Defense attorney Don Samuel (left) listens to testimony during a 2013 hearing in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating case. Next to him is attorney Richard Deane. Kent D. Johnson / kdjohnson@ajc.com

Second powerhouse lawyer joins defense in Tex McIver murder case

Claud “Tex” McIver, who lost most of his legal team earlier this month, now has two of Atlanta’s premier criminal defense attorneys in his corner. Trial lawyer Don Samuel said he has agreed to join Bruce Harvey on McIver’s defense team.

In an interview, Samuel ridiculed the prosecution’s murder case against his new client as “nothing more than a prosecutor’s theory in search of facts that don’t exist.”

Samuel and Harvey have already been involved together in some of the most sensational trials in Atlanta history, including the Ray Lewis murder trial and the Gold Club racketeering case.

Tex McIver confers with attorney Bruce Harvey during a hearing in September in Fulton County Superior Court. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Just two weeks ago, William Hill, McIver’s lead attorney, plus two members of Hill’s law firm bowed out of the case. Attorney Stephen Maples, who had represented McIver from the start, also stepped aside. This left Harvey, who entered the case more recently, as McIver’s sole defense lawyer.

With the addition of Samuel, McIver can now mount a formidable defense, Harvey said.

“I think it’s going to be a very effective team and will be good for Tex as we prepare to take this case to trial,” Harvey said. “Don’s a great lawyer, a very effective advocate and one of the smartest people I know.”

On Sept. 25, 2016, McIver, a politically connected Atlanta labor lawyer, shot his wife Diane in the back as a friend drove the couple through Midtown in their SUV. Diane soon died at Emory University Hospital. McIver, 74, has said he deeply loved his 64-year-old wife and insists the shooting was a tragic accident.

But the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office believes the shooting was intentional and obtained a malice murder indictment against McIver. He is now scheduled to stand trial on March 5.

Atlanta criminal defense attorney Don Samuel.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Samuel said he and Harvey will try to convince a jury that the DA’s office is prosecuting an innocent man.

“The prosecutor will never prove that Tex is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Samuel said. “On the contrary, the evidence will ultimately establish that he is innocent beyond any doubt.”

McIver, whose bond was revoked because police found a gun in a sock drawer in his Buckhead condominium, remains in custody in the Alpharetta annex of the Fulton County jail. Harvey said he is working to meet the new bond conditions set by Judge Robert McBurney so McIver get out of jail.

The most prominent cases Harvey and Samuel worked on together include the murder trial of former NFL linebacker Ray Lewis and the Gold Club, once an Atlanta strip club that prosecutors said had mob connections.

Lewis, represented by Samuel and his law partner Ed Garland, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor during the trial and became a prosecution witness. Harvey’s client, Reginald Oakley, a barber from Baltimore who hung with Lewis, was acquitted of all charges.

Both are highly regarded trial lawyers, although they bring different styles to the courtroom.

Harvey, who is more flamboyant, stepped up on the defense table during his opening statement at the Gold Club trial. He then slung off his jacket and did an impromptu table dance for the jury. Samuel, who is more measured, has written books on criminal case law that are relied upon by defense lawyers and prosecutors alike.

The two attorneys will work with investigator Richard Hyde, who was brought into the case about the time William Hill became McIver’s lead attorney. Hyde was one of the governor’s three special investigators who uncovered widespread cheating in the Atlanta Public Schools scandal. His investigative work for the state’s judicial watchdog agency, for which he now serves as vice chair, led to the ouster of dozens of judges engaged in unethical or criminal behavior.

“The McIver Murder Case” is the subject of “Breakdown,” a podcast by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. You can listen to Episode 1 below or go to the iTunes store (or your favorite podcast app) to listen.

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