Attorney for Conley Makes a Statement

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

The Atlanta Georgian

Sunday, July 20, 1913

“Not Necessary to Indict Negro to Close His Mouth,” Declares William Smith.

William M. Smith, attorney for Jim Conley, the negro now being held as a material witness in the Phagan murder case and whose indictment for complicity in the crime will be considered by the Grand Jury Monday, brought to the office of The Sunday American Saturday night a statement in behalf of his client.

In a letter accompanying the statement, Mr. Smith conveyed a doubt as to whether this newspaper would print what he had to say.

The attorney’s statement in full follows:

The Grand Jury list published showed the names of some men whom I know, and know they are on the square, and, if they once understand the real situation, there will be a bear fight before Jim Conley is indicted at this time.

Of course it would be great work, if the State could be forced to so indict Conley as to make his testimony legally inadmissible against Frank. What a beautiful technical advantage for the Grand Jury to work to close Conley’s mouth against Frank.

Code of Georgia, section 1035: “Confessions of conspirators. The confession of one joint offender or conspirator, made after the enterprise is ended, is admissible only against himself.”

How long would the good people of this county stand for such legal jugglery to save a brutal murderer from the gallows? It is right that both men shall talk. The Grand Jury can name Conley as a joint offender or conspirator, they can give him a “legal status,” which we have heard so much howl about for the last few days, and save Frank from the embarrassment of having to face Conley, even when he is tried. The Grand Jury may know more about what is legally proper to do in this matter than the men who have been playing this game for a living for years, but they had better move slow. We have been studying the principles underlying this fight for months, and they are fresh hands, just on the job for a few days.

It is not necessary to indict Conley to close his mouth. I can close it and help Frank to go free, and then Mr. Mincey and others of his type can be run off by the friends of Mr. Frank, and be inaccessible as witnesses when Conley is tried, and then Conley can go free. This could be done, but it won’t be. Unless they get me fired from my representation of Conley, and unless the Grand Jury fixes his “legal status” so he can’t swear, Conley will answer the roll call as a witness and tell the whole truth as he knows it. It is evident that a trade whereby Conley would close his mouth would be advantageous to both. With Mr. Mincey and others non est inventus, as I imagine they will be if they are not held after swearing, by some process, Conley could not possibly be convicted of murdering the girl himself, and with Frank free Conley could not even be indicted and punished as an accessory after the fact. Such a trade might even be made interesting to Conley’s lawyer, from a financial viewpoint. In fact, everybody but society and the administration of justice would be helped.

We are not looking for trades. Let everybody tell the whole truth, as they see it, and then let justice take its full course, unhampered by ringers or other influences, permeating either the grand or petit juries of this county. When this is done, the fiendish murder of Mary Phagan will be avenged and the civic conscience of our good people satisfied.


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The Atlanta Georgian, July 20th 1913, “Attorney for Conley Makes a Statement,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)