Brilliant Legal Battle Is Sure as Hooper And Arnold Clash in Trial of Leo Frank

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

The Atlanta Georgian

Sunday, June 29, 1913


[Order Has at Last Been Rested and Indications Are That Struggle of Attorneys Will Be Waged in the Most Ethical Manner.]

* Alternate headline from another page is shown in brackets above.

By An Old Police Reporter.

As deplorable as the Phagan case is in all its melancholy details, it already is evident enough that there will come of it eventually much that the community may be thankful for.

In the first place, Atlanta and Georgia, and incidentally the entire South will have learned a good lesson in law and order, justice and fair play, and to that extent may be the better prepared for the next case of the kind that comes to their attention.

In the second place, there will be in the future no such wretched bungling and frenzied appeal in and from police headquarters, as for a time marked the Phagan case unique among its kind.

It looks now as if the decks have been pretty well cleared for action and that Leo Frank’s trial may be expected to proceed in dignity and order, and that in its final analysis the truth of Mary Phagan’s murder may be established, at least to the extent of Frank’s real or suspected participation therein.

If Frank should be convicted, that would mean the subsequent indictment and conviction of the negro Conley, as an accessory after the fact.

Conley Indictment May Follow.

If Frank should be found not guilty, that would mean the indictment of Conley, as principal to the murder, in all human probability.

It evidently is the purpose of the State to hold Conley free of indictment, pending the disposition of the charges against Frank. His status as a material witness depends much upon this, of course.

There always is a chance, however, that a Grand Jury may take up a thing of this sort of its own motion, and to that extent there remains the possibility of prior indictment hanging over Conley.

It seems more likely, however, that the case will go to trial as it shapes up now.

I do not incline to think the State really has any further sensational or particularly effective thing up its sleeve. Neither do I think the defense has.

There may be, on both sides, bits of corroborated evidence or evidence to offset this, that, or the other to come, but in the main I think the public is in possession of all the essential facts in the Phagan case to date.

The public must remember, however, that not all the things it has read in the newspapers, not yet one-half the things, ever will go before the jury trying Leo Frank as competent evidence.

And it is upon the COMPETENT evidence alone that the court will permit Leo Frank to be judged.

For instance, nothing that Mrs. Frank has said in the public prints will go before the jury. A wife is estopped in law from testifying either for or against her husband.

Fomby [sic] Woman Rejected.

The Fomby woman already has been rejected as a possible witness against Frank. Her story admittedly is too preposterous even for the State to bother with it further.

How much of Conley’s story the jury will hear is entirely problematical.

He will be warned that he need not testify to anything calculated to incriminate himself, and even if he elects to disregard this warning there is much in his statement that likely will go down and out as incompetent or irrelevant.

The ponderous assurances of Frank’s guilt, so frequently thundered from police headquarters by Detective Lanford, will so far as the jury is concerned, not be there. Detective Lanford will not be on the jury—and his opinion as to the innocence or guilt of Frank will not be immediately valuable, therefore.

Frank’s own statement, it must be rembered [sic], will be delivered to the jury, not under oath.

The jury will be instructed by the court that it may accept the defendant’s statement as the truth in its entirety, and to the exclusion of ALL the sworn testimony, if it sees fit; or it may accept it in part and reject it in part; or it may reject the statement as a whole.

The jury, and the jury ALONE, will be the judge of the facts.

The law—the impersonal law—that the jury will be required to apply to those facts it will get from the court.

It looks, then, as if the Phagan case, getting down to brass tacks, will revolve finally about these persons:

Leo Frank, the defendant; Solicitor Dorsey and Attorney Frank Hooper, representing the State; Luther Z. Rosser and Reuben Arnold, representing the defendant; the judge, the jury and a dozen or so competent and material witnesses.

Order at Last Comes.

So, at last, has order been brought out of chaos, after weeks and weeks of hysteria, stuff and nonsense, passion and prejudice, facts and near-facts, truth and lies, impatience and intolerance—all jumbled into about the worst mess I ever undertook, in my way, to analyze and unravel, in seeking the truth!

Leo Frank will receive a fair trial, and the written and recorded verdict, whatever it may be, will be accepted generally as the truth.

If the jury agrees that Frank is guilty, that verdict will be taken to be a just one. Nothing short of the most sensational and revolutionary new evidence likely would serve to re-establish his good name, once he is convicted in the Superior Court.

On the other hand, if the jury shall agree that Frank is not guilty, I think he will be taken back into the friendly and fair-minded good will of the people of Atlanta, a free and untarnished man, and there likely will come a revulsion of popular feeling in his behalf, that will go far toward offsetting and reconciling him to the horrible ordeal he passed through.

The approaching trial likely will be one of the greatest legal battles ever fought in Georgia.

On the one hand—that of the State—Hugh Dorsey, the Solicitor General, has done the drudgery, and Frank Hooper is to handle the picturesque. Hooper likely will figure much more in the public eye hereafter than Dorsey will, for it will be Hooper’s business to paint the rainbow, snatch the stars from the heavens, and open the floodgates of tears—if he can!

On the other hand—that of the defense—Luther Z. Rosser has done the drudgery, and Reuben Arnold will have the delicate task of leading the jury along the primrose path that leads to Frank’s acquittal.

All Have Big Reputations.

All of these men are great lawyers, with reputations to sustain, and each one may be depended upon to act a part entirely in keeping with the honorable profession of the law. I do not believe there is sufficient money in Atlanta to secure the services of any one of these men in an unworthy undertaking.

Each one of these men may be depended upon to do his best by his client, and as each one is of the quality I note, a fair trial seems assured.

It is a happy and a consoling circumstance that the trial of Leo Frank is to be presided over by an upright and just judge, argued by upright and honorable attorneys, and a verdict written by twelve “good men and true,” as the law—the LAW in all its majesty—directs!

While by no means as spectacular a thing to say as something else might be, it is a matter of deep and abiding significance that Leo Frank, with his life, his good name, and all that he holds most dear at stake, is assured of a fair trial and a just verdict, notwithstanding all the frenzied and sinister detail of irrelevant and incoherent “testimony” and “evidence” set forth here and there, as time has run on since Mary Phagan was slain.

Victory for Society.

In the trial of Leo Frank THE SUPREMACY OF THE LAW will be vindicated beyond carping or cavil—and therein the most tremendous victory to society will be achieved.

Frank Hooper is one of the most experienced prosecuting attorneys in the State. He has served as Solicitor General on one of the most important circuits in Georgia, and his career thereon was entirely to his credit.

He is suave, incisive, deliberate, calm in action and eagle-eyed in seeing a point that may be turned to his client’s advantage.

In summing up the case of the State against Leo Frank, Hooper will be at his best. He is a master in presenting his case to the jury for his consideration. I understand he is to be associated soon with Judge Arthur Powell and John D. Little, in Atlanta, in the practice of law. They will make a great team. Hooper is an attorney of the same class and caliber as Powell and Little.

But there to combat the best efforts that Hooper may put forth will stand that remarkable lawyer, Reuben Arnold.

Whatever qualms Frank may feel when he thinks of Hooper, doubtless they are relieved in large measure when he turns his thoughts to Arnold.

Reuben Arnold is a lawyer of constant surprises. Age can not wither him nor custom stale his infinite variety. Frank’s case will be presented to the jury as few men could present it, when Arnold undertakes the work.

Convinced of Innocence.

Arnold says he never entered the case until he had convinced himself of Frank’s innocence, and I quite believe he speaks the truth. I do not think there is the shadow of doubt either in Arnold’s or Rosser’s mind that Frank is entirely guiltless of the killing of Mary Phagan.

That Hooper may have some doubts as to the full strength of the State’s case against Frank seems likely, for soon after entering the case he said this:

I have not been employed in the case to prosecute Leo M. Frank, but to help find and convict the murderer of Mary Phagan. If the trial proves we are wrong, we will begin work on another angle. We have but one object and idea, it is that justice and the law be vindicated. We are, however, convinced we have a strong case against the accused.

Now, I do not think a manlier thing has been said in all the mass of things that have been said in the Phagan case than the foregoing.

If any person who does not know Frank Hooper has any doubts as to his complete integrity and lofty ideals the statement credited to him herein should remove them. Only a man who wishes to do right could or would say what Hooper said, soon after taking up the State’s end of the Phagan case.

The most ardent, if honest, extremes of opinion well may meet on the platform Hooper sets up!

And if everybody in Atlanta will say, as he says, “I want to help find and convict the murderer of Mary Phagan, regardless of whom that murderer may be,” everybody will find himself on a platform of decency and fair play—and that’s where he ought to wish to find himself.

I have sought, in these articles, neither to prosecute nor to defend Frank. I have sought, in such manner as I might, to help find the murderer of Mary Phagan. I want to see him found and convicted.

I, like Hooper, have desired, above all things, to see JUSTICE AND THE LAW VINDICATED, and I indorse and agree with Hooper’s expressed desire that both may be.

Search Will Continue.

If the State fails to convict Frank—the State will turn its eyes elsewhere.

Could any man ask a fairer or squarer promise from Hooper than that?

It merely means that Hooper WILL ACCEPT THE FINDINGS OF THE COURT, after orderly and prescribed procedure, frankly and unquestioningly, as the TRUTH of the matter.

If Frank is guilty, then the law will take its course.

If he is not guilty, he will take his place once more among his fellowmen, as free of stain as any of them.

That’s where Hooper stands, and that’s where I am satisfied to stand also!

And if somebody, early in the investigation of the Phagan case, had calmed the mad scramble for “clews,” “evidence,” “testimony” and what not, with the deliberate and convincing words of Frank Hooper, some of the utterly ridiculous theories would never have been evolved and the entire case would have rested upon a basis of sanity, which would have eliminated many of the ugly features.

Happily, however, the chatterboxes and the human phonographs have been given their wild riot of talk, and if the Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noises has rounded them up for good and all, so be it, and praise forevermore!

Sanity and THE LAW OF THE LAND have taken the Phagan case in hand, and through these agencies will the truth of the murder of Mary Phagan be set up eventually.

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The Atlanta Georgian, June 29th 1913, “Brilliant Legal Battle Is Sure as Hooper And Arnold Clash in Trial of Leo Frank,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)