Defense Claims Conley and Lee Prepared Notes

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

Atlanta Georgian (Hearst’s Sunday American)
July 27th, 1913

Theory Is That Watchman Surprised Sweeper Attempting to Dispose of Body and Entered Into Pact.

An amazing chain of evidence, laying bare the mystery of the two notes found beside the body of Mary Phagan, which have proved the most baffling of all the facts connected with the girl’s murder, came to light as in the possession of the defense Saturday.

According to the theory of the defense, Conley murdered the girl and was unexpectedly discovered with her body in the basement of the pencil factory by Newt Lee; that the night watchman declared the blame for the murder would be placed upon himself instead of Conley, and that the two notes, laying the blame upon the negro fireman Knoyls, and openly accusing the night watchman of the crime, sealed an agreement of secrecy between Lee and Conley.

Motive of Notes.

The first note, written by Conley, to soothe Lee’s fears, is believed to have been the one reading:

“Mama, that negro hired down here did this. I went to get water and he pushed me down this hole a long tall negro black that has it woke long lean tall negro I write this while play with me.”

According to the defense’s theory, this did not satisfy Lee, and hence the second one reading:

“He said he would love me laid down like the night witch did it, but that long tall black negro did it by hisself,” was written.

It is the claim of the defense that in the obvious exoneration of Lee by Conley, as is shown in the second note, despite the admissions of both that they were barely acquainted with each other lies the proof that Lee directed the execution of the note.

The defense will also show, it is said, that when the notes were picked up by officers, Lee called their attention to the peculiar spelling of words “night witch” and explained that they meant night watchman and himself.

Missing Time Punches.

Following the writing of the two notes, Conley is supposed to have been the companion of Lee until the watchman telephoned to the police. Then Conley departed.

The defense, it is declared, believes the notes to have been written between 11:30 and 1:30 o’clock on the night of the murder and will present the fact to uphold this theory that Lee’s time clock failed to show that he was at his post on the upper floor during this time. The time clock slip in the possession of the defense shows that Lee missed punching it at 11:30, 12:30 and 1:30 o’clock that morning.

Despite the claims of the defense as to the missing punches in the time slip, however, Leo M. Frank, on the witness stand at the Coroner’s inquest, declared that the time card showed that the negro made his rounds regularly on the night of the murder, and that no misses appeared, so far as he knew.

Prosecution Knows Theory.

That the prosecution is aware of the defense’s theory of the presence of the notes was indicated by the bringing of the two negroes together last week in Newt Lee’s cell in the county jail, when Solicitor Dorsey put them through a cross-examination. At this time, however, both are declared to have denied emphatically the conspiracy of which they are accused.

As astounding as may be the defense’s conception of the murder notes, it satisfactorily explains their potentiality and conforms readily with the other evidence in the hands of Frank’s counsel to direct guilt at Conley—namely, the torn bit of the dead girl’s pay envelope, found near the elevator shaft on the first floor, the umbrella of the girl discovered at the bottom of the elevator shaft, the murder notes, the broken latch on the basement door and the time slip with the missing punches.

Contention of Defense.

Here is the theory of the defense as it has been learned by the prosecution:

Conley is believed to have waylaid the girl on the first floor, and when she descended the stairway, after receiving her pay envelope from Frank, to have struck her from behind with the stick which was afterward found blood-stained near by. As the girl fell unconscious from the blow the negro is believed to have heard the footsteps of Lemmie Quinn entering the building. Witht [sic] a quick movement he is thought to have snatched the girl’s purse and cast her body and umbrella down the open elevator shaft, then dashed behind some boxes to hide. There he opened the purse, took out the envelope and tore it open, casting the torn-off top behind the radiator, where it was later found by Pinkerton detectives. After Quinn had gone upstairs, the theory is that Conley came from his hiding place, descended the ladder through the trap door to the basement, picked up the girl’s body and carried to back to the sawdust pile. In his haste, he is declared to have forgotten the umbrella which had fallen with the girl, and left it be found later by detectives. After depositing the body, Conley broke open the basement door and escaped, but returned at night fall to get the body and take it away. Then it was that Newt Lee is supposed to have discovered him, to have framed the murder notes and entered the pact of secrecy.