ATLANTA – A judge on Wednesday sentenced a well-connected Atlanta attorney to life in prison with the possibility of parole for fatally shooting his business executive wife.
Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Robert McBurney was required to sentence Claud "Tex" McIver, 75, to life in prison after a jury convicted him last month of felony murder, though it was up to the judge to decide whether he would be eligible for parole.
McBurney also sentenced McIver to five years in prison for a charge of influencing a witness but said that will be served at the same time as the life sentence. On a charge of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, McBurney gave McIver a suspended five-year sentence.
His lawyers have said he plans to appeal.
McIver addressed the court before he was sentenced. He talked about the tremendous amount of support he had received from people he knew and people he didn't, including letters from a woman in Ireland and a man in Australia who were strangers to him.
He said some descriptions of his wife during trial as a sharp-tongued and tough woman were tough for him to listen to and didn't match the woman he knew and loved. She occasionally corrected him, he said, but he reasoned that women must do that because men don't always know how to act in a relationship.
Words cannot describe the depth of the love they shared, he said.
"The luckiest day of my life was when Diane chose me," he said, reading from prepared notes. He talked about how he still feels her presence with him constantly, notably during the 263 nights he's spent in jail since her death.
"It's as if she's on the other side of a curtain or in another dimension," he said.
McBurney also heard from people close to Diane McIver who spoke about the pain of missing her.
The judge said he couldn't impose a punishment worse than McIver's pain in knowing he caused his wife's death.
But McBurney also noted that while McIver had been given as much time as he wanted to address the court and had rambled through a number of different topics, "I didn't ever hear you say you're sorry for what you did. To me, that silence speaks volumes."
The McIvers were affluent and had powerful friends. He was a partner at a prominent labor and employment law firm and served on the state election board. She was president of U.S. Enterprises Inc., the parent company of Corey Airport Services, where she had worked for 43 years.
Dani Jo Carter, a close friend of Diane McIver, was driving the couple's Ford Expedition the evening of Sept. 25, 2016, as the three returned from a weekend at the McIvers' horse farm about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Atlanta. Diane McIver was in the front passenger seat and Tex McIver was in the back seat behind his wife.
With traffic heavy on the interstate, Carter exited in downtown Atlanta. Uncomfortable with the part of town where they exited, McIver asked his wife to pass him a gun from the center console. A short while later, McIver fired the gun once, striking his wife in the back. Carter drove to a hospital, where Diane McIver died.
The possibility of parole granted by the judge provides little hope of relief for the 75-year-old McIver since he'd have to serve 30 years in prison before being eligible for parole consideration. His attorneys have said he plans to appeal.
Jurors acquitted McIver of malice murder, which would have meant he intended to kill his wife. But they convicted him of felony murder, which applies to a killing that happens during the commission of another felony, in this case aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. That means the jury found that he intentionally shot his wife, and that led to her death.
Some legal experts have speculated that the jury didn't completely understand what their verdict would mean, that felony murder carried the same mandatory life sentence as malice murder.