Arnold to Aid Frank

Reuben Arnold, noted Atlanta lawyer, who in a statement to The Sunday American says he will help defend Leo M. Frank, accused of slaying Mary Phagan.

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

The Atlanta Georgian

Sunday, June 22, 1913

Declares Prisoner is Innocent

Has Studied Case Deeply, He Says

Noted Lawyer, in Statement to Sunday American, Tells Why He Has Decided to Take Up the Defense of the Accused Man.

Negro Conley, in New Interview, Asserts He Is Eager to Face Leo M. Frank in Court and Repeat Story of Alleged Part in Crime.

Positive confirmation of the report that he would be one of counsel for the defense in the trial of Leo M. Frank, for the alleged strangling of Mary Phagan, was made Saturday night by Reuben R. Arnold, in a statement unqualifiedly declaring that there could be no room for the belief that Frank was guilty of the murder.

Mr. Arnold expressed his conviction that no white man committed the crime, and said that if he had not thoroughly convinced himself of Frank’s absolute innocence he would not have undertaken to assist in the defense.

The brilliant attorney, in forcible language, made known his surprise that the detectives could continue to place the responsibility on Frank in the face of what he described as the positively incriminating affidavits of the negro sweeper, Jim Conley.

Makes Formal Statement.

The news of his connection with the Phagan case, which was anticipated by The American of three weeks ago, was contained in the following formal statement which was given to the newspapers:

It is true that I have accepted employment to assist in the defense of Mr. Leo M. Frank, but I wish to state that before I agreed to take the case I made it a condition that I should have time to study critically all the evidence delivered at the Coroner’s inquest and all the affidavits that have reached the public through the newspapers, so I could form an opinion for myself as to Frank’s innocence or guilt. I would not defend any man if guilty of such a murder as the one in this case.

After studying the evidence as critically as I can, I am satisfied that I hazard not a thing in saying that there is no room to believe Mr. Frank guilty of this horrible murder, I do not believe that any white man committed the crime.

Indeed, it is surprising to me that the detectives should continue to try to put this crime on Frank with the positively incriminating affidavits of Conley before them. People of common sense, unless under great excitement, ought not to give a moment’s credence to either the Formsby [sic] or the Conley statement, in so far as they attempt to incriminate Mr. Frank.

I see the detectives are gradually giving it out that Mrs. Formsby [sic] will not be called as a witness, although her affidavit has been paraded before the public bearing the unqualified indorsement [sic] of the detective department as being perfectly reliable and true. Worse than this, an intimation was published in the newspapers that Frank’s friends had persuaded her to leave town. In this and in many other ways our client has been done a very great injustice. The effort seems to have been not to find the criminal, but to try by all means to put the crime on Frank.

However, I think we will be able to clarify the situation in due time.

The Arnold statement constitutes one of the strongest documents of the whole Phagan mystery. It is known that the attorney has been interested in the case for weeks. During this time he carefully has gone over every scrap of evidence accessible, with the idea in view of satisfying himself beyond the possibility of a doubt of the innocence of Frank. He has not confined himself to the affidavits of the defense.

His main consideration has been of the affidavits and statements produced by the detectives in the case they have been developing against the accused man. His statement indicates that he believes them worthless so far as they seek to involve Frank in the crime.

It became rumored some time ago that he was making an investigation of the Phagan mystery on his own[…]

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[…]account. The American printed its conclusions that he would become identified with the case. But Mr. Arnold had not made his definite decision and refused to commit himself.

The entrance of Mr. Arnold into the case gives the defense a formidable array of legal talent. Both he and Luther Z. Rosser are in the forefront of their profession in Atlanta.

Solicitor General Dorsey made what is generally regarded as the wisest selection possible when he picked Frank A. Hooper to assist in the Frank trial. Attorney Hooper is known as one of the most powerful prosecuting lawyers of the State and has made a careful study of the case.

The Solicitor will return this afternoon from his week’s trip to New York. One of this first conferences will be with Mr. Hooper, Judge Roan and Mr. Rosser in respect to the date for the trial.

Trial May Be Delayed.

It is the opinion of those interested in the case that it will not be called for trial on June 30, the date originally set. The trial is more likely to begin either Monday, July 14, or two weeks later, July 28. It is known that the time of Judge Roan is free these two weeks.

Attorneys for the defense have said that they are prepared to go to trial at any time, although less opportunity has been allowed them for preparation than is customary. It is reported that no delay will be asked by the defense unless some contingency arises that has not been anticipated.

Attorney Arnold will enter actively into the case at once. He already is familiar with the essential evidence that has been produced by both sides.

Conley Wants Early Trial.

Jim Conley, the negro sweeper at the National Pencil Factory, talked to a reporter Saturday night for the first time since he made his affidavit confessing that he played a part in the murder of Mary Phagan.

Conley declared that the detectives had told him he would be placed on trial for his part in the murder on Monday or Tuesday, and expressed disappointment when he was told that he might not be brought into court for several weeks. He said he had hoped he would have the opportunity of confronting Leo Frank and charging him with the murder.

“I haven’t changed my story any since I’ve been here,” Conley declared. “I told the truth when I said I helped Mr. Frank hide the body of the girl, and I’m going to stick to it. I’m anxious to face Mr. Frank and tell my story to his face. The detectives have told me I would see him Monday or Tuesday, but I guess I won’t if they are not going to have the trial.”

Conley declared vehemently that he is innocent of the murder of the girl, and declared he is willing to stay in jail because, he says, he knows he will be vindicated.

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The Atlanta Georgian, June 22nd 1913, “Arnold to Aid Frank,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)