Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.
August 11th, 1913
Battle of Medical Experts Waged in Court
EXPERTS TESTIMONY ON CABBAGE TESTS CALLED WILD GUESS
A bitter arraignment of the professional ethics and fairness of Dr. H. F. Harris, secretary of the State Board of Health, and a through-going attack on his theories and conclusions marked the Frank trial Monday afternoon.
Attorney Reuben Arnold make a scathing criticism of Dr. Harris’ methods during his examination of Dr. Willis Westmoreland, a prominent Atlanta physician and surgeon.
Arnold was asking the medical expert his opinion of the ethics of a chemist or physician who would take the organs and the stomach with its contents from a body, make his examination in absolute secrecy and would leave no material on which the other aide in a legal case might make analysis and examinations.
Solicitor Dorsey objected to the question.
Attorney Arnold said, in justifying his question:
“We wish to show that Dr. Harris has violated all the ethics of his profession, as well as the principles of decency and honesty.”
Dr. Westmoreland said he never had heard of such procedure before.
Here are some of the professional comments of medical experts given on the witness stand in respect to Dr. Harris’ declaration that Mary Phagan came to her death within half or three quarters of an hour after she ate her dinner and that unconsciousness, but not death, was caused by the blow she received on the back of her head:
“His testimony on this matter must be a surmise entirely. His statement in regard to the cabbage is about as wild a guess as I ever heard.”—Dr. Willis F. Westmoreland.
Only a Conjecture, He Says.
“Such things can not be determined with accuracy that is assumed by the testimony referred to. It is only a conjecture at the best.”—Prof. George Bachman.
Following are comments made previously in the trial:
“I would not hazard a guess as to how long the food had been in her stomach before death from the data at hand.”—Dr. J. W. Hurt.
“I never had known of an opinion of this nature being offered with as little conclusive evidence at hand.”—Dr. L. W. Childs.
“No man in the world could examine those specimens of cabbage and tell how long they had been in the stomach. No one could give a rational opinion as to whether the blow on the back of the head caused unconsciousness.”—Dr. T. H. Hancock.
Dr. T. H. Hancock, an Atlanta surgeon, and Dr. Willis F. Westmoreland, first president of the State Board of Health, were the first medical experts called by the defense in the afternoon. Professor George Bachman preceded them in the forenoon. All joined in saying that Dr. Harris had no reliable data for his startling statements before the jury the first week of the trial.
Dr. Hancock brought specimens of cabbage into court to disprove Dr. Harris’ assertions. Dr. Westmoreland testified that Dr. Harris was entirely without warrant for any of his conclusions.
Dr. Bachman had no hesitancy in belittling the testimony of Dr. Harris. He seconded Dr. Childs in saying that it was mere guesswork to say that Mary Phagan was killed within half or three quarters of an hour after she had eaten her simple dinner of cabbage and biscuit. He was shown the specimen of cabbage taken from the stomach of the murdered girl and declared that there was no way of telling by its appearance that it had not been in the stomach seven or eight hours before death came.
Appears to Trip Up Expert.
Solicitor Dorsey set out in the cross-examination to test minutely the witness’ qualifications as an expert. He appeared to trap him in one or two instances. One was when he asked Dr. Bachman the meaning of the word “amidulin,” as used in the description of starch in its various stages of digestion.
“I never heard of such a word,” said the witness.
“You never did?”
“No, and no one else ever did. It isn’t in any dictionary.”
“Nor in any medical work?” inquired the Solicitor.
Webster’s International Dictionary gives the definition of “amidulin” as “a variety of starch made soluble by heating.”
Dr. Bachman was called to the stand after Solicitor Dorsey had finished a searching cross-examination of Herbert G. Schiff, assistant to Frank at the pencil factory.
The medical expert said that the average time required for the digestion of cabbage, according to the standard of his profession was four and a half hours. The princips process of digestion took place in the small intestine in the case of cabbage and other carbohydrates, he testified.
Attorney Reuben Arnold showed him the specimens of cabbage taken from the stomach of Mary Phagan. […]
FRANK SPENDS HALF HOUR STUDYING PENCIL FACTORY MODEL
Wife and Mother Kiss Prisoner as Trial Opens Upon Its Third Week
GRILLING OF ASSISTANT OF ACCUSED IS ENDED; EXPERT TAKES STAND
[…] “These pieces apparently were not masticated at all,” the physician said. “They would have interfered with digestion and the passage of food out of the stomach into the small intestine by obstructing the pylorus. They would undoubtedly have kept all of the solid contents in the stomach for some time.
“Just from my observation of those pieces of cabbage I would say that they could have been in the girl’s stomach for seven or eight hours before passing out.”
Attacks Dr. Harris’ Conclusion.
He attacked Dr. Harris’ conclusions based on the fact that only 22 degrees of acidity were found in the girl’s stomach on the ground that there was no way of telling whether the acidity at the time digestion was stopped was ascending or descending. If it were descending, he said, it would indicate that the acidity had risen to its maximum point and was on its downward course, a composition [?] which obtains only when the food has been in the stomach for a considerable period.
Dr. Harris’ theory that no digestion had taken place in the small intestine he combatted by declaring that the formalin in the embalming fluid would have destroyed the [1 word illegible] of the pancreatic juice and would have left no way of telling whether or not Dr. Harris’ theory was correct.
Attorney Arnold then proposed a hypothetical question to the witness embracing all of the conditions which were found in the stomach of Mary Phagan and then asked him if he or any other doctor could hazard a guess as to how long the food had been in her body before death.
Dr. Bachman replied that it would be impossible.
The most important admission that the Solicitor wrung from the witness was that if one didn’t find maltose in the stomach, but did find starch, it would be probable that digestion had not progressed very far.
On the re-direct, Arnold asked the witness:
“Do you know of anyone else in the world, except Dr. H. F. Harris, who would venture an opinion of the nature he has given on the data in his possession?”
Dr. Bachman said he did not. He added also that the medical profession never accepted a pronouncement of this sort unless it was confirmed by other experts.
New Theory Sprung.
A new and important development in the State’s theory of the murder of Mary Phagan came to light Monday when Solicitor Dorsey sought to establish that Leo Frank very easily could have compiled Saturday forenoon, instead of Saturday afternoon following the crime, the intricate financial sheet which the defense has introduced.
Herbert Schiff, assistant superintendent of the National Pencil Factory, already had identified the financial sheet as the work of Frank, presumably done by the superintendent on Saturday afternoon as this was his usual time for doing it.
Reuben Arnold had displaced the sheet to the jury and had drawn the jurors’ attention to the fact that the writing was regularly clear and with out any sign of trembling of nervousness on the part of the writer. The evident purpose was to show that Frank, after brutally murdering a girl, could not have done all the difficult mathematical work without error and without signs of agitation in his writing.
The Solicitor, however, started right out on a line of questioning that indicated his opinion was that Frank had one the work during the morning hours, instead of after Mary Phagan had been slain.
Time for Making Report.
Dorsey first asked Schiff who was recalled to the stand, if it would not have been possible for Frank to have done the work on the financial sheet between 8:30 and 10:30 o’clock in the forenoon before he went to Montag Bros., and between 11:30 and 12:30 o’clock, after he returned from the Montag plant. Schiff said that there would have been time for the sheet.
Dorsey recalled to the witness’ mind a conversation between Frank and C. E. Ersenbach Friday afternoon in which Frank said he would try to get his work in shape in time to go to the baseball game on the following day.
It was the implication of the Solicitor that Frank had hurried through with his work Saturday morning and as a matter of fact, had it completed or nearly completed before the afternoon.
Finishing with this line of questioning, the Solicitor began an attack on the time element that the defense has introduced in the case.
Dorsey questioned Schiff at length as to the accuracy of the clock on the office floor, with the apparent intention of arguing that when Monteen Stover came into the factory and saw the clock hands pointing to 12:05 o’clock, the correct time really would have been 12:12 or 12:15 after Mary Phagan entered the factory and went to Frank’s office. Schiff maintained that the clock always was kept on time by W. And A. yard whistles.
Mrs. Frank at Office.
On the redirect examination Schiff said that the financial sheet always was made up Saturday afternoon, and never in the morning. He read the correspondence and entering and acknowledgment of orders always was taken care of in the forenoon.
Attorney Arnold also brought out the testimony that Frank’s wife frequently came to the factory Saturday afternoons to help her husband in stenographic work.
Schiff explained keeping Jim Conley in the employ in the factory after discovering his unreliability by saying that it was difficult to teach new negroes the work. He denied that he ever had tried to discharge Conley and that Frank had prevented it.
Frank’s Aunt in Court.
Mrs. Jacob Selig, aunt of Leo Frank, was the third woman visitor of his family to the court Monday morning. She had a seat near the prisoner and his mother and wife.
Before court convened Frank asked permission to examine the paper model of the National Pencil Company that had been offered in evidence by the defense. He spent some 30 minutes closely examining this model.
Frank was in court early. His wife and mother came in and kissed him, taking seats on either side of him.
It was reported around the courtroom that the jury would be taken to visit the National Pencil Company building. Attorney Reuben Arnold for the defense said that he personally would be very glad for the jury to make the examination. Solicitor Dorsey said that he did not know whether he would consent.
Just before Schiff was recalled to the stand Mr. Arnold announced that Miss Hattie Hall, stenographer for Montag Brothers, who was at the factory Saturday, April 26, to take some dictation from Frank, probably would be the next witness. Solicitor Dorsey resumed his cross-examination of Schiff.
Schiff’s “Darts” Puzzles Dorsey.
Q. Mr. Schiff, of course you don’t know to your personal knowledge that this finance sheet was made up on Saturday?—A. It couldn’t have been made up before.
Q. Why?—A. I had not accumulated the “darts” (data) Friday, as I always did.
Q. The what?—A. The data (pronouncing it as though it were “darta.”)
Mr. Arnold interrupted: “He means data.”
Mr. Dorsey said he didn’t know whether Schiff meant data or some sort of sheet he was accustomed to making out.
Q. Couldn’t you take the data gathered by Miss Eula May Flowers and the others and have gotten up this sheet?—A. I think I might have.
Frank Not an Expert, He Says.
Q. You haven’t made up one since Frank left?—A. No; simply because we have not had time.
Q. Don’t you consider him an expert?—A. I do not.
Q. Go ahead and tell me what he would have to know.—A. The slat record.
Q. Is that here?—A. No.
Q. Can you get me a slat record?—A. Yes.
Q. Well you get one and bring it back here. Now, is the slat record more complicated than this forelady’s report?—A. It is a great long sheet.
Dorsey’s Questions Sharply.
Q. Tell me the truth. Is it more complicated?—A. I am telling you the truth, Mr. Dorsey.
Q. Well, doesn’t he just take the total from all the reports?—No, he has to do some figuring and other work.
Q. Well, what else?—A. He has to get the tipping record and several others.
Q Do you mean to tell me, then, that the totals in these reports and the body of the report are not the same handwriting?—A. I do.
Q. Now this financial sheet? Do you mean to tell me it is all in the same handwriting?—A. It certainly is.
Q. You are sure of it?—A. Yes.
Could Have Done It in Two Hours.
Q. Now, entering all these eleven orders and this financial sheet, was that all Frank had to do that Saturday?—A. All I can think of.
Q. Do you know that it was done Saturday?—A. No, but it was not done Friday, and he did not work on it then.
Q. When did you see this work?—A. Sometime Monday or Tuesday.
Q. Now, could Frank have done this work between 8:30 and 10:30 o’clock that morning?—A. Yes, if he was not interrupted.
Q. Well, didn’t you tell us Saturday that Frank could do that work in one and one-half hours?—A. I did not.
Q. Well, all the work you know that was done there Saturday was the financial sheet and entering those orders?—A. So far as I know.
Orders in Frank’s Writing.
Q. Were you paid off April 26?—A. No.
Q. Was Frank?—A. No.
Q. Now, are you quite sure Frank entered those orders?—A. They are in his handwriting.
Q. Now, it took about two minutes to put down these things and a minute to add them over?—A. Yes.
Q. Will you look there and tell me whether there is an entry on April 26 for $2 advanced Arthur White?—A. It is not on this book; it is on the time book.
Q. Who entered it?—A. Mr. Frank.
Q. Have you got the receipt for $2?—A. I can get it.
Q. Who made note of that on the record?—A. Mr. Frank did. I entered it on the time book the following week.
Mr. Arnold interrupted. “You had better make a note of these various things Mr. Dorsey wants,” he said.
No Record of Orders.
“I know exactly what he wants,” replied Schiff. Dorsey continued the examination.
Q. Is there any record on this financial sheet of the orders you said came in on Saturday?—A. No.
Q. You told Mr. Arnold there was?—A. I told him that as a rule there was.
Q. But there is no record here?—A. I was telling Mr. Arnold what Mr. Frank did on Saturday. I don’t see any place on the financial sheet for it.
Q. Now tell this jury what there is to show that these orders did not come in before Saturday, April 26.—A. They were not there Friday night. I had looked through the files.
Q. Was there any reason why the sheet had to be at Montag’s Monday?—A. It was our custom.
Q. Mr. Frank was a man who always stuck to his business? He would never go away unless his business was up?—A. Yes.
Q. Mr. Schiff, didn’t you swear before the Coroner that it would take two hours and thirty minutes to get up the data and make up the sheet?—A. I may have misunderstood the question. I say now that it would have taken from two and one-half to three hours.
Frank Faster Than He Is.
Q. If he had an engagement and wanted to speed up, couldn’t he do it within two and one-half hours?—A. Not and make it look the same.
Q. Is Frank a faster man than you?—A. Yes. He is a faster man on a financial sheet.
Q. Didn’t you swear before the Coroner that Frank could have gotten the sheet up thirty minutes quicker than you?—A. I could not have specified any time. I have never made up the sheet.
Q. Then you deny this statement before the Coroner?—A. No, I didn’t deny it. It is not in my exact language.
Q. How long did you say it would take Frank to balance the $69 in petty cash?—A. That is hard to say. I think I said before the Coroner that it would have taken from one to one and one-half hours.
Q. How do you remember where you were last Thanksgiving?—A. One thing I intended to do was to go to Athens to attend a football game. It snowed. The B’nai B’righ had an affair that night. I helped Mr. Frank carry some packages there.
Q. Do you mean to tell the jury that you recall every Saturday?—A. I recall that I have never missed a day since my vacation.
Tells of Thanksgiving Day.
Q. Do you know what time you left the factory that Thanksgiving Day?—A. Yes; I left with Frank at 12:30. He went home.
Q. Do you know whether he went back that afternoon?—A. Yes; a friend who was with him told me where he was.
Q. Then from your knowledge you do not know whether he went back or not?—A. No.
Q. Now, how do you recall that Helen Ferguson came there Friday?—A. I just remember it.
Q. Well, who else came?—A. The witness enumerated fifteen other employees.
Q. Can you tell me who came the Saturday before?—A. No; I had an idea in looking up and refreshing my memory as to that day.
Q. Now, that sheet had to be made up by Monday. Why was that data not ready Friday night?—A. I don’t know.
Q. How were the pay envelopes numbered?—A. One to two hundred.
Q. Where was the number?—A. That varied. The office boy had no regular place for it.
Questioned About Basement.
Q. Now, this place where the chute is located is pretty dark and few people go there?—A. Yes.
Q. It is one of the most remote spots in the basement?—A. Yes.
Q. This place down there is not used?—A. Yes; we put schlich down there to keep it cool.
Q. How often do you go down there?—A. Every two or three days.
Q. Now, you saw that place where the blood was?—A. In the metal room?
Q. Yes. A.—Yes, I saw it.
Q. Did you notice anything about it?—A. It was under something white that looked like a compound.
Q. Was it smeared?—A. No, it looked like other spots in the factory.
Q. When did you notice the door leading from the chute?—A. I came up there two or three days after the murder, and it was open.
Q. You are sure of it?—A. Yes.
Never Lost a Day.
Q. Now, you told Mr. Arnold that you were at the factory May 31. How do you recall that?—A. For the simple reason that I have never lost a day.
Q. Well, did you mean by that that you were there that Saturday afternoon after 12:30?—A. Yes.
Q. You didn’t consider it losing time, then, if you left Saturday afternoon?—A. I certainly did. I remained there at work.
Q. Then you do say you were there that Saturday afternoon?—A. Yes.
Q. Was that clock always right?—A. Usually it was on time.
Q. Who set it?—A. Holloway, I think.
Q. Who saw that it was right?—A. I don’t know.
Q. How do you set that clock?—A. I set it. Holloway sometimes winds it up.
Q. Is it correct? Does it ever get five minutes fast?—A. Whenever I looked at it it was on time.
Q. What did you set it by?—A. A watch or whistle.
Q. You employ reliable people at the pencil factory? You don’t keep those who lie and are untrustworthy?—A. Some of them are not.
The defense objected to this question and was sustained.
Q. When did you discuss the worthlessness of Jim Conley?—A. A long time ago. About the first time I ever spoke to him.
Q. And you continued to keep him?—A. We moved him from the elevator to the fourth floor.
Q. Whom did you tell he was worthless?—A. It was talked to me.
Q. By whom?—A. Schiff named a long list of employees who had complained about Conley borrowing money and being worthless.
Q. Didn’t you complain to Frank about him, and did Frank overrule you?—A. Mr. Frank is not over me.
Q. Did you have the authority to fire Jim Conley?—A. I did.
Q. If he was so worthless, why didn’t you fire him?—A. It was so hard to get a negro who knew anything about the work.
Q. And you kept him there for two years?—A. He was in the chaingang two or three times.
Saw Conley on Chaingang.
Q. How do you know?—A. I saw him once working on Forsyth street in front of the factory.
Q. You swear that he was on the chaingang two or three times?—A. Women came to me once or twice to get money to pay him out.
Q. Out of what?—A. The chaingang or the calaboose. I am not versed in those things.
Q. Why did you swear he was on the chaingang three times?
Arnold interrupted: “Your honor, I object. He doesn’t cross-examine a witness. He just quarrels with him. The best evidence of Conley’s stockade career is the record.”
Dorsey—I have got the record, and I am going to introduce it. That is why I want to pin this witness down.
Judge Roan ruled the witness must answer the question, but the witness should not be any more explicit.
Knew Conley Could Write.
Q. If any of these books got down into the basement, they went into the trash, didn’t they?—A. Yes.
Q. Now, these other books?—A. They were kept all over the place. We gave them to the negroes.
Q. Just who did you give them to?—A. I gave one to Jim Conley. He wanted to write home.
Q. Then you knew he could write?—A. Yes.
Q. Didn’t you know his home was right here?—A. I did not.
Q. What did these negroes do with these pads when you gave them to them?—A. They got on the elevator and went to the basement to write.
Q. How did they get light?—A. In front of the boiler.
Q. Did you ever see Conley there?—A. Yes.
Q. Now, Frank was very anxious to have the Pinkertons at work?—A. Yes.
Q. When did you report Conley’s strange action to the Pinkertons or the police?—A. I don’t recall.
Q. Did you report it to Mr. Frank? He was anxious to have the murderer caught?—A. I think so.
Arnold Balks at Hurrying.
Q. Now, where would a person have to stand on the fourth floor to see the office floor?—A. He could not.
Q. Where were Denham and White on the fourth floor?—A. I was told—
Q. Then don’t’ bother. Were you at the factory when detectives made certain experiments with the elevator?—A. Yes.
Arnold then took the witness on the redirect examination.
Judge Roan said: “Hurry up, Mr. Arnold.”
Rosser spoke up: “Your honor, time should not be considered. A man’s life is at stake.”
Judge Roan: “Go ahead.”
Q. Was that sheet usually made up in the morning or afternoon?—A. Afternoon.
Q. Now, is it not a fact that Frank is interrupted almost constantly by salesmen or employees who have some adjustment of their pay envelope to request?—A. Yes, quite a few interruptions.
Q. Do you not change your opinion that it would take one and one-half hours to fill out these requisitions and enter the orders?—A. I do not. It would take about that time.
Q. When was this made up?—A. In the morning.
More About Financial Sheet.
Q. Was the financial sheet ever made up in the morning?—A. No.
Q. Do you change your opinion that it would take two and one-half to three hours to make up the financial sheet?—A. I do not.
Q. What length of time would you say he worked there Saturday?—A. My original estimate—six hours.
Q. Is this financial sheet of April 26 any different from the reports of three months previous?—A. It is not.
Q. Mr. Dorsey asked you whether these initials, “H. H.,” of April 26 did not mean the last work that was done on that sheet? That it might have been entered two or three days before? Now, what does it really mean?—A. Nothing, really. Those initials and that date would have been there if it had been entered Saturday, regardless of the date it was acknowledged by Miss Hall.
Dorsey Objects to Slur.
Q. Now, Mr. Schiff (I am going to call him Mister. I am not as familiar with him as Mr. Dorsey seems to be. He calls him “Schiff” all the time), you say the murder caused you to remember paying off Helen Ferguson on Friday?—I said that.
Judge Roan sustained the objection.
Mr. Arnold put the question in a different form, and received the same answer.
Q. Mr. Schiff, this diagram (pointing to the prosecution’s diagram of the factory) does not show the openings into the Clark woodenware department, does it?—A. It does not.
Q. Mr. Schiff, it is rather unpleasant to fire a negro and then have to hire a new one and teach him the work, is it?—A. It is.
Hooper interrupted: “Your honor, if he is not leading this witness, I do not know what you would call it.”
Judge Roan sustained the objection, and Mr. Arnold again changed his question.
Didn’t Know of Detectives’ Hunt.
Q. Mr. Schiff, you didn’t know the detectives were trying to find out if Conley could write?—A. Not for some time.
Q. Mr. Schiff, did Mr. Dorsey subpena you to come to his office, and did you know you didn’t have to go?—A. Yes; I was subpenaed—he telephoned me.
Q. Do you know where the sacks in which you keep the cotton were kept?—A. Just outside the metal room.
Q. Were there any empty sacks there?—A. I don’t know. We never keep empty ones there except for a f[e]w hours after they are empty.
Dorsey took the witness on the re-cross-examination.
Q. Mr. Schiff, you talked to Mr. Arnold about customs up there. Was it Mr. Frank’s custom to make engagements Friday afternoon for Saturday afternoon, and neglect his financial sheet?—A. It was not.
Arnold interrupted: “We don’t want to argue this point. We just want to be recorded as objecting.”
Dorsey was allowed to continue.
Q. Was it Mr. Frank’s custom to keep his engagements?
Arnold objected: “We must oppose this.”
Judge Roan sustained the objection.
Noted Conley’s Attitude.
Q. How long did it take Frank to go from the pencil factory to Montag’s—A. From three to five minutes.
Q. How far is it?—A. About two and one-half blocks.
Q. What time was it Monday you observed this peculiar bearing of Jim Conley?—A. Between 7:30 and 8 o’clock.
Q. What time did you go with Detective Starnes to arrest Gantt?—A. Some time late in the day.
Q. After you had observed all of the suspicious conduct on the part of Conley you have just been telling about?—A. I think it was.
Q. When you looked at this white stuff and the red spots under it, were all of those blinds on the north side open or closed?—A. Open.
Q. If they had been closed it would have been much darker in there, would it not?—A. Yes.
Dorsey and Schiff Argue.
Mr. Schiff differed with Mr. Dorsey about the location of the ladies dressing room on the second floor. After considerable argument, they agreed on the location, and the examination continued.
Q. Is it not true that most of the light that shines on the spot where the blood was comes from the windows on the north side?—A. No, sir.
Q. Would it make any difference whether those blinds were closed?—A. Yes; but about as much light comes from the west as from the north side.
Arnold took the witness again.
Q. Mr. Dorsey has the door to the ladies’ dressing room and the door to the metal room out of position, hasn’t he?—A. No, sir.
Q. Did you ever see Mr. Frank talking to little Mary Phagan?—A. I never did.
Professor Bachman on Stand.
Schiff was excused from the witness stand and Professor G. Bachman was called as the next witness in rebuttal to the expert testimony of Dr. H. F. Harris.
Attorney Arnold examined him.
Q. What is your occupation?—A. Professor of physiology in the Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Q. Have you made any study of digestion?—A. Yes, I teach it.
Q. What time would it take cabbage to digest?—A. Four and one-half hours to get out of the stomach.
Q. What is the time required for biscuit to digest?—A. Not less than three hours.
Q. What time would you say a meal of cabbage and bread would take to digest?—A. It would depend on conditions.
Q. Is it possible to say how long it would take to digest anything?—A. It is not. The failure to masticate would materially retard any digestive process.
Might Stay Long in Stomach.
Q. Suppose a person had not properly masticated cabbage, would the unmasticated portions come in contact with the pyloris and keep the rest of the food in the stomach any length of time?—A. Seven to eight hours.
Q. Suppose a physician made an examination of the contents of the stomach, could he say how long it had been there?—A. He could only hazard a guess.
Q. What part of the digestion goes on in the stomach.—A. Only about half.
Q. Look at this cabbage and tell me whether it has been masticated (handing him the specimen of cabbage eaten by Mary Phagan).—A. Hardly at all.
Q. How long would it take this to pass out?—A. It would depend on the acidity.
Q. In a dead body, if you find 32 degrees of acidity could you tell whether it was ascending or descending?—A. Absolutely not.
Q. After a body dies and is thoroughly embalmed, what effect would it have on the pancreatic juices?—A. It would destroy the ferment.
Q. Does it affect the hydrochloric acid?—A. No.
Q. You investigate and find probably a drop and a half of hydrochloric acid. Did you ever hear of a drop of it?—A. NO, it is a gas.
Calls Time Estimated Impossible.
Q. Investigating this body several days after death, would it have been possible for anyone to say how long that food had been in the stomach?—A. It would have been absolutely impossible.
Dorsey took the witness on cross-examination.
Q. Where were you born?—A. Mulchausen.
Q. French or German?—A. French.
Q. How long have you been in this country?—A. Since 1903.
Q. How long have you been where you are now?—A. Four years.
Q. What do you teach?—A. Physiological chemistry.
Q. Are you an expert chemist?—A. I am so far as the body is concerned.
Q. What is the principal property of wheat bread?—A. Starch.
Q. Where does starch digestion begin?—A. In the mouth.
No Such Word, Says Expert.
Q. What is amidullin?—A. I never heard the word.
Q. What is erythrodextrin (Dorsey spelled the word slowly)?—A. Write it out (Mr. Dorsey wrote both words). There is no such word as the first and the second is a stage in the digestion of starch.
Solicitor Dorsey launched into technical examination, spelling most of the words. Deputy Plennie Minner [sic] had to rap often to hush the laughter in the courtroom.
Q. With an Ewald test breakfast, how long would it take to get a positive starch test?—A. All the time the food is in the stomach.
Q. Didn’t you know that medical authorities agree that it takes from 30 to 40 minutes to get such a test?—A. There is no authority for such a statement as you put it.
Q. Would finding a positive starch test indicate how long the food had been there?—A. It would indicate nothing. Starch is not digested in the stomach.
Q. Then how are doctors able to prepare tables on the process of digestion?—A. They can tell from the proteins combined with the hydrochloric acid. Starch does not. There is nothing certain or clear about these matters.
Calls It Only a Hazard.
Q. How do medical men agree it takes about four hours to digest cabbage?—A. That is a hazard.
Q. Then, tell me what the average condition would be if you found starch but no maltose in the stomach?—A. I would say the food had not been there very long.
Mr. Rosser interrupted, “I want to say that we are not dealing with an Ewald breakfast. We are dealing with cabbage and bread. We want the young Solicitor to come down to fried cabbage and bread—the matters we are dealing with.
Judge Roan ruled that the Solicitor might question the doctor to determine his scientific knowledge.
Q. You never heard of any one making experiments with the various stages of digestion or have you made any yourself?—A. That is true.
Questioned on Cabbage Specimens.
Q. Doctor, take these two samples (handing him Dr. Harris’ vials of cabbage). Assuming that this one has been in a normal stomach one hour, how long would you say this one had been in (the cabbage Mary Phagan ate) had been in a normal?—A. I would say seven or eight hours.
Q. Why?—A. The pieces are so large they would delay the substances in passing from the stomach into the small intestines.
Q. Don’t you know there have been coins to be known to pass from them?—A. After seven or eight hours.
Q. Do you mean to say they stop up the alimentary canal?—A. No, but they don’t go in for several hours.
Q. Now, leave out the time required to pass out of the stomach—what would you say?—A. That would depend on the conditions.
Q. Well, suppose that all conditions were the same?—A. I would say that the digestive processes could not reach those larger pieces at all.
Refuses to Venture Opinion.
Q. Why do you reject the hypothetical proposition that these two specimens were masticated the same way and that this specimen was taken way and aht [sic] this specimen was taken out in a period of from 45 to 60 minutes, and how long would you say this one (Mary Phagan’s) had been there? A. I could not say.
Q. But if everything were equal—we would say?—A. I still could not say.
Q. What is the difference between a meal of bread and water and a meal of bread and cabbage? (The physician gave a technical discussion of the different properties of the foods).
Arnold took up the redirect examination.
Q. Would you take one man’s word about these tests?—A. The medical profession never takes one man’s statement unless it is confirmed.
Q. Do you know any doctor besides Dr. H. F. Harris who would venture an opinion on how long cabbage had been in a stomach?—A. I do not.
Court recessed until 2 o’clock.
Dr. Mancock [sic] Is Called.
Dr. T. H. Hancock, of the Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons, was the first witness of the afternoon session. Before the examination began he made a statement to the effect that he had examined Leo Frank and had found him to be a perfectly normal man, physically and mentally.
Attorney Arnold took up the examination.
Q. Take a body embalmed eight hours after death and one gallon of embalming fluid containing 3 per cent formaldehyde, the body exhumed eight days after death, a cut one and one-half inches long found behind the ear, no fracture of the skull—could any physician say whether that blow caused unconsciousness?—A. No, the bone might have been fractured and still not produce unconsciousness.
Q. How long would it have bled after death?—A. Maybe eight hours.
Q. Could any doctor say whether such a blow produced death or not?—A. No.
Q. If it had been a sharp cut, would it have bled more than otherwise?—A. A live person would bleed more than a corpse.
Q. Where is the best evidence of strangulation?—A. I don’t know from my own knowledge, and the authorities differ.
Mr. Arnold explainer [sic] the condition of Mary Phagan’s stomach as described by Dr. Harris.
Q. Could you give any intelligent idea of how long that cabbage had been in the stomach before death when the analysis was made nine days after burial and after the body had been embalmed with a fluid in which there was formaldehyde?—A. I could not.
Q. Could anyone?—A. I think not.
Q. Why?—A. Because of the variability of processes of digestion and the amount of acidity.
Tells of Tests With Cabbage.
Q. Doctor, where does digestion begin?—A. I am not an authority on digestion. I am just telling you what I know from study.
Q. Well, I would rather have the opinion of a man of practical experience than an expert.—A. Digestion begins in the mouth.
Q. Do you believe that any man by any chemical analysis could give any dependable information on how long this cabbage was in the little girl’s stomach?—A. I do not.
Q. Have you made any experiments of the process of digestion on cabbage?—A. Yes; on one man and four women.
Dr. Hancock produced the cabbage with which he had experimented. The first sample had a chocolate color. The cabbage was well chewed.
Q. What is this chocolate color?—A. The young woman said she drank a chocolate milk about three and one-half hours before I gave her the cabbage.
Q. And how long was the cabbage in her stomach?—A. Sixty minutes.
Q. And here is the chocolate three and one-half hours after being taken?—A. Yes.
Q. Now take this speciment [sic]—what […]
DEFENSE’S FOOD EXPERT IS GRILLED BY SOLICITOR
[…] is it?—A. It is cabbage in formaldehyde. The woman was asked not to chew it at all. It was taken out from 45 to 50 minutes after being eaten.
Q. Does it show any change?—A. None at all.
Q. Take No. 3—what is it?—A. It was taken by a woman of 21. She did not masticate it. It was in the stomach 25 minutes. There was also some tomato which she had eaten for breakfast. It was awfully hard to make her give it up, taking more than two minutes to make her vomit at all.
Q. Now, this last one?—A. That was taken to-day. It was a breakfast of bread and cabbage. It was taken out 2 1-2 hours later.
Q. Is it possible to say from a chemical or any other kind of an examination how long food has been in the stomach?—A. No man on earth could tell.
Never Hear “Omidulin.”
Dr. Hancock, upon being questioned, declared that from what he had heard of the examination made of Mary Phagan, that the evidence did not indicate that an assault had been attempted.
Solicitor Dorsey took the witness.
Q. You are a surgeon rather than a general practitioner, are you not?—A. For the last few years I have devoted myself exclusively to surgery.
Q. You are the surgeon for the Georgia Railway and Electric Company, are you not?—A. Yes.
Q. Doesn’t it require considerable knowledge to testify with any accuracy about the effect of digestive processes on cabbage?—A. I have that.
Q. Are you familiar with the word “omidulin”?—A. I am not.
Q. Is there such a word?—A. I think so.
Mr. Arnold took the witness.
Q. It is a word that is rarely used, isn’t it, Doctor?—A. I never heard it before.
Dr. Hancock was excused and Dr. Willis Westmoreland, former president of the State board of Health, and president of the Atlanta Medical College, was the next expert witness called. Dr. Westmoreland’s testimony was regarded as intensely interesting, owing to the differences arising between he and Dr. Harris, over State Board matters last year. Attorney Arnold examined him.
Q. What is your business?—A. Surgeon.
Q. Where?—A. For a number of years at the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Answers Usual Questions.
Q. Were you ever president of the State Board of Health?—A. Yes.
Mr. Arnold propounded the same hypothetical questions he asked Dr. Hancock about the cut on the back of Mary Phagan’s head. Dr. Westmoreland replied that a physician could only surmise or guess as to whether the blow caused unconsciousness, death or what its effect might have been.
Q. Could the blow have been inflicted b[e]for[e] or after death?—A. You could not tell.
Q. Would a cut of that kind bleed after death?—A. So long as the blood was liquid.
Q. Could anyone tell from which direction the blow was inflicted?—A. Absolutely not.
Arnold here asked the doctor regarding the length of time the cabbage had been in t[h]e stomach and the effect of the various digestive processes upon it. The answer was that to make a positive statement would only be the wildest guess.
Q. I will ask you if it is ethical for a physician to make an examination of parts of the body and then destroy them without bringing them into court, or without giving the other side an opportunity to make the same examination?—A. It is a violation of one of the unwritten laws of the profession.
Judge Allows Question.
Solicitor Dorsey objected to this question. Attorney Arnold addressed the court:
“Your Honor,” he said, “over yonder in his little room this chemist, or alleged chemist, made analysis all alone. After he had finished he destroyed all his material on which he had worked. I want to show that such conduct was unethical, dishonest and almost unbelievable. He would try us and convict us without giving us a chance.”
Dorsey: “He simply wants to impeach the ethical character of Dr. Harris by Dr. Westmoreland, and I object.”
Judge Roan ruled that Mr. Arnold could bring out the rule of ethics of doctors, but that he could not comment specifically on Dr. Harris.
Solicitor Dorsey to[o]k the witness on the cross-examination.
Q. Are you a specialist in surgery?—A. Yes.
Q. You don’t do any stomach analysis work, do you?—A. I have an assistant who does the work in the laboratory. It takes a long time.
Q. Physical inverts often appear physically normal, do they not?—A. Sometimes.
Dorsey Goes Into Detail.
Mr. Dorsey propounded a hypothetical question describing the body of Mary Phagan, and asked what he thought would have caused the death.
“I would say strangulation,” returned the physician.
Q. Would a blow on the eye that caused swelling have been dealt before or after death?—A. That would depend. It might have been struck after death and have produced practically the same effect.
Q. Would the wound on the back of the head bleed after death?—A. If […]
DR. BACHMAN IS TRIPPED BY SOLICITOR, EXAMINING DEFENSE’S MEDICAL MEN
[…] death was caused from strangulation it might have bled more.
Solicitor Dorsey went into a detailed cross-examination as to the possibilities of assault upon the Phagan girl. The questions were all hypothetical and Dr. Westmoreland’s opinion was that in such cases no unnatural violence was done. Further replies along this line were in favor of Frank.
Q. Assuming that it takes cabbage four hours to digest in the normal stomach, could you look at it and tell how long it had been there?—A. No.
Q. Doesn’t the medical world agree that it takes a certain length of time to digest certain food?—A. Yes. That is the result of hundreds of experiments.
Q. Does the medical world agree that it takes four hours to digest cabbage?—A. Four or five.
Q. Who gives five hours, doctor?—A. It is generally accepted to be between four and five.
Q. Haven’t they laid down the different stages of digestion?—A. Not absolutely.
Says He Put Harris on Board.
Q. Hasn’t this man Hemeter laid down all the stages of digestion?—A. No. He will tell you himself that his rules are not infallible.
Q. What is the length of time before you will find free hydrochloric acid?—A. There is no way of telling.
Q. Well, what is the generally accepted theory?—A. About 30 minutes.
Q. In cabbage and wheat bread, would you expect to find it sooner or later?—A. That would depend upon the mastication.
Q. If we found 32 degrees of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, how long would you say it had been there?—A. I could not say.
Q. Have you any personal feeling toward Dr. Harris?—A. I have none, one way or the other.
Q. You were on the State Board of Health with Dr. Harris?—A. Yes, I put him there.
Q. Is he still there?—A. Yes.
Q. Were you president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons when he was given a chair there?—A. Yes.
Q. What did he do?—A. He was the pathologist.
Arnold took the witness.
Q. Will you tell the jury the cause of your difficulty with Harris?—A. I preferred charges of scientific dishonesty against him. He was not removed by the board so I resigned.
Says They Had No Row.
Q. Whatever row or fuss you had has had nothing whatever to do with your testimony?—A. I never had any row with him. I preferred charges against him. The State Board of Health tried him and found him guilty. They did not see fit to remove him, so I resigned as president of the board.
Q. Which, from the standpoint of common sense, would the most reliable, a visual and digital examination for violence, or a microscopic examination?—A. In post mortem examinations it is often the case that abrasions are overlooked.
Dorsey took the witness.
Q. Blood when fresh is easy to wipe off if you have water, isn’t it?—A. Blood is a very penetrating stain.
Q. How many doctors are there on the State Board of Health?—A. Twelve with the secretary.
Dr. Westmoreland was then excused and Dr. John C. Olmstead was called. Attorney Arnold questioned him.
Q. How long have you been practicing and where did you graduate?—A. I have been practicing 28 years and graduated at the University of Virginia and the University of New York.
Q. Where did you practice?—A. In a new York hospital and then in Atlanta.
Attorney Arnold propounded his hypothetical question on the cut on the back of the head and received the answer that Dr. Harris’ opinion was about as wild a guess as could be made.
Q. Could such a wound as I have described to you as appearing on the back of the head have been in inflicted after death?—A. Yes, if it was before the blood congealed.
Can’t Tell Time of Death.
Q. Could such a blow as I have described, black and swollen, have been inflicted on the eye after death?—A. It might.
Q. Look at this cabbage. After a chemical analysis and the finding of 32 degrees of acidity, could you determine with any degree of certainty how long it had been in the stomach before death?—A. No, I don’t think there is any authority, certainly not in English, which assigns to the stomach any quality of accurately determining the time of death.
Q. Suppose cabbage isn’t chewed like that (pointing to one of the samples which had been well masticated), might it not lodge in the stomach?—A. Yes.
Q. How long might it stay in the stomach without being further digested?—A. It might stay ten or twelve hours.
Q. To attempt to state within ten or fifteen minutes when death occurred by the condition of this cabbage—would you consider that a wild guess?—A. Too wild to be characterized.
Mr. Arnold put the usual question to obtain an opinion from the witness as to whether Mary Phagan was assaulted. The answer was that indications were that no unnatural violence was present.
Dr. Olmstead said that Dr. Harris’ surmise that violence had been done the girl immediately before death was the most extraordinary surmise that he had ever heard.
Tells Time of Digestion.
Dorsey took the witness.
Q. The medical world recognizes that you can determine the degree and time it takes for the digestion of wheat bread, doesn’t it?—A. Yes, after accurate experiments with is known as a test breakfast, from two to two and one-half hours.
Q. A table has been compiled showing how long it takes to digest various articles, hasn’t it?—A. Yes.
Q. The table states it takes four hours to digest cabbage, doesn’t it?—A. The table I saw put cabbage at four and one-half hours.
Q. What kind of change would you expect on cabbage an[d] bread within thirty minutes?—A. It would depend on the character and quality of the food.
Solicitor Dorsey held up the two phials containing the cabbage taken from the stomach of Mary Phagan and that cooked by her mother and taken from the stomach of a normal person after one hour.
Q. What sort of comparison would you make as to how long these samples had been in the stomach?—A. The experiment is a little delicate. Stomachs vary too much.
Q. What element would you have to have to properly express it?—A. I would have to know what amount was taken out and what amount was left in the stomach.
Dorsey: “Just a moment—let me interpolate this. How does it make any difference what amount was taken out? Just tell me from the circumstances I have enumerated if you would not say this specimen, the one I say had been in the stomach only 60 minutes, would have been in the stomach a shorter length of time?—A. Yes. The one with the larger pieces under those circumstances would have been in there a shorter length of time.
Q. You say you are a doctor of medicine and a general practitioner. Are you an expert?—A. I will say this, I am not an analytical chemist, but I am familiar with it and in general practice get the benefit of wide experience.
Arnold took the witness.
Q. After death, could any physician, even an expert, tell how long things had been in the stomach?—A. It would be the very wildest guess.
Dr. Olmstead was then excused, and Joel Hunter, an expert accountant, was called. Arnold questioned him.
Q. What is your business?—A. Public accountant.
Q. How long?—Fifteen years.
Q. What position do you hold?—A. I am chairman of the State Board of Examiners.
Q. Did you examine those reports, the financial sheets?—A. Yes.
Q. Did you see Mr. Schiff?—A. Yes, he gave me the date.
Long Time to Make Report.
Q. What did you do?—A. In order to find what length of time it would take to make out one of those sheets I made all the calculations.
Q. Did you find any mistake?—A. Yes.
Q. What was it?—A. A trifling error in a decimal point.
Q. Did you find any other errors?—A. No.
Q. I will get you to tell how long it took to make out this report?—A. I first made the examination with the data, and then without the data. I figured 150 minutes as the quickest possible time. To do any checking at all, it would take from three to three and a half hours.
The expert witness, then went into an extensive explanation of the different items on the financial sheet. Attorney Hooper took him on cross-examination.
Q. If you were making up the report as an original proposition, would the same data have been furnished to you?—A. I could not say.
Q. Well, how much of this work with which you were unfamiliar and had to trace down, he had at his fingers’ tips, did he not?—A. I have only figured a reasonable minimum time. I can not say what Mr. Frank had is such that it is notetaoinshrd at his fingers’ tips. The statement is such that it is not subject to suh-proving. You can’t prove it as you go along. If that could be done, it could be made out quicker.
Q. You have estimated, in other words, how long it would take him?—A. No, I made it out to show how quick I thought it could possibly be made out.
Q. If a man made it out in an afternoon, he would not have time to see a baseball game, would he?—A. I would hardly think so.
Court then adjourned until 9 o’clock Tuesday morning.
* * *
Atlanta Georgian, August 11th 1913, “Defense Bitterly Attacks Harris,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)