Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney.

(KENT D. JOHNSON / AJC)

 

A Fulton County assistant district attorney argued Tuesday that a former Fisher & Phillips law partner facing murder charges in the shooting death of his wife should not be released on bond because he was attempting to influence witnesses and prominent public officials—foremost among them a Fulton County judge.

Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker said during Tuesday’s arraignment of Claud “Tex” McIver that Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall had visited McIver—who is godfather to Schwall’s son, Austin—at the county jail after McIver was indicted and his bond revoked.

Following that conversation, Rucker said McIver was recorded telling another party, “Listen, I don’t want to use any names but my godson’s father, I need you to contact him. All he needs to do is make a phone call and then I can be out of here the next day.”

Rucker said McIver’s comments about Schwall “was a problem for me. It’s a problem in that what it creates is an appearance, through Mr. McIver’s influence, that he is able to affect the system. He is able to manipulate the fair administration of justice. It was quite concerning.”

That wasn’t Schwall’s only connection to the McIver case. On Tuesday, the judge’s ex-wife, Anne, was slated to testify on McIver’s behalf that she had no apprehensions regarding her son’s safety in McIver’s company, even after he shot his wife, Diane McIver, to death last September, said McIver’s attorney, William Hill. “She wants Austin to have contact with Tex because of the adverse impact on Austin of having Tex in jail,” Hill said. And just before the hearing adjourned, Schwall’s father, Emory Schwall, stood up in court and publicly defended McIver, saying he did so at his grandson’s request.

But Rucker’s account of Schwall’s visit to the jail and McIver’s alleged response to it prompted Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney to defend his colleague, whose office is just down the hall. “Judge Schwall has never contacted me about this case,” McBurney said. “We are friends. We are colleagues. … He has maintained an appropriate professional distance throughout the proceedings. He has not reached out to me in any way, shape or form about this case, or Mr. McIver, or Austin. He appreciates the need to keep that distance.”