Conley Is Mercilessly Grilled At Afternoon Session of Court

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 5th, 1913


Jim Conley remained on the stand throughout the afternoon session. Attorney Rosser continuting his cross-examination after the noon recess.

“Who saw you, Jim, at police headquarters?”

“Chief Beavers.”

“Who else?”
“Mr. Smith, my lawyer.”

“Was anybody else present?”
“Yes, Tawney.”

“Did he hear what was said?”
“I guess so. He could have heard.”

“You talked to no one else?”
“No, sir.”

Conley Doesn’t Remember.

“Did you watch for Mr. Frank since the time in January?”
“I think not.”

“What did you do the Saturday afternoon you watched for him?”
“I don’t remember.”

“What did you do the next Saturday?”
“I don’t remember, except that I watched for him. I missed one Saturday.”

“What did you do the Saturday before Thanksgiving and that afternoon?”
“I don’t remember.”

“How much money did you draw the first Saturday you watched for him?”
“I don’t remember.”

“What time did you leave home the first time you watched for him?”
“I don’t remember.”

“Did you draw your money the Saturday after Thanksgiving?”
“I don’t remember.”

“On the day before Thanksgiving, what time did you come to the factory?”
“I don’t recollect exactly, Mr. Rosser.”

“On the day after—did you see Frank?”
“Yes, sir.”

Remembers Seeing Frank.

“You remember that, alright?”
“Yes, sir.”

“Did you see Mr. Darley?”
“I don’t think so.”

“How many hours did you put in that day?”
“I don’t recollect.”

“Then, you don’t know how much pay you drew, do you?”
“Yes, sir, I know how much Mr. Frank gave me for watching for him—a dollar and a quarter.”

“You’ve already told about that.”

“Yes, sir, I know it.”

“Where did you live?”
“37 Bynum street.”

“You’ve been in prison, haven’t you, Jim?”
“Yes, sir.”

“Do you remember the day you went to prison the first time and the day you got out?”
“No, sir; I don’t.”

“Did you ever live elsewhere than on Bynum street?”

“Yes, sir, 172 Rhodes street, near Electric avenue.”

“You were in prison twice, weren’t you, Jim?”

“Yes, sir, but I don’t remember the exact dates of the second time.”

“You stayed how long?”
“Between 21 and 31 days.”

Rosser Asks Numerous Questions.

Rosser’s attack upon the negro, at first, was a slow, gradual attempt to wear away the witness in the manner of water dropping incessantly upon stone. He put innumerable questions to the witness, pertaining to Conley’s past, his various homes, his sweetheart, his working career. Many seemed utterly irrelevant, but obviously were decidedly significant to the plans of the defense.

“How many times, now, Jim, have you been in prison in all?”
“Somewhere between seven and eight.”

“Now, let’s see: The day you found the child in the pencil factory, as you say, was on April 26. The factory was closed that day, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, sir. The day before, they had tacked up signs all over the building.”

“Did you read them?”
“No, sir; I couldn’t. They were read to me.”

Mr. Rosser remained in his seat, playing with his witness like a cat plays with a ball of twine, or a child with a toy, plying question upon question. In each answer, he would find new material for countless additional questions, with which he sought to tangle Conley in his own narrative.

Many questions were asked of the negro regarding his associates of the street and fellow-workers in the pencil factory, most of which dealt with Gheron, “Snowball” Bailey, a negro youth who was once also under arrest in connection with the Mary Phagan murder during the early part of the investigation.

“When you were in prison, who took your place in the pencil factory, Jim?”
“I don’t know, sir.”

Sent Him to Stockade.

“What was the fine they imposed on you the last time you were sentenced?”

“They didn’t give me no fine.”

“You were one of the new darkeys in the factory, weren’t you?”
“Yes, sir.”

“When did you see Mr. Frank?”
“I don’t remember.”

“When was the first time he ever talked with you except on business?”
“I don’t remember. He talked and jollied with me. He and Mr. Darley, both, jollied with me.”

“Did he ever jolly with you before you watched for him?”
“Yes, sir, sometimes.”

“Do you remember what he said?”
“No, sir.”

“Who saw him ever jolly with you?”
“Mr. Darley and Mr. Schiff.”

Questioned About Daisy Hopkins.

“When did Daisy Hopkins work at the pencil factory?”
“Some time in 1912.”

“What floor did she work on?”
“The fourth floor.”

“What part of 1912?”

“June on up.”

“Has she ever worked there in 1913?”
“I don’t know.”

“Do you know where she lives?”
“No, sir.”

“Is she married?”
“I don’t know.”

“What’s the color of her hair?”
“Don’t remember.”

“What’s the color of her complexion?”
“What’s complexion?”
“You’re dark complected—I’m white complected.”

“Oh, she was white complected.”

Just Ears Like Folks.

“What kind of ears did she have?”
“Ears like folks.”

“I didn’t expect her to have ears like a rabbit—small ears, big ears, or what?”

“Kinder small ears.”

“How old was she?”
“About 22.”
“How do you know she worked there in June, 1912?”

“I knew it was 1912, and one day she sent me down to the office with a note. It had ‘June’ on it.”

“I thought you couldn’t read?”
“I could read ‘June’ alright.”

“How many times have you ever seen this man Dalton around the pencil factory?”

“Several times.”

“On the third trip, of which you’ve started, how did he come to be at the factory?”
“Miss Daisy Hopkins brought him.”

“How long has it been since you’ve seen Dalton?”

Saw Him at Police Station.

“About a month, I saw him down at police headquarters when they brought him in for me to identify him.”

“Did you identify him?”

“Yes, sir.”

“The first day you watched for Frank, did you see Mr. Holloway?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Was he around the factory?”
“Yes, sir.”

“What time did he leave?”

“About 2:30 o’clock.”

“Did you see Mr. Darley?”
“Yes, sir.”

“What time did he leave?”

“I don’t know exactly—he was always leaving.”

“The next time you watched for Mr. Frank, who did you see of the working force?”

“Mr. Holloway.”

“What time did he leave?”

“About 2 o’clock.”

Watched in September.

“Thanksgiving was the next time you watched for Mr. Frank, wasn’t it?”
“No, it was some time in September.”

“Was Mr. Darley around the factory?”

“I didn’t see him.”

“Mr. Schiff?”

“I think so.”

“What time did Schiff leave?”

“I didn’t know.”

“Isn’t it true that a lot of people are at work in the factory on Saturdays?”

“Yes, sir, sometimes.”

“On Thanksgiving, did anybody work there all afternoon?”
“I don’t remember.”

“Isn’t it true that Schiff was in the office?”

“I didn’t see him.”

Knows Part of Plant.

“You know the whole plant well, don’t you?”

“Some parts of it I do—some parts I don’t.”

“How big a room, then, is Mr. Frank’s office?”
“I don’t know.”

“It has two desks in it, hasn’t it?”
“I think so.”

“Who has the other desk?”
“Mr. Schiff.”

“How long is the outside office?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is there a safe in the inside office?”
“Yes, sir.”

“You can’t see from the stairway into the inside office?”
“Yes, sir.”

“Can a man sitting in the office see anyone coming up the stairs?”

“I don’t know.”

“But, Frank can’t see folks coming along the floor unless they go past the clock?”

“If he is sitting at his desk, he can.”

Conley Shown Diagram.

At this point, Conley was given a diagram to show the jury where he was sitting on the occasion of a certain talk with Frank near Frank’s office.

“How much did you say you drank on Friday, April 25?”

“Not so very much.”

“Do you know Detective Harry Scott?”
“Yes, sir.”

“When you were at police headquarters, you told them that you got up at 9:30 a.m. on the morning of the 25th, didn’t you?”
“Yes, sir.”

“That wasn’t so, was it?”


“Yet you looked them in the face and lied, didn’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You also told them you went to Peters street?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And didn’t go?”
“Yes, sir. I went to Peters street, alright.”

“How long did you stay on Peters street?”

“Not long.”

“You stayed until 11 o’clock, didn’t you?”


“You told Scott so, didn’t you?”

“Don’t remember about that.”

Told Some Stories, He Admits.

“Do you remember what you told Harry Scott and John Black?”

“Not all.”

“The truth is you lied all the way ‘round?”

“I told some stories, I’ll admit.”

“Didn’t you make three affidavits, neither of which is true?”

“Some of them are true.”

“But aren’t they all lies?”

“No, there’s a lot of truth in all of them.”

Attorney Hooper objected to this question, saying the affidavits were in existence and that they should be shown the witness as prescribed by the law.

Negro Drilled, Says Arnold.

Attorney Arnold, in discussion, said: “It is easy to see that the negro has been canned and grilled and prepared for this business, and would easily recognize the affidavits. That is not what we want to do at present.”

Hooper’s retort was:

“Mr. Arnold, I do not think, was called upon to explain the history of the affidavits. They are here in the court, as requested, and the law demands that they be shown the witness. This is a new way of legislating. Should the law be changed just because these men get up and demand that their rights, and their right alone, prevail. This case should be tried entirely as any other case should be tried.”

Solicitor Dorsey said:

“We submit that the remarks of Mr. Arnold be considered prejudicious—his remarks that the witness had been canned and prepared in a state satisfactory to the defense. I beg that the judge make a statement to that effect to the jury.”

Arnold Attacks Dorsey.

Mr. Arnold rose again.

“My friend Dorsey, in his usual fussy, snarlish way, has accused me of being prejudicious. If we sought to impeach Jim Conley finally, we will put the affidavits into evidence. Each affidavit represents a world of pumping and labor on the part of detectives. We expect to show that the affidavits followed many contradictory statements, and that Conley never admitted anything until confronted with the fact that he could write.”

Judge Roan sustained the defense.

“How long did the detectives talk to you?” Mr. Rosser continued with the witness.

“I don’t remember.”

“The first time you made a statement of your movements, Black and Scott were together, weren’t they?”

“Yes, I think I sent for Mr. Black.”

“Where were you when this statement was made?”
“In the detectives’ office in the police station.”

“How long did they talk to you?”

“For quite a while.”

“Didn’t you buy a pint of liquor on Peters street at 10 o’clock, Friday, the 25th?”


“What did you tell Black?”
“That I bought it about 10 o’clock, as you say.”

“Didn’t you tell him you left Rhodes street about 10 o’clock.”

“No, sir.”

“After you bought this liquor—“

Mr. Hooper interceded, saying:

An Attempt to Impeach.

“We have no objection to any of this going before the jury, but this procedure of Rosser’s is only an attempt to impeach the witness, and it is in a manner against what is prescribed by the law. There is a rule against this method of his, and it is as plain as the nose on your face, your honor.”

Mr. Rosser said:

“Now, it is to be said that I cannot ask this man what he said on a certain time? I’ve got a right to do it to test or refresh his memory.”

Judge Roan, in answer, stated:

“This rule is universal. This man, Mr. Hooper, is your witness. The defense has ample grounds to test his memory.”

Mr. Hooper replied:

“Does your honor hold that this examination is not solely for the purpose of impeachment?”
“I do not know what will be the ultimate result,” said the judge.

Mr. Rosser’s examination was resumed.

“That statement you made to Black, didn’t you say in it that you bought the liquor after 11 o’clock? You went to the Butt-in saloon?”

“I said I went there before I bought the liquor.”

“Didn’t you tell Black and Scott that some things you told them were true and some were not?”

“No; they never asked me.”

“Didn’t you look them straight in the face and lie?”

He Hung His Head.

“No, sir. I hung my head whenever I told them a lie, and looked them straight in the face when I told them the truth. I thought I’d just tell a little bit of the truth, so Mr. Frank would get scared and would send somebody to come and get me out of trouble.”

“Oh, well we’ll get to that later on.”

“How many saloons did you tell them you went to?”

“Did you tell them that you went straight home from Peters street?”
“No, sir, I told them I hung around a while.”

“What did you tell them about the money you had?”
“I told them something about $3.50 I had.”

“Which one of the detectives told you to look him squarely in the face?”

“Nary a-one.”

When Jim is Lying.

“What good does it do you to hang your head when you’re not telling the truth?”

“None that I know of.”

“What else do you do when you are lying?”
“Fool with my fingers.”

“How long did the detectives talk to you—hours at a time?”
“Sometimes they’d talk to me for hours.”

“Didn’t John Black say you were a good nigger, and didn’t Scott curse you?”
“No, sir—sometimes they’d sit and whisper together, but that’s all.”

“Didn’t they put a negro in there with you?”
“Yes, sir.”

“Didn’t he ask you what you were in there for?”

“No, sir.”

“Didn’t you tell that darkey that you weren’t worried—that you didn’t know anything about the crime?”
“No, sir, I didn’t tell him anything like that.”

“On May 24, didn’t you send for Black?”
“I don’t remember, I don’t know what date it was; it was when the papers put it in that I was down there suffering.”

Mr. Dorsey objected, but was not sustained.

“I sent for Mr. Black,” the negro continued, “and told him I would him. I told him I had held back part of it.”

“You told Black you were going to tell part of the truth and hold back part of it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Was Mr. Scott there?”

“I don’t remember, I didn’t see him, I know.”

“Did you tell them in the police station that you were telling only part of the truth?”
“No sir.”

The Mysterious Notes.

“Do you remember what were on the notes you say you wrote for Mr. Frank on the day of the murder?”

“Yes, sir; something about a long, tall black negro doing it.”

“In your verbal statement to Black—the first one—did you say anything about a girl being dead and toting her down into the basement?”

“I don’t remember.”

“In your second statement, did you say anything about this?”
“Yes, sir—I think I did. I think I remember saying something about it.”

Mr. Dorsey objected to this on grounds of the statement in question being in writing, and in hands of the defense.

“Haven’t we a right,” he said, “to show a thing in writing as dictated by the law. Please take cognizance of the fact that we have produced these papers at their request. Then, does your honor tell me he does not know the statements are in writing, and give us no opportunity to refresh the memory of the witness. If there is any doubt in your honor’s mind, then let us ask a question.”

Rules for Defense.

“Suppose the affidavits contradict the statement of the witness?” replied Judge Roan. “In which case the defense would have grounds for testing the witness’ memory. The man says he can’t write, and did not write it himself. Does the law, in such a case, say that his memory may not be tested to oral statement he has made for transcription?”

His ruling was to the effect that the defense could ask the question which had formerly been put.

In the midst of this heated clash […]


[…] between counsel for the defense and counsel for the state, Solicitor Dorsey attempted to read a portion of a state statute for the judge’s benefit. Judge Roan, as the solicitor spoke, turned to talk with a spectator who had climbed to the bench. The solicitor recited only three words from the book, caught sight of the judge’s apparent disinterest, and threw down the volume with a deprecatory gesture of resignation.

“Now, Jim,” continued Mr. Rosser, “whenever you are lying or telling the truth, please be so kind as to give me some signal. Did you say anything about going into the basement in that second statement?”

“I don’t remember.”

“You said you were going to keep back some of it—what was it?”

“The best part.”

At this juncture, when it was seen that the court was preparing to adjourn for the afternoon, Mr. Arnold arose, saying:

“We make a motion that the court take charge of this negro, Jim Conley, and let the sheriff put him in custody. The law requires such a move, and I ask your honor to do this fair and square thing. Not to let a soul talk with him, not even the sheriff.”

No Objection by State.

In reply to this, Mr. Hooper stated: “So far as the state is concerned, no objection can be voiced on our part, that is, if he is put there no one at all can get to him.”

Judge Roan said:

“Mr. Sheriff, no one is to get to this witness, not even you.”

Attorney William M. Smith, counsel for Conley, who had mounted a seat in the jury box, vacated several moments previously, broke in:

“My connection with Jim Conley is solely for the safeguard of truth. I have full confidence in Sheriff Mangum, but there is no way in the county jail to keep persons from Conley in case he is placed therein, or, unless a special man is appointed to keep guard over him. I ask for an additional guard for his benefit. Also, he needs special food after the ordeal of this afternoon. Frank is enjoying special meals, is allowed better fare than any of the other prisoners, and I ask the same for Conley.”

Sheriff Mangum assured the court that special pains would be taken for the negro, and that he would be sufficiently guarded. He left the courthouse in the sheriff’s charge.

* * *

Atlanta Constitution, August 5th 1913, “Conley is Mercilessly Grilled at Afternoon Session of Court,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)