Crowd Set in Its Opinions

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 6th, 1913


The impression persists that courtroom crowds are made up in the main of two classes, as follows:

(1) People who take it for granted that any person being tried on any charge in any court is guilty, and then some.

(2) People who are constitutionally incapable of believing anybody is guilty of anything whatever.

That is one powerful impression gained at the Frank trial. It is an impression sticking out pointedly in the wake of the Thaw trial, and the Nan Patterson trial, and the Beatty trial, and the Hyde trial.

All three of the Hyde trials, in fact.

Never an Opinion Altered.

At the risk of being convicted of exaggeration in the first degree, the writer, who was rather intimately associated with the celebrated poison case, would estimate that 18,397 persons expressed in his hearing what they insisted were unalterable opinions as to the guilt or innocence of the accused physician before the jury in the first trail had been impaneled.

And of the 18,397 (estimated) not one single instance is recalled of one single opinion being altered.

The fact that the physician was convicted on his first trial made not the least difference to those who believed him innocent.

Court Ruling Mattered Not.

The fact that the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further trial made not the least difference to those who voted guilty.

The second and third trials, one of which resulted in an escaped juror, fleeing madly by way of a rain spout from the dread lair of the hypothetical question, and the other in a hung jury, had no perceptibly effect on the factions.

Except to solidify, them in their original beliefs.

One side desired to take steps at once.

The other side named men-children for the object of a persecution unparalleled since the days of Nero.

Arguments Never Will End.

And if Bennett Clark Hyde’s annual trials proceed as per schedule until the year 1950, there will be hoary-headed wrangling over the same old points, by the same ancient and original wranglers, lined up the same way as when the greatest mystery of the West came to the fall of the gavel in the opening trial.

Take the Beatty Case.

There were men and women—you know some of them—who raised frantic hands to heaven, that a poor boy should thus be railroaded to his doom.

They were about set to buy mileage and travel to throw themselves and their petitions at the feet of a cruel and callous Governor.

And then Beatty confessed.

Did that still the trouble lachrymal waters?

Not precisely.

They said the poor boy’s mind had been weakened by his persecution.

And if you are in a hypercritical mood or are otherwise disposed to stick pins in toy balloons, just ask your memory to inform you how many times you have heard these announcements since the trial of Leo M. Frank began:

First: “Well, I’ve been absolutely certain from the very first that Frank did it.”

Second: “Well, I never have believed that Frank was guilty of that crime.”

And now do you feel hypercritical?

And now do you fancy that 18,397 is an inflated estimate?

Of course, there must be a Third Estate—a well-balanced, thoughtful, cautious body. Particularly cautious, and slow of a speech—mayhap in some sporadic instances slow of thought.

They are the judicial ones. They hold the balance open at both ends, to receive and weigh the testimony and the facts.

At least, they say they do.

That would be the jury, perhaps.

And some others—perhaps.