Detective Harry Scott’s Testimony as Given Before Coroner’s Jury

by Archivist on May 9, 2016

Detective Harry Scott's Testimony as Given Before

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

Atlanta Journal

Friday, May 9th, 1913

An unexpected turn was given to the coroner’s inquest into the mysterious murder of Mary Phagan, Thursday afternoon, when Harry Scott, the Pinkerton detective who has been representing that agency in its work on the case, was called to the stand by the coroner. Mr. Scott was in the room at the moment.

One new detail that he revealed was in a reply to a direct question from the coroner, when he stated that Herbert Haas, attorney for Leo M. Frank and attorney for the National Pencil factory, requested him and superintendent of the Pinkerton agency in Atlanta to withheld [sic] from the police all evidence they gathered until he, Mr. Haas, would consider it.

Their reply, said Mr. Scott, was that they would withdraw from the case before they would do that.

He proceeded to say that he and his firm still are retained by the pencil company.

Mr. Scott was called to the stand when Assistant Superintendent Schiff, of the pencil factory, left it.

He is assistant superintendent of the Atlanta agency of the Pinkerton detective service, he said. He lives at 52 Cherry street. The agency was retained in the case by the National Pencil company “to locate the party responsible for the murder of Mary Phagan.” The engagement was made Monday afternoon, April 28,  when, about 4 o’clock he received a phone call from Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the factory, and in response to it he (Scott) went to the factory to see Mr. Frank. There, said he, he found a group of men whom he afterward identified as Frank, Mr. Darley and others, standing around the time clock, talking. He introduced himself and said he wanted to see privately whoever was particularly interested in the case. He and Mr. Frank and one or two others went into a private office, and Mr. Frank called Sig Montag, treasurer of the company, over the telephone to get authority to employ the detectives.

Asked how Mr. Frank broached the subject to him, Mr. Scott said the factory superintendent remarked: “I guess you’ve read of the horrible murder committed? We feel that the company ought to make some investigation to show the public we are interested in clearing up the crime. We want the Pinkertons to locate the murderer.”

Mr. Frank then told him all he (Mr. Frank) seemed to know about the matter, said the detective. Mr. Frank said that he had been down at police barracks a short while before, and that Detective Black seemed to suspect him of the crime.

QUOTED FRANK IN DETAIL.

Mr. Frank detailed his movements on that particular Saturday, said the detectives. The witness quoted as he remembered the relation, giving the same story that since has been elaborated by Mr. Frank himself and others on the stand. Mr. Scott said that the superintendent said he left the factory about 6:15 on the afternoon of Saturday, April 26. As he went out of the front door, he said, he saw Lee sitting on a packing box outside talking with Gantt, formerly a bookkeeper in the factory. Then he went on to relate the matter as it is already generally accepted, about leaving Gantt there and telephoning to the night watchman later after failing to get him once over the telephone.

After getting the watchman over the telephone and learning that everything was all right, Mr. Scott said, Mr. Frank told him he (Mr. Frank) “prepared to go to bed about 9 o’clock.”

He asked Mr. Frank very few questions, said the detective. He took notes of what was told to him. He went over the building with Mr. Frank then, looking at the elevator, the time clock, the machine room, where Frank pointed out to him a machine on which human hair was said to have been found that morning, and pointed out also what were believed to be blood stains on the floor. Mr. Darley accompanied them. He went into the basement with his escort, said the detective, and saw the trash pile where the hat and shoe had been found, also the spot where the body had been found, and the staple that had been pulled with the lock from the back door.

OFFERS NO THEORY.

Mr. Frank advanced no theory about the crime, said the detective, and offered no suggestions. He talked to him the night afterward at police headquarters, in the presence of Detective Black, but he didn’t ask the pencil superintendent for a statement because he understood the police had one already. He denied that Mr. Frank had reprimanded him for too much zeal or had remonstrated with him for trailing him (Mr. Frank).

REFUSED ATTORNEY’S REQUEST.

The detective answered a direct question, however, by saying that Herbert Haas, representing himself to be an attorney for Mr. Frank, did call at the Pinkerton office and there, to Superintendent Pierce and Mr. Scott, made the request that the detectives withhold from the police all information which they gathered until he, Mr. Haas, had considered it. They told him they would withdraw from the case first, said Mr. Scott.

“Who gets copies of your reports?” he was asked by the coroner.

“I think Mr. Sig Montag gets copies of all reports we make,” said the witness. He added, replying to questions, that his agency still is employed by the pencil company—“to fix the responsibility for this murder.”

“Do you know anything about the conversation Mr. Frank and the negro Newt Lee had along together at headquarters?”

The detective replied that City Detective Black and he suggested to Mr. Frank that he employ this method for drawing from the negro all the information he could, and Frank agreed and went into the room with Lee. He did not know what passed between them, said the detective, except what he learned from the negro’s relation of what was said.

DIDN’T TRY TO GET TRUTH.

Mr. Scott said that Newt Lee told him Mr. Frank did not try to get the truth out of him (Lee) during their talk at the police station.

That Lee said he accused Mr. Frank of knowing something and that Mr. Frank only hung his head and later told him if he (Lee) didn’t stick to his story they would both go to hell.

That Lee said he told Mr. Frank the crime must have been committed in the day time, and Mr. Frank again only hung his head.

Mr. Scott said that Lee then said he had started to describe to Mr. Frank how he had found the body and that Mr. Frank said, “Let’s don’t talk about that any more” before he had finished.

Mr. Scott said that Mr. Frank had told him after the conversation with Lee that he couldn’t get anything out of the negro. The witness said that Mr. Frank reported that he had asked Lee why there was a break in the time slip and that Lee said he had punched it.

Mr. Scott said that he did not find the bloody shirt at Newt Lee’s home—that it was found by Detective Black and Detective Bullard. The witness said that he looked at the shirt and that it seemed to him it had not been worn and that the blood was fresh. He said that Lee, when shown the shirt, said, “That’s my shirt,” and later qualified his statement by saying that it might be his shirt; that he hadn’t worn it in two years.

“Have you any definite information which makes you suspect any party of this crime?” the coroner asked Detective Scott.

WOULDN’T COMMIT HIMSELF.

“I wouldn’t commit myself,” replied the detective, who continued that his investigation was not complete and that he was working on a chain of circumstances.

“Is this chain of circumstances known to yourself alone?” he was asked.

“No,” replied Mr. Scott, “Detective Black has been with me all the time on the case.”

Mr. Scott was then excused.

* * *

Atlanta Journal, May 9th 1913, “Detective Harry Scott’s Testimony as Given Before Coroner’s Jury,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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