Conley Not Right Man, Says Mincey

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

The Atlanta Constitution

Friday, July 11, 1913

Insurance Man Who Made Affidavit Says Conversation Was With Some Other Negro—Saw Conley at Station.

It was disclosed Thursday afternoon that William H. Mincey, the insurance agent who has made an affidavit to the effect that Jim Conley on the date of the Phagan murder drunkenly admitted that he had slain a girl had appeared at police headquarters during Conley’s grilling and had positively failed to identify the negro.

This was told a Constitution reporter by Detective Harry Scott of the Pinkertons and Detective Chief Newport Lanford. The insurance agent, they declared, had come to the police station while Conley was being cross-examined and had asked to see the prisoner.

He wanted to see if he could identify Conley as the negro whom he had seen drunk at the corner of Electric and Carter streets on the afternoon of Saturday, April 26. He was admitted to Conley’s presence. After asking the negro a number of questions pertaining to a conversation he had held with the black encountered at Electric and Carter streets, Mincey, the detectives assert, declared he could not identify the suspect.

He’s not the man I saw, Lanford and Scott say the insurance man declared.

Conley was asked by Mincey on that date if he had not talked with him about the issuance of a life insurance policy. Conley denied having ever seen the man. Mincey, the detectives say, was positive in his declaration that Conley was not the negro with whom he had held the conversation.

Did Not Approach Detectives

Scott said to the reporter last night:

This man Mincey never made mention of Chief Lanford and me of having heard the negro say he had killed a girl that afternoon. He never offered us any such story. He was so absolutely sure of his failure to identify Conley that we paid no more attention to him or his story.

If we had heard any such story against Conley and could have verified it like the report says it is now verified we would have immediately sworn out a warrant charging him iwth [sic] Mary Phagan’s murder. Neither Lanford nor I put credence in the report of Mincey’s affidavit. It looks flimsy from every standpoint.

Mincey is said to have put into the hands of Frank’s counsel a sworn statement declaring that on the afternoon of the Phagan muder [sic] he had encountered Jim Conley at the corner of Electric and Carter streets and had approached the negro on the subject of issuing life insurance.

Conley, his statement is said to state, was drinking and refused the insurance offer. I killed a girl this afternoon, he is reported with having answered, and I’m likely to be in jail tonight. He grew threatening the insurance man states and to avoid trouble Mincey walked away.

Investigating Possible “Plant”

It was announced from the Pinkerton offices last night that an investigation is being baed [sic] ons [sic] the theory that the Mary Phagan pay envelope which Detectives Harry Scott and John Black located on the first floor of the pencil factory was planted evidence.

The envelope was found crumpled behind a radiator near the spot at which Conley is alleged to have sat on the first floor in waiting for his employer’s summons to the second story. The nature of its evidence, it is said, is in direction of gluit [sic] toward the negro.

Fight to Free Lee

Attorney Bernard L. Chappell of Graham & Chappell, representing Newt Lee, the negro night watchman of the National Pencil facotry [sic], stated last night that he had secured subpoena for fifty witnesses to appear at the hearing of the habeas corpus at 10 o’clock Saturday morning and that on that occasion he would ask of the court an instanter order to bring Leo M. Frank and James Conley into court to testify about Lee.

A subpoena duces tecum has also been issued requiring Solictior [sic] General Hugh M. Dorsey to bring into court the grand jury docket and all papers referring to the case of Lee who was bound over be the coroner’s jury at the same time that Frank afterwards indicted for the murder of Mary Phagan was ordered held.

Solicitor Dorsey, his assistant E. A. Stephens, Detective Chief Newport Lanford, Pinkerton Detective Harry Scott and City Detectives John Black and Starnes and Campbell are also named in subpoenas.

In addition to these, Lee’s attorneys have had subpoenas issued for E. F. Holloway, day watchman at the factory, and for L. H. Beck, foreman of the grand jury, and for the foreman of the present grand jury and for a number of others to be present.

The fight will be made to free Lee on the grounds that he has not been indicted by two grand juries and that there is no legal reason for holding him further.

Fingerprints May Fix Guilt

Mary Phagan’s mesh bag pocket book, the one she carried to the pencil factory on the day of her tragic disappearance has been found on the scene of her murder and finger prints that are said to be lodged on its surface are expected to reveal the murderer, it was rumored around police headquarters Thursday afternoon.

Secrecy as impenetrable as that thrown around any phase of the investigation has been woven about this latest discovery. No one connected with the case will talk. Few deny, however, that the bag has been found.

The report prevalent around headquarters is that the bag was found about the same time of the envelope discovery. It has been kept secret, it is said, because of the reported success of Bertillon experts in discerning finger prints on its surface. Bertillon Expert L. M. Fletcher, of the United States government service, it is reported, made the finger print examination.

Chief Lanford would not commit himself and neither would Solicitor Dorsey. Chief Beavers maintained the same attitude of silence that has been characteristic of him during the entire Phagan investigation. Other than the rumor which came from responsible source, reporters could gain no further proof of the reported discovery.

Bertillon experts who examined the pay envelope, it is stated, have been unable to find finger prints thereon. Only one side  of the envelope was discovered. The lower side had been torn away. This condition of the clue has added mystery to its connection with the case.

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The Atlanta Constitution, July 11th 1913, “Conley Not Right Man, Says Mincey,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)