Factory Employee’s Testimony Causes Laughter in Court Room

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 16th, 1913

Joseph Stelker, an employee of the National Pencil company, followed the Montag’s credit man to the stand.

Stelker was questioned closely about conditions at the factory, and while he was on the stand both sides again took up the much-discussed question of whether or not Frank had a raincoat with him on the day of the murder. Stelker, in his testimony, made the spectators laugh when he told of how Jim Conley had swindled him out of a half a can of beer. He also remarked that he thought Jim was a better negro for having served in the city chaingang.

“Where were you on the day the little girl was killed?” asked Mr. Arnold on direct examination.

“I was at home.”

“Did you see the spots said to be blood and also the white stuff partly covering them?”

“Were the floors ever scrubbed in the factory?”

“Did the spots look fresh or old?”

“They looked like they were about three days old.”

“Was there grass or dirt on the floor?”

“Yes, both.”

“Could anyone by shaking a bottle of varnish near there have got the spots on the floor?”

“Did you try spilling some of the red varnish, or ‘clear stain’ on the floor?”


“How did it look?”

Looked Like Blood.

“It looked just like the spots they said were blood.”

“Were you at Bloomfield’s undertaking establishment at 2 o’clock Sunday afternoon?”

“Was Frank there?”
“He was.”

“Did you see the dead girl’s body?”

“Did Frank see it?”
“I don’t know.”

“How long have you known Frank?”
“About five years.”

“Do you know his character?”

“Is it good or bad?”
“It is good.”

“Do you know Jim Conley?”

“Yes, I’ve known him ever since he began work at the factory.”

“Do you know his general character?”

Would Not Believe Conley.

“From it would you believe him on oath?”
“I would not.”

Mr. Dorsey took up the cross-examination.

“What did you say your name was?” asked the solicitor.

“Joseph Stelker.”

“What do you get paid a week?”

“My wages are $30 a week.”

“How long have you been getting that much?”
“For a year and a half.”

“Are you a member of Frank’s society?”

“I am not.”

“Are you any kin to him or to his wife?”

Testimony Ruled Out.

On cross-examination the solicitor got the witness to say that he had never discussed Conley’s character with anyone, and then by apply to the judge, he had all of Stelker’s testimony against the negro ruled out of court. Judge Roan held that if the witness had ever heard anything against the negro that he could tell it.

“Well, have you ever heard anything against Conley?” asked Mr. Dorsey.

“No, not until about three weeks ago.”

“Well, you never heard a word of evil against Jim Conley then, until Leo Frank was indicted for murder?”

“No; but I know something against Jim Conley,” the witness replied.

“What was that?”
“He had served in the chaingang.”

“Well, Frank took him back to work after he had served in the chaingang and he only served on the city squad on a police case?”
“Yes, Mr. Frank took him back. Conley was a better nigger, I think, for having served on the gang.”

Filled Beer With Water.

“Jim played me a mean trick,” the witness then volunteered.

“How? What was it?” asked Mr. Dorsey.

“Well, I drink a can of beer about 10:30 every morning, and one day last summer I sent Jim out to get me 25 cents worth of beer, and he drank half of it and filled the can up with water. He came on back and says, ‘Here’s your beer, Joe,’ and I tasted the stuff and found that it was half water.”

“What did you do to Jim?”

“Nothing; only I went after my own beer after that.”

“Well, how do you know that the white bartender didn’t cheat you, and not Jim?” asked Mr. Dorsey.

“Jim didn’t get it from no white bartender, he got it from a nigger saloon.”

Did Not Wear Raincoat.

“Did Frank have a raincoat with him when he went to the undertaker’s at 2 o’clock Sunday?” Mr. Dorsey continued.


The solicitor then made the witness describe in detail the bruises he saw on the dead girl’s face and head as he viewed her in the undertaking parlors.

In his testimony Stelker frequently got mixed up, and could not tell whether he had seen the body before or after Frank did.

“How far did Frank go toward the door to see the body?” Mr. Dorsey asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Was Frank nervous?”
“He was nervous,” replied Felker.

“You don’t know whether or not he ever went in to see the body, do you?”
“I do not.”

“Did the sight make you nervous and sick?”

“It did.”

“But you said, I believe, that after Frank saw the body there was no change in his expression?”
“There was none that I saw.”

“Will you swear to the jury that the spots you saw in the factory were not blood?”

Stelker was then excused.

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Atlanta Constitution, August 16th 1913, “Factory Employee’s Testimony Causes Laughter Court Room,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)