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Big Law Partner Murder Conviction Flipped by Georgia Top Court

June 30, 2022, 9:21 PM

The Georgia Supreme Court on Thursday reversed the felony murder conviction of former Fisher & Phillips partner Claud “Tex” McIver III.

The court that convicted McIver in 2018 after he fired a gunshot that killed his wife failed to instruct the jury about a lesser charge, the state’s top panel found.

McIver can be retried on the felony murder charge as well as the lesser involuntary manslaughter charge, according to the court. The Fulton County District Attorney’s office didn’t immediately return phone calls.

McIver was a 40-year veteran of labor and employment law and had represented high-profile Republican politicians in Georgia, including former Gov. Nathan Deal and John Padgett, the former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.

His wife, Diane, died in 2016 after a gun McIver was holding in the back of a car fired through a seat and into her back. Evidence presented at trial that provided “some support” for a jury charge on the lesser crime, the court said in its opinion.

Trial evidence showed McIver was holding the gun sideways when it was discharged; he had been asleep with the gun in his hand; and it fired when he was startled awake.

Expert testimony revealed that McIver suffered from a sleep disorder that caused involuntary movements when he was awakened.

“From this evidence, the jury could have concluded that the revolver was not deliberately or intentionally fired, but rather, as McIver suggests, discharged as a result of his being startled awake,” said the supreme court opinion by Presiding Justice Michael Boggs.

The court originally sentenced McIver to serve life in prison for felony murder, five years for influencing a witness, and a suspended sentence of five years for the gun crime. The opinion affirmed the conviction for influencing a witness.

McIver argued on appeal that the trial court failed to instruct the jury about a lesser charge, involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner.

He was represented by Donald Samuel of Garland, Samuel & Loeb, who did not immediately return a phone message or email seeking comment on the opinion.

The case is: McIver v. The State, S22A0093.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at rstrom@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com