Conley Kept on Grill 4 Hours

by Curator on May 4, 2018

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

The Atlanta Georgian

Saturday, July 12, 1913

After Gruelling Third Degree, Officials Refuse to Deny or Affirm Negro Confessed.

Habeas corpus proceedings to release Newt Lee collapsed in the court of Judge Ellis Saturday morning.

By agreement, Bernard L. Chappell, representing Lee, withdrew his application for a habeas corpus; Solicitor Dorsey promised to present a bill against Lee as a suspect in the Phagan murder case, with the expectation that a “no bill” would be returned. This appeared satisfactory to the attorneys for Lee, as well as to the State.

Luther Z. Rosser, Reuben R. Arnold and Herbert J. Haas, of counsel for Frank, were in court to fight against the appearance of Frank as a witness. William M. Smith represented Conley, one of the witnesses subpenaed.

Jim Conley underwent a racking third degree late Friday afternoon at the hands of Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey and Attorney Frank A. Hooper in an effort to verify or discredit the W.H. Mincey affidavit, in which the negro was charged with confessing to the murder of a girl on the afternoon that Mary Phagan met her death.

The grilling of nearly four hours followed The Georgian’s publication of the details of Mincey’s accusations and was undertaken with the utmost secrecy, an attempt being made to avoid knowledge of the “sweating” becoming public by taking Conley to the Commissioners’ room on the second floor of the police station by a circuitous route.

Negro’s Most Severe Ordeal.

It was the most severe ordeal through which the negro has passed. Its result was kept a profound secret both by the Solicitor and Attorney Hooper. Neither would deny the rumor that Conley had made a complete confession admitting that it was he that killed the little factory girl, nor would they confirm the report, which arose when it was learned that Solicitor Dorsey apparently was making ready to take an entirely new statement from the negro.

Dorsey, Hooper and Chief Lanford were present in the Commissioners’ room when the inquisition began. After a few minutes Chief Lanford departed and did not return while the questioning was in progress. He was inclined to deny at first that Conley even was behind the closed doors. But ocular proof had been afforded and the newspaper men hovered about the hallway in the hope that some scrap of information might come to them.

Policeman Guards Door.

Their hovering tactics received a bad setback when Chief Lanford detailed a policeman to guard the door and keep all inquisitive persons away.

For an hour Dorsey and Hooper alternated in shooting questions at the negro, apparently without getting anything from him that he had not already told. Then they removed their coats and renewed the grilling. At one point it seemed Conley must have wavered in some of his statements or changed some of the testimony he previously had given. Dorsey emerged from the room and got a blotter from Chief Beavers’ office. It was taken to mean that a new statement was being obtained from the negro.

The questioning was resumed and the Solicitor from a distant vantage point could be seen turning sheet after sheet of the testimony already given by Conley and comparing it with the statements then being made.

Attorneys Keep Silence.

Dorsey, coatless and perspiring, leaned far over the table and asked the negro question after question, his finger following the answers which had been given when the negro was interrogated before.

Not until after dark did the sweating process cease. Conley was taken back to his cell and Dorsey and Hooper went to their homes. Not a word could be obtained from either.

* * *

The Atlanta Georgian, July 12th 1913, “Conley Kept on Grill 4 Hours,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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