Defense Digs Deep to Show Conley is Phagan Girl Slayer

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

Atlanta Georgian

Saturday, June 7th, 1913

Getting New Evidence to Show Negro Was Located in Factory—Theory Explains Mystery of Staple Pulled From Back Door of Basement.

The defense of Leo Frank against the charge of murdering Mary Phagan will be more than a mere attempt to clear Frank’s skirts of the crime. It will seek directly to fix upon James Conley, negro, full and complete responsibility for the crime.

Despite the secretiveness and the silence of Frank’s attorneys, it has been ascertained with a reasonable degree of authority that the foregoing is the program of the defense, and that the defense believes itself abundantly prepared to take care of itself along that line.

An ironclad alibi, covering all the time cited in the Conley statement with a substantial margin of time to spare, will be set up by Frank.

In addition to this, it will be shown that Conley was in the factory at the time he himself says Frank committed the murder, and for a long time before.

The defense will try to show that Conley had ample opportunity to accomplish the murder, and that every circumstance of it shows that he did do so.

Say Conley Broke Staple.

It will be contended that the murder was eeffcted [sic] on the first floor, and that after it was performed the girl’s body was thrown down the open elevator shaft, where soon after it was followed by Conley, who then hid it in the rear.

Conley [w]ill be held to be the party who drew the staple from the back door and thereby made his escape from the building, either by way of Madison Avenue or Forsyth Street.

The misisng [sic] purse that Mary Phagan is known to have had in her hand when she left home, and in which she is supposed to have put her money just received from Frank, has never been found, although Conley has been careful enough to account for her hat and her shoe.

Undoubtedly, the defense has been very busy, while the State’s officers have been talking.

Reticent and silent as the grave as to the theory of the crime to be advanced in defense of Frank, it now is known that it will be sweeping, sensational and complete.

State Faces Strong Defense.

Whether it will come as a tremendous surprise to the prosecution, or whether something of the magnitude and scope of it has leaked through to the Solicitor and the police within the past 24 hours, is problematical.

The sudden clamping down of the lid at detective headquarters and the announcement that no more talking would be done there, either for the State or anybody else, is viewed by many as a circumstance tending to show that the State at least has come to a full realization of the fact that Frank’s defense will be thorough and complete in detail.

Whereas up to yesterday any sort of an interview might be had for the asking of the detective, to-day nothing whatever may be had.

As silent as the defense has been, it has nothing by way of silence on the State to-day.

Frank’s Character.

Frank’s previous good character, his fine business reputation, his happy family relations, his ordinary habits of life and his everyday methods of conducting himself will be thrown fearlessly into the scales.

It has been determined for him to leaving nothing unsaid and to leave nothing undone that may tend to clear fully and completely and to free him for all time from responsibility for this crime or any knowledge of it.

Besides the technical correctness of Frank’s defense, his lawyers will undertake to show how impossible it would have been for him to have done what the negro accuses him of, under the negro’s own statement.

Conley’s affidavits will be reduced to absurdities so the defense now believes. He not only will be thrown out of court upon a strict legal showing, but he will be grimly laughed out.

To Attack Conley.

His general character will be put in evidence, his drinking habits established, and his opportunity to have killed Mary Phagan completely demonstrated.

Attorney Rosser is known, despite his silence, to have determined not only upon Frank’s complete acquittal, but upon Conley’s future conviction.

The foregoing in brief outline, is the defense of Leo Frank now being framed up in surprising detail.

If the defense can establish what it now unquestionably hopes to and believes ti may, Frank’s acquittal seems a foregone conclusion.

Of course, the State still is standing pat on its theory that Frank committed the crime, but undoubtedly is more or less disturbed by the surprising nature of the defense that has leaked out, even to the extent indicated, and is preparing to meet that defense accordingly.

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Atlanta Georgian, June 7th 1913, “Defense Digs Deep to Show Conley is Phagan Girl Slayer,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)