The murder trial of Atlanta attorney Claud “Tex” McIver was delayed Wednesday until March 5, and the judge cleared the way for McIver to leave jail until then.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney late Wednesday set several conditions for McIver’s release. They include a $750,000 bond, of which McIver will only provide $75,000; house arrest at McIver’s Buckhead condo; an ankle monitor; and sharp restrictions on his ability to leave home.
McIver has been in jail since April when he violated his first bond by keeping a gun in the sock drawer of the condo. The judge’s order on Wednesday specified “no firearms, loaded or unloaded, in his residence. This includes all sock drawers.”
William Hill, McIver’s lead defense lawyer, called the conditions of the bond “reasonably attainable.” But he did not say whether McIver could meet them in order to be released.
“Under the circumstances, anything that can get him out of jail would be great,” Hill said. “This is much more reasonable than the $2 million bond the District Attorney’s Office was strongly advocating for.”
As for McIver, “He needs this,” Hill said. “He desperately needs this. … He is physically, emotionally and psychologically suffering.”
If McIver remains incarcerated until the trial, “It kills him a little bit quicker.”
The district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Judge McBurney said Wednesday that both the prosecution and the defense need more time to prepare for the trial, which was set to begin Oct 30.
Breakdown podcast: “The McIver Murder Case”
The delay will “ensure that both sides have sufficient time to to review the evidence and prepare for trial,” according to McBurney’s order. The judge seemed to chide prosecutors, noting they had just turned over to the defense “80,000 emails associated with accounts used by (Diane McIver).”
McIver is charged with murder in the shooting death of his wife, Diane, on the night of Sept. 25, 2016, as they drove along Piedmont Avenue. McIver says the shooting was accidental.
The bond order shows the judge taking matters into his own hands after the prosecution and defense had been unable to agree in recent days on conditions for McIver’s release while he awaits trial. Prosecutors had wanted him to post a $2 million bond and report weekly for interviews. Hill said McIver couldn’t afford the bond and should not have to talk to anyone but his defense team. Under the terms released Wednesday, McIver will still have to report regularly but may do so by phone.
Atlanta criminal defense attorney Noah Pines questioned why prosecutors asked for the continuance in the first place.
“What bothers me more than anything are prosecutors who get an indictment and aren’t ready to try the case,” said Pines, a former prosecutor. “When I indicted a case, I wasn’t still waiting on evidence. I had my evidence. I was ready to move forward.”
Fulton prosecutors still appear to be searching for a motive – that McIver intentionally killed his wife over money, Pines said.
“Somebody’s life is at stake here,” Pines said. “They’re still looking for evidence of motive? A second will? OK, then, they shouldn’t have indicted the guy before they had that.”
Defense attorney Esther Panitch, who is closely following the case but is not involved in it, said the delay is a win for both sides because it gives them more time. Prosecutors have yet to go through some 30 banker’s boxes of documents they seized from McIver’s Buckhead condo, and electronic records and documents from Diane McIver’s storage unit.
Because many of the documents come from McIver’s law practice, and may contain privileged information, the judge brought in an outside counsel to screen the records.
In addition, prosecutors only recently handed over to the defense the 80,000 emails.
“The big winner is Tex if he gets out of jail,” she said.
The delay marks a significant moment in a case that has rarely been out of the news for a year. A consummate Atlanta story — featuring wealth, class, race, guns and even traffic — the McIver saga continues to spin out new twists and surprises.
Judge McBurney granted the 5-month delay in response to a request by lead prosecutor Clint Rucker.
If he is released from jail, the next five months could have particular meaning for McIver. Considering his age, if McIver is eventually convicted in the death of his wife, these months could be his last spent outside of a correctional facility.