Conley is Confronted with Lee – Dorsey Grills Negroes in Same Cell at Jail

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

Atlanta Georgian
July 23rd, 1913


Sister of Will Green Tells Police He Slept at Home at Hour Girl Was Slain; Jim Conley, Factory Sweeer [sic] Again Grilled.

The two negro principals in the Phagan case—Newt Lee and Jim Conley—were put on the grill together in the cell of the former in the county jail by Solicitor Dorsey and his assistant, Frank G. Hooper, late Wednesday afternoon.

Present at the cross-examination were J. M. Gantt, former pencil factory employee, and Detectives Starnes and Campbell, the officers who have had charge of Conley for the past several weeks. After half an hour’s questioning Gantt left the jail. Solicitor Dorsey and the others remained and the questioning of the two negroes continued until a late hour. Conley was then taken back to police headquarters.

Here are Wednesday’s important developments in the Phagan murder mystery:

Bloodstained glove of Mary Phagan is said to have been found on the first floor near the place the discovery of her pay envelope was made.

New evidence is found tending to establish the identity of the negro, Will Green, said to have seen the attack upon Mary Phagan.

Newt Lee, negro night watchman at the pencil factory, undergoes a grilling examination at the hands of Solicitor General Dorsey and his associate counsel, Frank A. Hooper.

J. M. Gantt, expected to give sensational evidence for the prosecution at the trial, is in conference with the solicitor and present at the grilling of Lee.

Leo M. Frank tells Sheriff Mangum that he is eager for the trial to begin, and will be ready when it is called Monday morning.

Solicitor Dorsey announces that he will insist that there be no further delay.

It became known Wednesday that the defense in the Frank case had been informed that the negro, Will Green, who is said to have been shooting craps with Jim Conley the day that Mary Phagan was murdered and to have seen her attacked, and the Will Green living at 105 Thurmond street, Atlanta, are the same person.

Private detectives in the employ of the defense have trailed the negro across a half-dozen States and have missed him by as small a margin as 30 minutes in some of the towns they have visited in the chase.

Trailed by a Ring.

Charles Fine, proprietor of the Radius Jewelry Company, No. 107 Peachtree street, when he read in The Georgian that the defense was searching for a Will Green, recalled that he had a ring in his store which was to have been called for by a negro of the same name, but which unaccountably had been left there without a claimant. He regarded this as peculiar, and notified persons interested in the defense.

A negro calling himself J. Will Green visited the store May 16 and displayed a rather ornate gold ring worth probably $12 or $15. He desired to have a Radius diamond set in it, and said that he would be around within a day or two after it. He never returned. It was about this time that the report spread around the city that the Phagan murder had had an eyewitness in the person of a negro who was shooting craps with Conley.

A sister of the Will Green who left the ring at the jewelry store was seen Wednesday. She said that her brother had left town about two months ago and that none of the family had heard from him since or had any idea where he was. She said he was working with some small circus or theatrical troups when he left.

The Green that the detectives have been pursuing is known to be […]

Chief Declares Pinkertons Made No Report of Alleged Find to Him.

[…] connected with a circus or show, additional strength thus being given to the theory that their identity is the same.

She thought the detectives were mistaken in believing that her brother knew anything about the crime. He slept practically all the day that Mary Phagan was murdered, she declared, and didn’t even go downtown to see the Memorial Day parade, although he was urged by one of his friends. He was working nights for the Southern Railway at this time, according to the sister, joining the show people a few days later.

She failed to explain why he suddenly had left town without stopping to recover the gold ring of considerable value which he had left at the Fine jewelry store.

Gantt Sees Solicitor.

J. M. Gantt, a discharged employee of the National Pencil Factory, who Wednesday conferred with Solicitor General Dorsey and Attorney Frank A. Hooper, denied that he made the startling statement to them that he saw at 1 o’clock on the day that Mary Phagan was murdered Jim Conley and Leo Frank conversing together in Frank’s office.

Intimation that Gantt contemplated making such a statement to the prosecution is said to have come to the defense in an anonymous letter some time ago. The writer said in effect:

“I was standing on the street the other day and heard Gantt talking to some other fellow. He told this fellow that he had stood across the street Saturday, April 26, and had looked through the window of the factory and seen Jim Conley, talking to Frank in Frank’s office.

“I don’t think Gantt has told this to the Solicitor yet, and, as he is not in very good financial condition, I think that he might be persuaded to keep it quiet if he was sent a little money.”

No attention was paid to the letter.

Lee Grilled Again.

Gantt, the Solicitor and attorney were in the jail together. They remained two and a quarter hours questioning Newt Lee closely. They went over practically the same ground that was covered in the inquest, quizzing him about his actions the day of the murder and his whereabouts every minute during the time before he reported at the factory and about Frank’s manner when he met him at the factory.

Lee stuck to his previous story, and declared that he knew nothing about the crime until he came upon the body that night. They asked him how he happened to go into the basement at that time, and he made the same explanation that he gave before the Coroner’s Jury.

Lee said that he did not see Conley there that night and did not even know Conley by sight. In the afternoon it was planned to take Conley from the police station to the jail to confront Lee and question the two together.

Lanford Scouts Bludgeon Evidence.

Chief of Detectives Newport Lanford Wednesday morning ridiculed the story that the defense of Leo M. Frank has in its possession a bloody club, alleged to have been found by two Pinkerton detectives on May 10 in the National Pencil factory, and with which, it is reported, the defense will contend Mary Phagan was slain by James Conley, the negro sweeper.

Asserting that he knows nothing whatever of the alleged bloody club, Chief Lanford declared that, if Pinkerton detectives found such a weapon on May 10, or any other date, they had failed to report the fact to him. Failure to officially report such a find would be regarded as a breach of the pact between the city detectives and the Pinkertons, as the latter officers, while employed by the pencil factory, have been working hand in hand with city detectives, with the understanding that any evidence they unearthed would be communicated to detective headquarters.

Has Received No Report.

“If Pinkerton detectives found a bloody club in the pencil factory they certainly should have reported that fact to me at once—I have received no such report,” said Chief Lanford.

The police regard as significant the attitude of Harry Scott, who is managing the Pinkerton investigation and who, subsequent to May 10, has continued to assert his belief in the guilt of Frank.

Chief Lanford characterized the alleged finding of the club as an “absurdity,” and scouted the idea of it having any bearing on the case. He is satisfied, he said, that it will never figure as evidence.

The chief said the only club found in the pencil factory, of which he had any knowledge, was a small section of broom handle, about a foot in length, which hung by a cord beside the desk of Leo M. Frank in the latter’s private office.

Broom Handle Was Found.

This “club” bore no blood stains, he said, and showed no evidence of having ever been used as a weapon in any way. It was too light to have done any damage had a blow been struck with it, he said.

Chief Lanford treated the bloody club story in the manner of a joke.

“Do you see a club there?” remarked the Chief, pointing to a perfectly clear spot on his office floor, when asked as to the reported find by the Pinkertons.

“Well, that’s the answer,” he continued. “There is just as much of a bloody club lying there on that floor as there was on the floor of the pencil factory, where it is said the Pinkertons found their bloody club. The whole thing is absurd and will have no bearing whatever on the case of Frank. I’m satisfied this mysterious club will never be introduced in evidence.

No Weapon Was Found.

“When it is recalled that the very spot that yielded up this bloody club was searched thoroughly more than a dozen times by numerous officers prior to May 10 and no club nor other weapon was found, the ridiculousness of this story is apparent. We searched that factory from top to bottom and bottom to top, closely investigating every conceivable place for weapons or any other bit of evidence that might thrown light on the mystery, and yet no club was found.

“There’s absolutely nothing to it.

“In Frank’s private office we found a small piece of broomstick hanging by a cord beside his desk. There were no blood stains on it, and it showed no evidence of having been used as a weapon. In the first place, it was too light to serve as a weapon. This was the only club found in the factory at the time any possible weapons should have been found and would have been found.”

Date Still in Doubt.

Reuben Arnold said Wednesday that the defense would ask for no continuance of the Frank case except for such imperative reasons as the absence of material witnesses or the illness of counsel. Luther Rosser, chief of counsel, also has indicated that no move will be made by the defense for further delay in the trial unless an emergency arises of the sort described by Attorney Arnold.

Informal conferences between the counsel in the Crawford will case and those in the Frank case, in both of which Rosser and Arnold appear as attorneys, have resulted in the announcement that the persons interested in the Crawford hearing are willing to waive the priority of their case and permit the Frank trial to go on Monday.