Crowds at Phagan Inquest

Crowds at Phagan Inquest

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

Grand Jury Instructed to Probe Deeply

Atlanta Georgian

Monday, May 5th, 1913

Evidence Secured by Detectives May Not Be Presented at Coroner’s Inquest—Lee and Frank to Testify. Many Other Witnesses Are Ready.

The Phagan inquest began at 2 o’clock Monday afternoon at police headquarters.

There was a great throng of witnesses in attendance.

A large force of police was on hand to keep the crowd of curiosity seekers in order.

Frank and Lee were taken from the Tower to police headquarters in charge of Deputy Sheriff Minor. A small crowd congregated about the jail in anticipation of the transfer and another crowd even larger was in front of headquarters when the two prisoners were brought in.

There was no demonstration, and the brief trip was made without event.

It is said, but without authority, that a great deal of very important evidence has been accumulated, but that it will not be presented at the Coroner’s inquest. Instead, it will go directly into the hands of Solicitor Dorsey, who, as the chief prosecuting officer of Fulton County, is really in charge of the case now, although it has never been the duty of a prosecuting officer to interfere with the functions of the Coroner.

May Hold Both Lee and Frank.

It seems probable that both Frank and Lee will be held for the Grand Jury. The testimony brought out at the Coroner’s inquest will be turned over to Solicitor Dorsey, who will study it carefully and make such further investigations as he may deem necessary, using the detective force of the city for that purpose.

Judge Ellis of the Superior Court on Monday instructed the May Grand Jury to investigate the mystery in a thorough manner. It is not likely, however, that the Grand Jury will take up the case for several days. The matter of presenting evidence on which indictments may be found is in the hands of Solicitor Dorsey. He has charge of the Grand Jury, and it is he who presents the evidence and who frames the indictments, and it may take him several days to strengthen certain links in the chain of evidence, so that when indictments are brought they will be found to be legally correct and will leave no opportunity for the lawyers engaged by the accused to make objections in court.

It is the intention of Solicitor Dorsey to keep secret  all evidence in his possession until the matter has been passed upon by the Grand Jury, indictments found and the case brought to trial.

Frank Maintains His Innocence.

Everything depends upon what transpires at the Coroner’s inquest. Frank’s testimony may make necessary an entirely new deal of the cards. He still maintains his innocence, and Lawyer Rosser, his counsel, declares that there is no evidence by which to connect him with the case.

Coroner Donehoo will hold a conference with Chief of Detectives Lanford and Solicitor Dorsey before the inquest to decide upon the witnesses who will be asked to testify.

In addition to Lee and Frank, the detectives will have on hand persons they have been interrogating since the inquest adjourned last Thursday. Several of these are said to have made disclosures of great importance.

Dorsey’s Action Misconstrued.

There seems to be a misapprehension in the public mind about the attitude of Solicitor Dorsey. Rumors on the streets and gossip in newspapers that he “has taken the Phagan case out of the hands of the police and out of the control of the Coroner” is not true, for the very simple reason that Mr. Dorsey is the chief prosecuting officer of Fulton County, superior to the police, the detectives and the Coroner. He may act with them or independently of them. As Solicitor he is the most important official in the county government, more powerful than the Mayor or the Police Commission.

The Phagan case is in the hands of Mr. Dorsey now, as it has been from the beginning.

The function of the Coroner’s office is simply to gather testimony and evidence that is turned over to the Solicitor for him to act upon.

Statement by Solicitor.

Solicitor Dorsey made this statement:

“Mr. Scott, of the Pinkertons, has given to this office valuable information. The policy of the Pinkertons is to establish the truth. They recognize that this office will receive from them to that end any information they have, but under no circumstances do they expect to get any information we have gathered from other sources.”

The Grand Jury did not take up the Phagan case Monday. After passing on a number of routine matters it adjourned until Friday, but in the meantime will hold itself in readiness to a call from the Solicitor should he deem it necessary.

Mr. Dorsey said he was agreeably satisfied with the progress he had made in the case, and he was developing every clew that was of importance. He has given over his entire time to directing the investigation, he said, and would see anyone to-day except on matters relating to it.

Deputies from his office and private detectives in the county’s employ have made search after search of the building. Many articles that were left there by the police have been brought to his office, and will be kept there until examined. Monday a dirty, grease-soaked broom and the lantern that was in the cellar, were brought to his office. He will have them examined for blood stains and finger prints.

He said that to the best of his knowledge the coroner’s inquest would be resumed Monday afternoon.

Coroner Donehoo said that practically all of the employees of the pencil factory would be at the inquest this afternoon ready to testify if called upon.

With the employees of the paper factory where Mary Phagan worked before she went to the pencil factory the witnesses will total nearly 100.

The detectives say that all of these persons, a large number of whom were on the streets the Saturday afternoon of the tragedy, already have been questioned and that none of them saw Mary Phagan after she is known to have gone to the pencil factory for her money Saturday noon.

Chief Lanford was authority for the statement to-day that probably some of the most important evidence would be disclosed at the inquest, but would reserved and presented before the Grand Jury.

“We are not showing our full hand yet,” said one of the detectives. “We will submit sufficient evidence before the coroner’s jury to warrant holding the two men now in custody, but we do not deem it advisable to tell everything until we present it to the grand jury. Three or four of our most im-


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portant witnesses will be saved until after the case goes to the Grand Jury.”

Rumor of New Important Witness.

A rumor is in circulation that among the witnesses for whom the detectives have been searching is a young woman who is said to have been with Mary Phagan when Mary went to get her pay envelope Saturday noon at the pencil factory. The identity of the mysterious girl has not been disclosed. The report is that she was overheard to remark that she waited outside the factory while Mary was in getting her envelope and that after she had waited about half an hour a man came out and told her she needn’t wait any longer, as Mary would be detained by some work she had to do.

The detectives immediately started a search for the young woman in the hope that she would be able to give a good description of the man who told her she need wait no longer. Miss Beulah Daniel, daughter of G. T. Daniel, of Mableton, Ga., was in a Marietta store when she overheard the conversation, but little importance was attached to it until she repeated it to her father. He then notified the authorities and the search was taken up.

Bloodstain Tests Kept Secret.

Dr. Claude A. Smith, City Bacteriologist, to whom the shirt found in a barrel at Lee’s home was given for an analysis of the bloodstains, would not make public the result of his investigation this forenoon. Chief Lanford said that he would receive this report later.

Chief Lanford’s secretary, G. C. February, was occupied this forenoon in compiling all of the statements made thus far to the detectives and in making a review of all the clews that had been received and followed to their original source. The compilation will be added to as new developments occur.

Efforts to Trap Lee Fail.

Hoping to catch Newt Lee in some admission that will signify that he has more knowledge of the killing of Mary Phagan than he has been willing to tell, Deputy John Owen, who has been stationed at the jail nights, has kept a very close watch on the prisoner and has questioned him repeatedly.

After talking with Lee for some time last night, Owen posted a man behind the watchman’s cell to learn what he would say to his cellmate, Dewberry, who is waiting to hang for murder.

“They seem to think you know more about the murder than you have told them,” Dewberry was heard to say to Lee.

“I’ve told them everything I know,” was the reply.

“They seem to think you’re trying to protect some man,” Dewberry continued.

“I declare, if I knew who did it, I would tell quick enough and get myself out of this,” Lee said.

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Atlanta Georgian, May 5th 1913, “Crowds at Phagan Inquest,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)