Top Georgia court tosses ex-Fisher & Phillips lawyer's murder conviction

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REUTERS/Chip East

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  • Claud "Tex" McIver is serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife Diane
  • The Georgia Supreme Court said jurors should have been allowed to consider a lesser involuntary manslaughter charge

June 30 - The Georgia Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the murder conviction of former Fisher & Phillips partner Claud “Tex” McIver over the 2016 killing of his wife, finding that jurors should have been permitted to consider a lesser charge against him.

An Atlanta jury in 2018 convicted McIver, 79, of felony murder and other charges, and a judge soon after sentenced him to life in prison.

The Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling reversed the felony murder conviction as well as one for possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony but affirmed McIver's conviction for influencing a witness.

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A spokesperson for the Fulton County District Attorney’s office, which prosecuted McIver, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, including on whether the office will retry the case.

McIver had asserted his innocence and claimed he accidentally fatally shot Diane McIver in the back while in a car driven by his wife's close friend in September 2016, according to Thursday's opinion.

Prosecutors alleged that the former Atlanta labor and employment attorney had a financial motivation in killing Diane, a real estate business executive, the decision said. They presented evidence at trial that they said indicated that he financially benefited from her death.

McIver's lawyers said in a joint statement to Reuters that they are "delighted" with Thursday's ruling. They said McIver was deprived of a fair trial because the jury was not given the opportunity to find the shooting was entirely due to negligence.

Atlanta defense attorney Bruce Harvey represents McIver, along with two lawyers from law firm Garland, Samuel & Loeb, Amanda Clark Palmer and Donald Samuel.

"We look forward to showing the next jury that he is not guilty of murder," they said.

In Thursday’s ruling, Presiding Justice Michael Boggs said the jury should have been permitted to consider a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, finding some evidence presented at trial could have led the jury to convict on that lesser charge instead.

The Georgia high court found evidence shared with the jury on McIver’s financial motivation was “thin” and that jurors were deprived of a “complete instruction” on the grades of culpability between accidental and felony murder.

(Adds comment from attorneys representing McIver).

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Jacqueline Thomsen, based in Washington, D.C., covers legal news related to policy, the courts and the legal profession. Follow her on Twitter at @jacq_thomsen and email her at jacqueline.thomsen@thomsonreuters.com.