Dr. William Owen Tells How Conley’s Story Was Re-enacted

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 14th, 1913

Dr. William D. Owens, a well-known physician and one of the timekeepers in the re-enaction of Conley’s story in the pencil factory was recalled to the stand at the afternoon session.

He was questioned by Mr. Arnold and cross-examined by Mr. Hooper.

“How much time did it require you to go through this performance?” asked Mr. Arnold.

“Eighteen and a half minutes.”

“How rapidly did you go through it?”
“Just as fast as the directions could be read.”

The cross-examination began.

“Where did you start the performance?”

“From the second floor to the basement.”

“Did you read the directions?”
“No, they were read by Mr. Haas and Mr. Wilson.”

“Oh, then the action was performed as it was read from the directions.”


Might Have Been Quicker.

“If a man who had been performing these actions had been performing the acts of his own volition and not by directions, he would have finished in quicker time, wouldn’t he?”
“It might have been that he could.”

“Was the actor excited?”

“He didn’t have any fear of apprehension?”

“What was in the sack that represented Mary Phagan’s body?”
“Wet sawdust, I think, or charcoal.”

“Where was the supposed body picked up?”
“From the metal room.”

Dragged Sack to Basement.

“Did they drag the sack or carry it in the basement?”

“Dragged it, I think.”

“Who is Mr. Brent, the man who portrayed Conley?”
“He is a man I’ve known for twelve years.”

“What did he do at the first of the experiment?”
“Went to the cotton box and got out a bag.”

“Who played the part of Frank?”
“A man named Fleming, a building contractor.”

“The sack was too heavy for him to get upon his shoulders, wasn’t it?”
“Yes—it was carried in his arms.”

“Did Brent jump like he was scared when he dropped the body as per directions?”

“Who directed the actors as to words and time?”
“Herbert Haas did most of it.”

“Was the man who carried the body nervous and excited, according to directions?”

“When the action of going after the key with which to run the elevator came about, who played Frank?”

“Herbert Haas, when it came to reading and Fleming when it came to going after the key.”

“This particular Frank then who went after the key didn’t unlock the box?”


“Who pulled the elevator rope?”
“Herbert Schiff, I think.”

Follows Instructions.

“Where did you get the idea of rolling the body on the floor from the elevator?”
“From the instructions.”

“Upstairs, did they put a man in the wardrobe as per directions?”
“No, but they allowed fro the time he was supposed to be in—he was too large to get in it.”

“When time was up then, Frank says “You’ve been in a tight place to the man who wasn’t in the wardrobe?”
“Why did you write this letter to the grand jury?”
“There has been much prejudice in this case on both sides. Shortly after Frank’s arrest I met Leonard Haas, our attorney, on the streets, I said to him—

An objection was made to what Haas had said with the result that Judge Roan ruled in behalf of the state.”

“All I want to know,” said Hooper, “is for whom did you write this letter?”
“I wrote it for myself.”

Arnold resumed direct examination.

“Why did you write this letter, doctor?”

“As a matter of conscience.”

His Letter to Jury.

“Isn’t this it, ‘To the Grand Jury. I have found much prejudice in the Frank case and it seems as though injustice is likely to be done an innocent man. I ask that your honorable body weigh conscientiously the evidence and thoroughly. I do not even know Leo Frank and I have no interest whatever, but in this case I am writing purely from a point of justice.

‘Very truly yours


“Who dictated this letter?”

“I did myself.”

* * *

Atlanta Constitution, August 14th 1913, “Dr. William Owen Tells How Conley’s Story Was Reenacted,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)