Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.
August 6th, 1913
By L. F. WOODRUFF.
Practically the entire case on which the State of Georgia bases its claim on the life of Leo Frank to pay for that life taken from Mary Phagan is before the jury.
Most of the remaining evidence of importance, which the Solicitor General may introduce merely will be rebuttal to testimony, presented by Frank’s counsel.
Whether the evidence presented is strong enough to convict is a question for the jury to decide. Whether the testimony introduced by the defense will be convincing enough to cause the reasonable doubt which the law says shall make Frank a free man or whether the defense’s attack on the State’s case has been of sufficient strength to create a question in the minds of the jurors, time alone will tell.
But this fact remains unchallenged: Every single thing that Solicitor General Hugh Dorsey declared in advance that he would get before the jury is there now. It may not be enough to convict, but the case which the State said fastened the crime on Leo Frank has been put in evidence.
Dorsey Had Huge Task.
One by one the prosecutor has forged the links in the chain that he maintains fixes the guilt of the Phagan murder on Leo Frank and Leo Frank alone.
It has been long, tedious work. Dorsey has had to fight against considerable odds, but his work has been well done.
When the defense has its innings, the chain may be torn asunder as though struck by lightning, but that will be the work of the skilled attorneys who are fighting to save the life of the pencil factory superintendent.
Here was Dorsey’s work: He had to adduce enough circumstantial evidence to corroborate the testimony of Jim Conley before his case could even be seriously considered. The unsupported word of the negro sweeper would have been about as valuable as a punctured drum. The Solicitor knew this.
First, he had to prove the venue. He had to locate Frank in the National Pencil Company factory at the time Mary Phagan was slain. He did this by the unattacked testimony of many witnesses. He did it so thoroughly that the defense has tacitly admitted that Frank was at the factory about the time [t]he deed was supposed to have been done.
Question of Time Settled.
Then he had to prove the time. According to the State’s theory the murder was committed about 12:10 on Memorial Day. Frank himself has said and his employees and his associates have testified he was there at that time. This point also is practically unchallenged.
At last came the hardest task. He had to prove that Leo Frank was the only human being in the pencil factory at that time who could have taken Mary Phagan’s life.
By every witness introduced on this point it was shown that as far as human knowledge goes Leo Frank and Jim Conley were the only men in that part of the factory at that time. Either could have committed the crime. It was Dorsey’s work to place the blame on Frank alone.
Newt Lee’s testimony was introduced to show that Frank sent him away that afternoon. Dr. Harris’ testimony tended to show that the slaying must have been done immediately after Frank had given the child her week’s wage and had given it to her while they were alone. Mrs. White’s testimony tended to show that Jim Conley was sitting downstairs making no attempt at flight after the time the crime is supposed to have been committed.
Then came Conley’s direct evidence and the chain was practically complete.
As has been said before, this chain may not stand the acid test of the defense’s attack. It may not be strong enough even unattacked to convince the jury that Frank is responsible for Mary Phagan’s death.
But it is what Dorsey went out to get before the jury. He has done it.
And he has done it practically unaided. The valuable assistance he had reason to believe he would receive from the police department has been more or less missing. In fact, the greatest blows to the State’s case have been delivered by detectives, suppos[e]dly expert witnesses who have been unable to withstand the crossfire of Luther Rosser.
The case has meant a lot to Dorsey, and right now, with the thrilling battle approaching its final stages, Dorsey stands out as big and commanding a figure as the brilliant lawyers against whom he is arrayed.
He may lose his case, but if he does he will come out with reputation enhanced.
* * *