Envy Not the Juror! His Lot, Mostly, Is Monotony

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 4th, 1913


A policeman’s life is not a merry one. The thought was expressed and event set to music in those dim days of the distant past when people heard the lyrics and listened to the charming lilts of Gilbert and Sullivan opera instead of centering their attentions on a winsome young woman with a record in the divorce courts and not much else in either ability or raiment.

Gilbert and Sullivan, now being tradition, can be considered authorities. Wherefore the thought is repeated that a policeman’s life is not a merry one.

But there are twelve Fulton county men who will say that he went too far in his statement in one way and didn’t come within a mile of approaching the mark in another.

For after the sergeant sings “a policeman’s life is not a merry one,” the chorus of constabulary cants, “ta ran ta ra, ta ran ta ra,” which sounds rather joyous.

The Jurors Dissent.

And the jurors with whom the fate of Leo Frank rests believe there is no more joy in the work which is imposed as part of their duty as citizens of Fulton County than there is in a crutch to a man unaccustomed to using that method of transportation.

They would like to be included in the category of those persons whose existence is as far removed from the paths of primrose as pole is from pole, but they would voice violent protest against any ta ran ta ra’s.

There is much justice in their position and their claims to a place high on the list of martyrs to the sacred cause of duty.

An English humorist wrote of a young man who kept a diary and abandoned the pursuit when for three days this entry was repeated: “Got up, washed, went to bed,” He reasonably figured that his existence was entirely too colorless to necessitate recording.

Mostly Monotony, Their Days.

The members of the Frank jury are in much the same position. They merely get up, wash and go to bed, with just the added duty of sitting through hour after hour of legal battling that has only its brief periods of interest. They are as securely cut off from the rest of the world as they would be were they locked in Fulton County’s Tower, and for this they are paid by the State of Georgia the munificent sum of $2 a day, that does not go far toward the purchase of the family corn meal and cabbage in these days when certain persons find it hard to live on a salary of $12,000 a year.

Here’s about the daily routine of the men whose duty it is to decide the most perplexing mystery that has ever confronted the law enforcing powers of the city of Atlanta.

They are quartered together in the Kimball House, and they are guarded as closely from the intrusion of outsiders as the foulest felon in a Georgia convict camp.

They all arise about 7 o’clock, for they have to dine together and there is no necessity of one’s awakening before the last. They are shackled together by the orders of the court as firmly as if a convict chain was fastened on the wrist of each.

They eat their meals at the German Cafe, in Pryor street. The county does not stint them. Judge Roan has given orders that they be given every reasonable luxury.

On their way to their meals they are under close guard. A deputy leads them. A deputy acts as a rear guard. Deputies flank them on either side.

Their One Dissipation.

After breakfast they are allowed to take a walk—still under guard. This walk is their most rakish amusement. And on this walk they are taken up back streets, where they can see nobody and nobody can see them. Imagine an Atlantan of this good year of 1913 getting his amusement strolling through a section as interesting as a glass of stale water the morning after, and always conscious that if a friend should happen to say “hello,” he would be under dire suspicion of having arranged a secret code in which “hello” meant anything from “$200,000 if you acquit” or your wife will quit you if you acquit.”

After this stroll they wend their way to the courtroom. They are seated before the spectators enter. The court orders all the spectators to remain seated until they file out at recess.

The courtroom is not the most pleasant summer resort in the world. Atlanta has been in the throes of a hot spell constantly since the opening of the trial, and then hundreds of humans are packed in a space where only scores should be. The result is that the ventilation of the courtroom is bad. The atmosphere is oppressive.

Still the jurors seem to be bearing the ordeal bravely. There is always a look of relief on their faces when the court orders recess.

As the audiences sits, their guard of deputies forms and they file out, straight to the restaurant. When the noonday meal is concluded, there is a chance for brief relaxation. The jurors make most of it.

The same performance is gone through with in the afternoon. When adjournment for the day is taken, the members of the panel are taken to the hotel, where they bathe and don clean linen. Then they are either taken out for a walk or allowed to postpone that pleasure until after their supper.

Bed is the Exciting Climax.

When bedtime comes they are usually fairly well ready for the mattress.

That is their day, and there is a reward of $2 for those services coming to them at the end of the trial, whenever that is.

“What are their amusements?” Chief Deputy Plennie Minor, who is one of their most serious guardians, was asked.

Minor smiled. “I don’t know that they have any. They talk among themselves, but they are not allowed to read any newspaper, by strict order of the court. A few carefully-censored magazines were doled out to them for Sunday recreation.

“They smoke a good deal; and, well, they talk pretty much all the time.

“No one is allowed to communicate with them in any way. Every letter they receive has to be inspected by someone from our office before the juror can read it,” he said.

Aaccordingly [sic], the jurors get few letters, even though they are married men as a rule. A wife would hardly like to have a deputy peruse the intimate secrets of family life, nor be made familiar with the pet names reserved alone for her husband.

“Even their linen is examined to see that there is no note of communication is enclosed,” said Miner.

These precautions are absolutely necessary. They are as necessary for the protection of the juror as they are to the assurance of a fair and honest trial.

The court is not trying to be severe. It is simply trying to preserve the integrity of the laws of Georgia.

Small wonder then that there are men who seek to evade jury duty by failing to qualify as an elector, who hide their names from the directory compilers, who serve in the militia to escape possibility of having to do the work that these twelve men are doing.

There is absolutely nothing to make the work one to relish. The judge, the lawyers, the detectives, the witnesses, all are more or less in the coveted spotlight. It is doubtful if there is a man in Atlanta not intimately connected with the case who could name the twelve men on the jury.

They are not professional jurors, who seek the $2 a day because they are incapable of making that much money as easily in any other way.

They are doing this work with a sense of duty to their city, county and State. Their reward must be only a realization of a duty well done.

Small wonder they do not class their lives as merry ones. Small wonder that they wish no ta ran ta ra’s.

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The Atlanta Georgian, August 4th 1913, “Envy Not the Juror! His Lot, Mostly, Is Monotony,” The Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)