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Former prominent Atlanta attorney who shot his wife in SUV pleads guilty to lesser charges

ATLANTA (AP) — A once-prominent Atlanta attorney who fatally shot his wife in 2016 as they rode in an SUV pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to eight years in prison as part of a plea deal.

Claud “Tex” McIver, 81, had been convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2018 but that conviction was overturned in 2022 by Georgia's highest court, which ruled that the jury should have had the option of a misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter charge.

As part of Friday's deal, McIver also pleaded guilty to charges of reckless conduct and associated gun possession and was sentenced to seven years of probation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. He will receive credit for the time he’s already spent in custody. Amanda R. Clark Palmer and Donald F. Samuel, McIver’s attorneys, told the newspaper that McIver’s prison sentence ends in mid-2025, but that he could be released before then on parole.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said he thought the plea deal was “a healthier and cleaner way” to resolve the case than a retrial, which could have resulted in a not guilty verdict.

He acknowledged that some of those who loved Diane McIver, 64, may be disappointed in how the case ended.

“Mr. McIver shouldn’t have had that loaded gun in his hand with his finger on the trigger,” the judge said. “For those who seek purely punishment through this process, you’re going to be disappointed.”

McIver apologized for his actions and acknowledged that there’s nothing he can do to make up for what happened to his wife.

“She died as a result of my actions, plain and simple,” he said. “I’ve worn my wedding ring since the day we were married and I intend to wear it until the day I die. I hope we’re at a point where we’re not judging each other and we can all move on. She’s my angel and she’s waiting for me in heaven.”

McIver had been awaiting retrial on charges of felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and associated gun possession. The negotiated plea ends an appeal by the state of an order limiting its evidence in the retrial. McBurney had barred prosecutors from alleging at the retrial that McIver intended to kill his wife, as McIver was acquitted in his first trial of malice murder.

McIver has always maintained that he shot his wife by accident on the night of Sept. 25, 2016, as he rode in the backseat of an SUV that was being driven by a friend. After they exited an interstate and began driving through downtown Atlanta, McIver said he asked his wife to get his gun from the center console and hand it to him, saying they were in a “really bad area.”

A short while later, McIver fired the .38-caliber revolver once, striking his wife in the back. He claimed he had fallen asleep holding his gun in his lap and that it fired inadvertently. Prosecutors alleged he killed his wife because he coveted her money.

Rich, successful and politically connected, the McIvers were considered an Atlanta power couple.

McIver was a partner at a national labor and employment law firm. Georgia’s high court accepted the surrender of McIver’s law license in April. He had been an attorney in Georgia since 1973.

Diane McIver had risen to the top of U.S. Enterprises Inc., after more than four decades with the real estate and advertising business founded by Billy Corey.

Corey was in court Friday to present a statement, which was read aloud on his behalf by an employee from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. In his statement, Corey said Diane McIver was an integral part of his business and that her death left a large void. He said her death “was no accident.”

“One man, one hand and one bullet ended her life and caused a lifetime of misery and loss for so many others,” Corey said. “There will never be another Diane McIver. Diane was full of life and she should never have been taken away from us in such a careless and malicious way. She is today missed as much as she was on that tragic day.”