Tex McIver is one flawed, hot mess of a human being. Of that there’s little doubt.
The 2016 killing of Tex’s wife shined a light on the life of a man — and on a thought process — that was odious to at least half of Atlanta. Probably even a much bigger fraction.
Insular, entitled, suspicious, connected, rich, careless and clueless. Tex is all of those. Testimony from this long-running murder trial in Fulton County has put front and center a man who had life by the tail — although his actions make you wonder how that occurred.
Tex is the poster boy for white privilege, a guy who keeps falling forward in life in spite of his own thick-headed decisions.
Much has been made about Tex’s propensity to make recorded calls from jail to witnesses, to call a judge’s ex-wife for some influence. He is accused of suggesting that his crisis communications guy (his second PR guy of this saga, and one paid for by his dead wife’s estate) offer a bribe to longtime Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard. (He denies this.) He also referred to a darker-hued emergency room doctor as “boy.” And he held an auction selling his dead wife’s clothes.
And, of course, there are his efforts to describe why he was holding the gun in the back seat of his SUV before shooting his wife, Diane, in the back: In an interview with the AJC and the Daily Report a week after the killing, PR guy Bill Crane said Tex feared carjackers, the homeless and/or Black Lives Matter folks.
Tex was riding home from his Middle Georgia ranch and woke up after the driver, Dani Jo Carter, his wife’s good friend, turned off the Downtown Connector because of clogged traffic. “Girls, I wish you wouldn’t have done this. This is a really bad area,” Tex said before asking his wife for his .38 revolver stashed in a plastic bag in the console.
Of course, no one in the car thought that a sleepy man grabbing his gun was a bad idea. This was downtown Atlanta, near Georgia State University — not crack-infested streets near the projects circa 1989.
But it’s hard to overcome a mindset in some quarters: Atlanta is dangerous! Grab your gun and get ready to defend yourself!
Blocks later, the gun went off. Tex says he fell asleep and he startled awake, somehow killing his wife.
The mention of Black Lives Matter catapulted what seemed to be a tragic mistake into a worldwide media feeding frenzy. The backlash came hard and loud — here was a racially insensitive and well-connected white lawyer blaming his wife’s killing on a fear of black people, and he was being treated with kid gloves by investigators.
Tex tried to get Crane to take it back, to say that he didn’t mention Black Lives Matter. Crane insists Tex said it and I believe Crane, although it shows a cluelessness to trot that one out. If I’m Tex’s PR guy and he tells me this, I’m saying, “Tex, don’t ever say ‘Black or Lives or Matter’ again in the same sentence.”
Somehow they thought that was OK.
But I don’t know if it was just that old Buckhead Boy Tex feared only black folks. He’s a gun-slinging cowboy at heart, trying to live up to his nickname. (Claud is his given name, BTW.)
He’s fearful and reckless to his core.
Case in point is a 1990 incident where Tex saw a car parked outside his then-DeKalb County home. His first reaction was to grab his pistol and sic his German shepherds on the car.
He fired off a couple of warning shots, which caused the driver to get out of there. Not happy with that, he pumped off a couple of shots into the fleeing vehicle.
Were the occupants carjackers or future Black Lives Matter protesters?
No, they were young white guys drinking beers with a friend heading off to the Marines. In fact, one was a friend of Tex’s son and knew the area to be a quiet spot where they could quaff a few brews. Or so he thought.
Privilege helped him then. The felony charges were dropped, and Tex later become a player in Republican politics. He was appointed to the state’s election board and served on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Gun Violence — a subject he obviously and tragically knows all too well.
He remained armed, vigilant and fearful.
After that fateful night when Tex killed his wife, Atlanta police initially arrested him on felony charges of involuntary manslaughter, which means he was reckless with his gun.
DA Howard thought differently and later charged him with murder, arguing that Tex was not only armed and dangerous, but also greedy and conniving.
The murder theory says Tex’s financial sense was even worse than his gun safety etiquette. The state says Tex had lost much of his earning power, liked to spend money and thought Diane’s holdings (more than $3 million) could carry him forward nicely.
Howard has carved out a storied career that will one day put him alongside his predecessor, Lewis Slaton, for whom the courthouse is named. Howard was a fine litigator and is an even better politician, having run without serious opposition for most of his 22 years is office. Still, one must wonder how old Black Lives Matter Tex, with his aggravated stupidity and his meddling with the investigation, was elevated from reckless gun stroker to murder suspect.
Back in 2000, Howard indicted football star Ray Lewis on a double murder that he clearly didn’t do. The DA was angered that Lewis was unhelpful with the investigation and then skipped town. He obstructed and thumbed his nose at justice. But he didn’t murder. The prosecution seemed somehow personal.
This one has that same whiff. It’s a case that is clearly criminal — Tex did kill Diane, and he was almost certainly reckless with a gun (again!). But I don’t know if it’s worth having Fulton’s best prosecutor, Clint Rucker, and four others spend more than a month on trial to convict a defendant on a very iffy case.
It’s not yet known whether prosecutors will allow the jury to consider an involuntary manslaughter charge — one that likely would put the 75-year-old in prison for a few years — or if they will go for the all-or-nothing murder charge.
Unlike the lawyer-defendant, the attorneys working both sides of this legal drama are more wary of shooting from the hip.