A GBI weapons expert offered testimony on gun dynamics in the murder trial of Tex McIver, the prominent Atlanta attorney who is charged with the murder of his wife Diane.
In September 2016, Tex and Diane McIver were returning home from their country ranch to their Atlanta condo with their friend Dani Jo Carter behind the wheel. Carter ran into traffic, so she exited the highway on Edgewood Avenue. Tex told the women that this was a bad area and asked for his gun from the console.
A few blocks later, the SUV was stopped at a red light when Carter remembers hearing a “boom.” She said that she looked around and saw Tex putting the gun down and saying that he had fallen asleep. Tex claims that the gun went off while it was in his lap while he was sleeping. The bullet shot Diane through her left adrenal gland and kidney, blood vessels leading to her spleen, and through her pancreas and stomach. Diane passed away at the hospital in surgery.
Tex McIver was charged with murder, felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm, and influencing a witness. At trial, Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) investigator Zachary Weitzel was called as an expert witness for prosecution. Weitzel demonstrated the mechanics of firing the .38 Smith and Wesson revolver that killed Diane McIver. Holding the gun in his hand, he showed the jury, “I would have to pull the trigger all the way, so about to there is as far as I can stage it without the hammer falling. . . . But, it would have to travel this same distance to fire.”
Weitzel explained that the pressure that it takes to cause the gun to fire depends on whether the gun was in single or double action. Weitzel measures the weight it takes to fire a firearm in pressure. If the gun is in double action, it would take 12 pounds of pressure to fire. However, if the gun is in single action, it only takes 2 pounds of pressure to fire. Weitzel said, “With double action you see that the trigger is set further back so from there I would have to pull the trigger back all the way. . . . If a gun is in single action it’s primed its ready to be fired. The only way a gun can be fired is if the trigger is pulled long enough to fire it.”
Under questioning, Weitzel confirmed that there is no test to determine whether a trigger was pulled on purpose and there is no way to know whether the hammer on the revolver was cocked on the night of the incident. Defense attorney Bruce Harvey asked Weitzel whether the gun could have gone off from keys in a pocket. Weitzel responded that, “Any force that exerts that kind of pressure can pull the trigger.” Weitzel also stated that the gun could have been fired unintentionally if the person who was holding it was startled.
After four days of deliberation, the jury found McIver guilty of felony murder and four lesser charges. The jury found McIver not guilty of malice murder. The felony murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence.