Dr. Hancock Called by Defense, Assails Dr. Harris’ Testimony

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 12th, 1913


Dr. T. H. Hancock, a well known Atlanta physician, was the first of three medical experts to be presented in the afternoon in behalf of the defense. Dr. Hancock is official physician of the Georgia Railway and Electric company, and is a man of twenty-two years’ experience.

An astonishing feature of his testimony was the statement he made in answer to a question from Attorney Arnold to the effect that he had treated 14,000 surgery cases, a record hitherto unparelleled [sic] in Georgia history.

He was examined directly by Mr. Arnold.

“What is your occupation, Dr. Hancock?”
“I have been a physician and surgeon for the past twenty-two years?”
“How many cases of surgery have you treated?”
“About 14,000.”

“Have you made a physical examination of Leo M. Frank?”

“Is he normal?”
“He is perfectly normal.”

“You have read the stenographic report of the testimony delivered by Dr. Harris, haven’t you?”

“If a subject dies, and, eight or ten hours after death, one gallon of blood is taken from the body and is replaced by one gallon of embalming fluid, 8 per cent of which is formaldehyde, and eight or ten days after death the body is exhumed and examination made on the head reveals a wound and hemorrhage near the brain, could the physician who made the examination ascertain whether or not death was caused by the wound?”

“No, not entirely.”

Could Only Guess at Opinion.

“Are there any means to tell whether or not such a blow produced unconsciousness before death?”

“Wouldn’t such an opinion be conjecture?”
“Yes, purely guess work.”

“If a wound was made during life, wouldn’t there have been considerable flow of blood?”
“There might have been, and might not.”

“In case it had been made by a sharp instrument?”
“There probably would have been much blood, but not by a blunt instrument.”

“Suppose the lungs of such a subject had been examined visually and no congestion was found, is it possible to tell whether or not death was caused by strangulation?”
“I have never had any experience in such cases. Authorities, however, on such a subject, are widely divided.”

“If the stomach were removed and an examination made of contents and bread and cabbage, partly digested, were found, would it be possible to determine the period the food had been in the organ—could an intelligent opinion be reached?”
“No—nobody could.”

“Where does the indigestion begin, doctor?”
“In the mouth.”

“Where does the indigestion of cabbage begin?”
“I’m not what you might call an expert on digestion.”

Three or Four Hours Required.

“What time does cabbage require to digest?”
“I would say from three to four hours.”

“Is it possible for foods not mutilated to obstruct the passage into the stomach?”

“Aren’t there many things which retard digestion?”
“Yes, excitement, anger, violent exercise, retard digestion, as well as other things.”

“What effect has formaldehyde on the pancreatic juices?”

“It stops all process of fermentation.”

“Then, after formaldehyde had been injected, would you expect to find the pancreatic juices?”

“Or pepsin?”

“No, nor saliva.”

“Do you think that by any chemical analysis you could give any dependable opinion of how long this particular cabbage had been in the subject’s stomach?”


“Have you made on men or women any tests on cabbage?”

Exhibits Results of Experiments.

“Yes, I experimented yesterday with four women and one man.”

Here the witness produced a number of vials containing emulsified cabbage which had been drawn from the men and women with whom he had experimented. The vials were numbered respectively.

“No. 1,” he said, “I gave to a young woman, white, aged 22 years, at five minutes after 12 o’clock. The cabbage was mixed with white bread. I produced emesis in sixty-nine minutes. The cabbage and bread had been masticated for nine minutes.

“No. 2 I gave to a woman middle-aged. It was bolted down in large pieces. It remained in her stomach forty-two minutes.

“No. 3 was given to a woman 32 years old. It was not so well chewed as that in specimen No. 1. It remained for thirty-five minutes, after which time I produced emesis. A portion of tomato, which she had eaten at breakfast as 8:30, was vomited with the cabbage. Emesis took place at 12:30 o’clock.

“No. 4 was given to a man aged 20, remaining in his stomach forty-five minutes, after which it was disgorged by emesis.”

“No. 5 was given to a woman aged 25, who ate it at 5 o’clock this morning. It was chewed well and vomited in two hours and twenty-eight minutes.”

“Take the case of a 14-year-old girl, doctor,” Mr. Arnold questioned, “when a chemist finds the epithelium detached from the walls, and finds also that blood vessels in the female organs are congested, and, upon making this find, learns that a digital examination had been made, what could have caused the epithelium to become detached?”

Digital Examination the Cause.

“The digital examination could have caused the rupture of the blood vessels while the epithelium could only be expected to shed off after death.”

“Would that necessarily indicate any signs of violence?”

“Aren’t conditions like that caused often by things other than violence?”

“Suppose the man who found these conditions believed that there was violence, could he tell how long before death it had been inflicted?”

“Would death by strangulation cause dilated blood vessels in the female organism?”

“It depends. It might in one case and might not in another.”

Solicitor Begins Cross-Examination.

Here the solicitor began the cross-examination.

“You are surgeon for the Georgia Railway and Power company, aren’t you, doctor?”

“Are you familiar with the standing of The American Medical Journal?”
“I know that it represents most eclectic and pathological schools and colleges of medicine.”
“Are you acquainted with G. H. Brill, of Columbia, where you graduated?”

“You don’t mean to say, do you, that homo-sexuality is confined to defected patients?”

“In my experience, I have not touched much on that line.”

“Didn’t you say you had examined Frank?”
“Yes, but I judged merely from his outward appearance.”
“You know but little, then, of homo-sexuality?”
“I do not undertake to tell the jury any expert testimony on the examination I made of Frank.”

“Are you an expert on stomach analysis?”
“No, I can’t say that I am.”

“In order to give a good statement of stomach conditions, you must be an expert, eh?”
“I am a practicing physician, and they generally know as much of the stomach as any others.”

* * *

Atlanta Constitution, August 12th 1913, “Dr. Hancock Called by Defense, Assails Dr. Harris’ Testimony,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)