Dramatic Moment of Trial Comes as Negro Takes Stand

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 4th, 1913

L. O. Grice, a stenographer in the offices of the Atlanta and West Point Railroad, was the first witness called. He said that he saw Frank on Sunday morning after the murder and Frank attracted his attention by his undue nervousness.

Grice said he was on the way to the Terminal Station when he bought an “extra” stating that a murder had been committed at the National Pencil Factory. He said he stopped by the pencil factory and saw eight men on the inside of the building.

“Did any of these men attract your particular attention?” asked Solicitor Dorsey.—A. Two or three of them did.

Q. Who were they?—A. When I went in the building Detective Black, whom I knew, was asking a great many questions.

Q. Did anybody attract your attention by their nervousness?—A. Not right then, but later we went down through the basement and out the back door. Then I was attracted by the nervous actions of a small dark man. I did not know him.

Q. Is this the man? (Pointing to Frank.)—A. Yes.

Shows How Frank Acted.

Q. What did Frank say? A. He said something about looking for his pin. Detective Black told him they had already looked for it.

Q. Just tell the jury how Frank acted.—A. He did like this. (The witness stood up and walked about the stand with his head bent, intently gazing at the floor. His hands, with the fingers extended, were shaking.)

Rosser took the witness on cross-examination.

Q. When were you served to appear as a witness?—A. Last Saturday.

Q. How did you come to be called?—A. I told my friends and they probably told Mr. Dorsey.

Q. When you saw that that little girl was murdered, did it not affect you?—A. Yes, some.

Q. You were excited, were you not, just like an ordinary human being?—A. Yes.

Q. Did you show your excitement? —A. I might have.

Q. You don’t recall whether anyone else was nervous, do you?—A. No.

Dobbs Is Recalled.

The witness left the stand and Sergeant L. S. Dobbs was recalled.

Q. Mr. Dobbs, did you find a handkerchief in that basement?—A. About ten feet toward the rear from the body.

Q. Is this it?—Yes.

Rosser cross-examined the witness.

Q. The handkerchief was about ten feet beyond her feet on the left hand side of the building?—A. Yes.

Solicitor Dorsey took the witness again.

He had Sergeant Dobbs identify a flashlight photograph of the spot where the body was found.

Rosser questioned the witness again.

Q. Do you recognize in this picture the handsome countenance of our friend John Black?—A. Yes.

Dobbs was excused.

Handkerchief as Evidence.

Solicitor Dorsey gained consent to tender the handkerchief as evidence.

Mell Stanford, an employe of the pencil factory, was recalled to the stand.

Q. What was the condition of the door in the rear of the second floor of the pencil factory leading to the stairs that led to the third floor on the Friday afternoon before the murder?—A. It was barred.

Q. Is there any other way to get out that way except those steps.—A. None except the fire escapes.

Q. Was the floor cleaned subsequent to the murder?—A. Yes, some time in the early part of the week.

Mr. Rosser took the witness.

Q. Did you clean it?—AA. No, I saw a negro doing it.

Q. Who was he?—A. I don’t know.

Undertaker Gives Formula.

The witness was excused and William Gheeslin[g], the undertaker, was recalled.

Q. Are there curtains on the outside of the room in which Mary Phagan’s body was placed?—A. Yes.

Q. I don’t want you to disclose the formula of your fluids, but I want to know if there is formaldehyde in it?—A. Yes. I will state that there is 8 per cent of formaldehyde.

“I object,” said Mr. Rosser, “for him to bring out one ingredient without the others.”

“Well,” said Mr. Dorsey, “I don’t want him to disclose his formula when it is a secret with him, and I hope that Mr. Rosser will not try to force him to do so.

“Mr. Rosser tried to bring out from Dr. Hurt that the lungs were not congested. I want to show that formaldehyde cleaned them out.”

Didn’t Point Out Scar.

Finally it was agreed that Mr. Gheeslin[g] should show his formula to the attorneys and the jury.

Rosser took the witness on cross-examination.

Q. Mr. Gheeslin[g], when Detective Black, Boots Rogers and Mr. Frank were in your undertaking establishment, didn’t you point out the scar on the little girl’s head?—A. No.

Q. Instead of there being a curtain to the entrance to the room in the undertaking room where Mary Phagan’s body was lying there was a bathrobe and a small coat hanging on the door?—A. Yes.

The witness was excused.

Mrs. Arthur Ellis was called, but did not answer.

Jim Conley was called at 9:45.

State May Rest Wednesday.

The second week of the Frank trial opened Monday morning with the indication that the State would not conclude with the presentation of its case before Tuesday night at the earliest. In the event that the cross-examination of Jim Conley required the time the lawyers for the defense intimated they would devote to it, there was a strong possibility that the prosecution would not rest much before Wednesday afternoon.

The conclusion of the testimony of Dr. H. F. Harris was regarded as of scarcely less importance than the story of Conley. Dr. Harris was on the stand Friday and created genuine sensation by declaring that Mary Phagan could not have lived more half or three-quarters of an hour after she ate her simple midday meal and started from home for the National Pencil Factory. He came to this determination from the fact that the cabbage she had eaten for dinner had undergone scarcely any change from the digestive juices when he examined the contents of her stomach.

The physician also strengthened the State’s indictment charging strangulation by declaring that this was assuredly the cause of her death, the blow on the back of the head being insufficient to produce more than a temporary unconsciousness.

In the midst of his startling testimony, which was the first evidence brought out by the State that was not already known by the public, he collapsed. Solicitor Dorsey had planned to ask him a number of other questions, but was forced to stop where he was. The defense, it may be supposed from the ungentle manner in which they attacked the doctor’s statements the next morning with another of the State’s medical experts on the stand, also was planning to question Dr. Harris at length.

Whether any other revelations of importance as the result of Dr. Harris’ examinations of the body at the fist and second exhumation would have been made under the examination and cross-examination can only be determined when Dr. Harris again takes the stand It also is problematical whether the physician will testify with such assurance and professional ease when he gets under the grilling cross-fire of Reuben Arnold, who knows a little medicine and physiological causes and effects himself.

The prosecution, before it finishes, has still other witnesses to call. An expert in abdominal surgery, to corroborate the testimony of Dr. Harris, probably will be one of them. Solicitor Dorsey would not reveal his name Monday morning.

Harry Denham and Arthur White, the factory employees who were on the fourth floor of the building Saturday forenoon and in the afternoon until 3 o’clock, are expected to be questioned briefly by the Solicitor before he concludes the presentation of his evidence. Their testimony is not regarded as of special value, except to establish the time when Frank came to their floor to tell that he was going to leave and lock the front door. They are expected to say, in addition, that they were hammering and making a great deal of other noise and that they probably would not have noticed the running of the elevator had any one used it.

Mrs. May Barrett’s testimony is shrouded in mystery. She was seen on the fourth floor of the factory the Saturday of the crime, but what she will be able to testify has not been disclosed by the Solicitor. The first time she went to Solicitor’s Dorsey’s office she emerged crying hysterically that someone had been telling lies and that she knew nothing.

Her daughter, Mrs. George Bailey, it is understood, told the authorities that Mrs. Barrett had not revealed all she knew of the day’s events.

Admissions Are Reported.

There was another conference between the Solicitor and Mrs. Barrett. This time she is said to have made admissions which the Solicitor regarded of considerable importance in building up his case against Frank.

Chief Lanford is another of the State’s witnesses. The head of the detective department, however, has had in his possession little information that has not already been made public, and his testimony may be regarded as merely confirmatory of that previously given by his detectives and the police.

The defense has been waiting with some degree of eagerness the placing of Lanford on the stand. Attorney Rosser has been saving a mass of interviews that the chief gave out which, he says, indicates that Lanford started on the case with the firm theory that Frank was guilty, and that he excluded every possibility from his mind, working only to gather evidence that would be harmful to the factory superintendent.

Mrs. Mima Formby, the author of the sensational affidavit charging that Frank called up her house several times Saturday night asking permission to bring a girl there, will not testify for the prosecution. This has been stated definitely by the lawyers representing the State.

Jury Spends Quiet Sunday.

They say that they do not believe the woman’s affidavit and that there is no use in calling a person they are certain has been telling a pure falsehood. There is a strong likelihood, however, that Mrs. Formby will testify and that she will be called by the lawyers for the defense against whose client she uttered her accusation.

It is said that she will be asked to explain the origin of her affidavit and narrate all of the circumstances which preceded its writing. Frank’s attorneys say that they are aware of the reason for the framing of the affidavit and declare that when Mrs. Formby takes the stand there will be some highly interesting testimony.

The twelve jurors spent most of their Sunday in the three rooms at the Kimball where they are quartered. During the day they read magazines and books, played games, talked and joked, but were kept strictly from reading any newspapers. They were taken for a walk after they ate at noon and again in the evening. Most of them retired early.

A host of friends and relatives of Frank visited him at the jail during the day. He was calm, cheerful and optimistic. His wife and mother did not go to the jail, but stayed at home to rest for the ordeal of another week in the courtroom.

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The Atlanta Georgian, August 4th 1913, “Dramatic Moment of Trial Comes as Negro Takes Stand,” the Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)