooting” and an “unintentional discharge.” An accidental shooting, he suggested, would be one where a firearm would go off because it was dropped, bumped, or otherwise knocked without human intervention.
“What you were talking about was a discharge of a weapon without intention,” Harvey suggested. He then reminded Smith that the detective told Carter during her recorded interview that there are instances “all the time” at the Atlanta Police Department where a trained police officer accidentally or unintentionally discharges their weapon.
“It’s not an uncommon occurrence?” the defense attorney asked.
“As far as our police department—no,” Smith replied.
The trial adjourned Friday for spring break. It will reconvene on April 9, as prosecutors continue to press their case against Tex McIver, who is charged with the murder of his wife and three counts of influencing witnesses.
Harvey also highlighted Smith’s 18 years of experience as a police officer. Smith said the McIver shooting was his 35th homicide case as a lead detective.
“You were trying to develop as much information as you could about the course of events,” Harvey said. “You weren’t sitting on your hands, sitting on your thumbs … because you knew what to do.”
But Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker, Harvey contended, was signaling to the jury that Smith was “doing a crummy job, that you didn’t investigate it right.”
In questioning the detective on the stand, Rucker posed a series of questions that highlighted a laundry list of things the homicide detective did not do during his investigation—which police had largely wrapped up within two weeks of the shooting without pressing charges. Investigators with the district attorney’s office later filled in those gaps during what became a murder investigation under their jurisdiction.
Rucker also suggested that from the beginning, Smith was taking his lead from Stephen Maples, a criminal defense lawyer McIver called while medical personnel were trying to save his wife’s life at Emory University Hospital. Maples had arrived within 15 minutes, witnesses have said.
Rucker’s questions, and Smith’s responses, also suggested Smith failed to take steps in some cases that would have raised questions about whether the shooting was actually an accident. He also didn’t attempt to corroborate statements McIver and his attorney made, or pursue what prosecutors have argued was a financial motive for McIver to intentionally kill his wife.
Smith’s omissions included his decision not to ask McIver how the gun went off, or demonstrate precisely how he was holding it. A crime scene reconstruction expert testified Thursday that general descriptions by Maples and McIver about how he was holding the gun were inconsistent with the trajectory of the bullet.
Smith also appeared to take McIver at his word, during his only interview with the attorney, that McIver hadn’t fired the Smith & Wesson .38 special “in about two years.” Numerous witnesses have testified that McIver routinely shot guns at the couple’s 85-acre ranch and that he was a stickler for safety.
Smith also didn’t inquire as to whether the revolver was in single-action mode, with the hammer cocked, or double-action, which would have required significantly more pressure to pull the trigger.
“I didn’t believe it was a relevant question,” he said. “The trigger was pulled. Whether it was single- or double-action wouldn’t have made any difference.”
Smith also didn’t question any of the nurses at Emory’s emergency room, some of whom testified they overheard McIver and his lawyer discussing what he should say about the shooting, or to whom McIver had given conflicting explanations. Smith said he interviewed only Dr. Susanne Hardy, whose name Maples gave to him. Hardy has testified that Diane McIver told her the shooting was “an accident,” but that she also said she did not want to see her husband before she was taken to surgery.
Rucker reminded Smith that he was dismissive of nurses, suggesting they were “kind of junior detectives” and “a hotbed of rumor and innuendo.”
“Those are not necessarily my words,” Smith responded, while agreeing that, as matter of practice, he only interviews physicians in homicide cases. “My wife would get mad at me. She’s a nurse.”
Smith also acknowledged that he had returned the Ford Expedition the shooting occurred in to Tex McIver two days later. When prosecutors asked that the SUV be re-impounded, Smith said he called Maples. The vehicle appeared to have been cleaned when it was returned, he said.
Smith also acknowledged that while he obtained a number of financial records associated with Tex and Diane McIver, they were incomplete. Although he said he reviewed them, “Analyze would be a pretty strong word. I looked at a bunch of numbers and really didn’t understand them. There was money going in, money going out.”
“Did you determine there may have been a financial motive behind this crime?” Rucker asked.
“No,” Smith replied. “I did not.”