Face Conley and Frank, Lanford Urges

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

The Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, June 12, 1913

Detective Chief Ready to Have Accuser Confront Prisoner Before Grand Jury.

New sensations are expected in the Phagan mystery Friday morning when the petition of Solicitor Dorsey for the revocation of the order holding James Conley as a material witness is heard before Judge L. S. Roan.

Luther Z. Rosser, attorney for Leo Frank, will be afforded his first opportunity formally to present his reasons for the holding of James Conley, not only as a material witness in the baffling murder mystery, but as an actual suspect.

While it is not anticipated that the attorney will disclose his hand too freely, it is to be supposed that he will present every argument he believes necessary to keep the negro in the custody of the State.

Lanford Agrees to Test.

Chief of Detectives Lanford Thursday replied to the demand of Luther Z. Rosser that Jim Conley be taken before the Grand Jury by making the startling proposition that he would take the negro to be questioned by this body the instant that Rosser assented to having Frank before the Grand Jury at the same time.

That this dramatic situation is not beyond the pale of possibilities within the next few days is indicated by the attitude of Frank’s friends, who have been suggesting just such an arrangement.

Chief Lanford Is Willing.

“I am perfectly willing that Conley should be taken before the Grand Jury,” said Chief Lanford. “I think it is only fair, however, that Rosser permit his client to go there at the same time, where he may be confronted by the negro and where the negro may tell his story right before Frank.

“Just the instant that Rosser consents to an arrangement of this sort, I will be prepared to have Conley on his way to the Grand Jury room. There will be no delay. It is irregular, of course, but I am perfectly willing to waive that phase of the matter. The fact that Frank already is indicted makes it unnecessary for Conley to be called before the Grand Jury to give testimony against him.”

Chief Lanford, referring to the effort to remove Conley from the station house to the jail, said that he would hold the negro at police headquarters until there was a court order to the contrary. He said that if Solicitor Dorsey’s petition was successful and Conley was freed from the present court order, that he would still be held at the station as a material witness.

Attorney Rosser would make no comment for publication on the proposition made by Chief Lanford, except to say that he stood on his open letter published earlier in the week. In this letter he made an emphatic demand that the Grand Jury investigate Jim Conley, with a view of indicting him as the possible murderer of Mary Phagan.

Little Chance for Bargain.

It has been the attitude of the defense from the start that it has no reason to trade with the detective force, and for this reason it is regarded as doubtful if the appearance of Conley and Frank before the Grand Jury will come as the result of a bargain between Chief Lanford and Attorney Rosser.

Attorney Rosser, however, will continue to insist that it is within the province and the duty of the Grand Jury to probe Jim Conley’s story and to indict him as the suspected murderer, if the evidence warrants. In this investigation Leo Frank, as an indicted suspect, is in the hands of the Grand Jury and can be called at any time. This makes it entirely possible, if Chief Lanford consents to let Conley go before the Grand Jury,[…]

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Expected Grand Jury Will Be Asked to Hold Negro as Suspect, Not Witness.

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[…]to confront Frank by the negro at any time in the discretion of the jurors.

Rosser Suspects Conley.

Rosser’s attitude toward Conley has been publicly expressed as one of suspicion. It has been said that the attorney for Frank is so certainly convinced of the guilt of the negro that he will not be satisfied with Frank’s acquittal, but will so array the evidence in the case that no other conclusion can be reached than that Conley was the man who attacked and cruelly strangled the 14-year-old girl to death.

These circumstances presage a bitter skirmish over Conley Friday morning. It is not, as it would appear on its face, a plan to liberate the negro entirely. It has resolved itself into a fight to determine whether Conley should be held at the police station, where the Solicitor and the detectives wish him, or whether he shall be taken back to the Tower, where Attorney Rosser vigorously has asserted he properly and legally should be held as a material witness.

If the Solicitor succeeds in obtaining the revocation of the court order, it will mean simply that Conley will continue to be held at the police station under the agreement signed by himself and his attorney, William M. Smith, by which they consented to Conley’s incarceration at police headquarters until the trial of Frank.

Tower Place for Conley.

If Mr. Dorsey’s petition fails, Conley will be taken to the Tower, as Judge Roan has reached a decision that this is the only proper place to hold him, and that he was without authority to commit the negro to the police station if he is a suspect.

This will be the first test of strength between the prosecution and Frank’s able counsel if Mr. Rosser accepts his opportunity. In the eyes of Attorney Rosser the question is of no small importance. He has questioned why it has been found necessary to sequester the negro at the police station under the guard and tutelage of the detectives before whom he made all his affidavits. The attorney’s utterances convey no other impression than that he is convinced the negro has been and is being “petted,” and that the detectives have made no effort to make Conley tell still another story.

Attorney Rosser in his open letter to the public demanded that the negro be taken from this influence and placed in the Tower along with Newt Lee, the other material witness in the case. Now that he has the opportunity to make an open fight for his contention in court lively scenes are anticipated. It is hardly thought that he will stop at showing why Conley should be held as a material witness.

Show Conley Had Chance.

He will go further and show that Conley not only had the same opportunity to murder Mary Phagan as that afforded Frank, but that every incident at the factory on that fatal day, as well as the negro’s subsequent conflicting stories, points more clearly and more certainly to his guilt than to the guilt of Frank. He will insist, for this reason, that it would be the most egregious blunder to let Conley get out of the custody of the State, even though he is still held by the police.

Solicitor Dorsey has given as a reason for his action that Conley informed him that he (Conley) had been intimidated at the Tower and preferred to stay at the police station. William M. Smith, attorney for Conley, gave the same reason for desiring his client at the station.

Sheriff Mangum has said in reply to these charges that no one was permitted to see Conley whom the negro did not wish to see, and that he was treated exactly the same as Frank, or any other person at the Tower.

Attorney Smith said that in the event Solicitor Dorsey’s petition prevailed, no effort would be made to obtain his client’s freedom, and presented a statement from Conley authorizing that assurance.

Solicitor Dorsey Thursday asked for an inquiry by the Grand Jury of the charges that Jim Conley had been intimidated and threatened while he was in the Tower. It was expected that this investigation would mean that Conley himself would be called to testify.

Mr. Dorsey first made known his intention when he appeared before Judge Roan to present his petition asking that the negro be released from custody as a material witness.

“This reported intimidation should be looked into,” the Solicitor asserted. “His lawyer doesn’t want him back in jail, because it is represented that Conley himself does not want to go back. If the reports have any foundation they should receive the most searching investigation.”

Solicitor Dorsey’s petition asking for Conley’s release from custody follows:

Asks for Conley’s Release.

“On May 29, 1913, this court on the petition of the above-named Solicitor General, representing that James Conley was a material witness for the State in the case of the State vs. Leo M. Frank, under indictment for murder, and that said James Conley would probably not be forthcoming to respond to a subpena in said case, ordered said James Conley held until further orders of the court as a witness in the above-stated case to be confined in the county jail, and subsequently upon the petitioner’s request made at the request of the said Conley and his attorney, the said Conley was allowed held by the police authorities of the city of Atlanta.

“The petitioner is satisfied that the necessity for the holding of the said James Conley under the orders heretofore granted on the aforesaid petition as a witness in the said case no longer exists.

“Wherefore, the petitioner prays that the orders heretofore granted in said case be revoked and that said James Conley be discharged from custody under the said orders.

Judge Provides for Hearing.

Judge Roan’s order on the petition is:

“Read and considered: It is ordered that the petition and order be filed and duly served upon the claimed suspects in connection with the Phagan murder now confined in the common jail, to-wit: Leo M. Frank, Newt Lee, and others, either personally or by serving their attorneys. They, with any other citizens of Fulton County, who may receive this notice by publication or otherwise, may show cause before me, Friday, the 13th day of June, at 10 o’clock, in chambers at the Thrower Building, Atlanta, Ga., why the prayers of the petitioner should not be granted. This noticed is to be served by the Sheriff or his deputy by leaving a copy of the petition and order.

“L. S. Roan, Judge,

“Stone Mountain Circuit.

“June 11, 1913.”

Plot Against Mangum Seen.

Charges were made Thursday that the call for a probe by the Grand Jury into a report that Conley had been intimidated and threatened while in the Tower was only part of a political movement to discredit Sheriff Mangum and his administration at the county jail.

It was prophesied that when the Grand Jury takes up the investigation Friday morning the probe will resolve itself into a battle between Solicitor Dorsey and Chief of Detectives Lanford, on one side, and the Sheriff on the other.

Lanford and Dorsey are said to have asserted, on the basis of a statement by Conley or his attorney, that Conley was threatened with a revolver and that he was given sandwiches and whisky by one of the visitors to the jail.

Sheriff Mangum will be prepared to offer evidence in an endeavor entirely to disprove the statements that he treated Conley any different from any other prisoner. He has asked for the subpena of several witnesses to bear him out.

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The Atlanta Georgian, June 12th 1913, “Face Conley and Frank, Lanford Urges,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)