Bitter Fight at Morning Session Over Testimony of Dr. Wm. Owen

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 14th, 1913

Dr. William Owen, physician and real estate man, followed Dr. W. S. Kendrick on the stand. By him the defense desired to show that to carry out the movements told of by Jim Conley from the time he alleges Leo Frank called upon him to help move the girl’s body until he left the factory would take much longer than Conley declared he took.

After establishing his identity, Mr. Arnold began the examination of Dr. Owen, which resulted in the argument.

“Dr. Owen, at our request you went to the factory of the National Pencil Company with others and you timed their movements as they enacted the movements as told by Conley, didn’t you?”

“I object to this, your honor,” interrupted Solicitor Dorsey, “the jury [1 word illegible] how long it took by the evidence introduced and not by this man’s opinion.”

“Mr. Dorsey has not heard the facts which we desire to introduce and when he does he will see that we are not trying to introduce any man’s opinion but the actual results of his timing the moments made by men who took the parts of Mr. Frank and Conley, as Conley described in his testimony before the court,” said Mr. Arnold.

“Well, nobody choked a little girl to death when these men enacted their farce,” replied the solicitor, “and I object to the entire farce being brought into court.”

“It will not be anybody’s opinion, but merely the statement of the actual time taken that Dr. Owen will produce,” replied Mr. Arnold.

Witness Allowed to Continue.

Judge Roan then told him to go ahead and Mr. Dorsey still protested and declared that he would submit citations against it. In the meantime, the witness was allowed to continue.

Dr. Owen then went on to state that he and men named Brent Wilson and Dickson had gone to the factory and that he had timed them as they enacted the story told by Conley, even to the carrying to the basement of a 110 pound sack.

Here the solicitor interrupted again to declare that Judge Roan had previously ruled out what he wanted to show about Conley’s being taken to the factory by detectives and made to go through the movements as he told in his affidavit.

“Conley was allowed to tell in this court all about the time element in his story,” Mr. Arnold asserted,” but when he was taken to the factory and made to go through his movements told of he had not even told of seeing the dead girl’s body and of helping to carry it down into the basement, and, of course, that makes a big difference in the time required, and this nigger is such a liar, anyhow, he told so many different stories that nobody knows what to believe.”

“Your honor,” interrupted Attorney Frank Hooper, “I objected to counsel for the defense referring to a witness as a liar, that’s a question for the jury to decide.”

Judge Roan sustained the objection and after further bitter argument stated that he saw no reason why the evidence brought by Dr. Owen should not be used.

Negro’s Story Enacted.

Attorney Joseph Leavitt then read an outline of the movements of Frank and Conley on that day, as taken from the negro’s statement on the stand. The outline was written in the form of a moving picture scenario and went through all the details of the alleged actions of Frank and the negro sweeper from the time Conley says Frank called him to take away the body until he left the factory.

Mr. Dorsey again objected, saying that some of the things mentioned in the outline took place on Tuesday and others between Saturday and Tuesday and ending by saying, “Your honor, you’re surely not going to allow a thing like this?”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” replied Judge Roan.

“Well, how long did it take in this farce to choke the little girl to death?” the solicitor then asked the defense.

Arnold Accuses Negro.

“We don’t know how long it took the nigger to kill the child,” replied Mr. Arnold hotly.

“No,” replied Judge Roan, “It will not.”

“It’s just as pertinent as Dorsey’s remark about choking the little girl to death,” retorted Mr. Arnold.

Mr. Dorsey then went into a detailed argument in which he stated that the men who carried out the time experiment were not experts on the various subjects they took up, for instance, in choking girls to death, to running elevators and neither were they laboring under the excitement that would come after a brutal murder.

Mr. Rosser here took up the cudgels for the defense and declared that in no experiment to test the time that a thing would take did anyone expect to get the exact time to a second but simply to get as close as possible and with that reasonably close to the time and that the jury could judge for itself about accepting the results of the experiment.

“I submit, your honor, that if such a proposition were brought into court by any, but these learned that you would never even consider it,” was the startling comment of the solicitor.

“No one influences me,” replied the judge as though hurt to the core by the open implication.

After more argument and citations of law cases on both sides, Judge Roan announced that he would make a final decision later and Dr. Owen was allowed to leave the stand, pending the decision.

Arguments as to the admissibility of testimony of Dr. Owen were resumed during the afternoon session. Attorney Rosser sought to show that a re-enaction of Conley’s story was fair for the purpose of testing the narrative. He cited a number of damage suits in which the experimental story was used. Solicitor Dorsey declared that the jury was competent to judge a situation as was Dr. Owen. He declared that the admission of such testimony was dangerous.

Judge Roan decided that the testimony of Dr. Owen could go to the jury. “I have some doubt about it, but I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to the defendant and let it go to the jury,” Judge Roan declared.

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Atlanta Constitution, August 14th 1913, “Bitter Fight at Morning Session Over Testimony of Dr. Wm. Owen,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)