Fight Begun To Save Frank

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 27th, 1913

Motion For New Trial Follows Death Sentence


Almost before the dread verdict of “guilty” had ceased ringing in his ears, Leo M. Frank, convicted of slaying Mary Phagan, heard Tuesday the still more terrible words, “sentenced to hang by the neck until dead,” before the echo of his own words, “I am innocent” had died away.

Frank will pay the penalty for the murder of Mary Phagan, which the jury Monday agreed he had committed on October 10, unless the efforts of his two lawyers, who already have started a new fight for his life, are successful in postponing the execution or ultimately in cleaning their client. There is little doubt that the execution will be put off, as an appeal will act as a stay.

The sentence had hardly been pronounced by Judge L. S. Roan at 10:40 o’clock Tuesday morning in his courtroom in the Thrower building before Attorney Reuben Arnold was on his feet to make a motion for a new trial.

Judge Roan said that he would set October 4 as the date for hearing the arguments on the motion. It is known that Solicitor Dorsey is most vigorously opposed to any movement looking toward the reopening of the case. He asserted repeatedly during the last days of the trial that the claim of the defense that Frank was not receiving a fair trial was ridiculous on its face.

Wife Waits Outside During Sentence.

While the death penalty was being imposed upon the factory superintendent, his young wife sat outside the Thrower building in an automobile. She had followed her husband in the car, waiting for him as he was taken into court between two deputies and again following him when he was conveyed back to the Tower.

Frank displayed no more emotion than he did during the progress of the long trial. He perhaps, was a trifle paler than usual and his face a bit more haggard, but aside from this none would have known as he stepped firmly down from the Thrower building steps that he was a man on whom the death sentence had just been pronounced.

The fight for Frank’s life, which may consume many months, arouses a question as to the disposal of Jim Conley. It is the general supposition that Conley’s case will be held in abeyance until Frank’s fate definitely is determined by a new trial or the decision of the appeal to the Supreme Court.

Newt Lee Released From Custody.

Newt Lee, a material witness in the Frank trial and at one time a suspect, was released from custody Tuesday morning after spending exactly four months in jail.

A long and notable legal fight is certain over the effort to save. Frank from paying the penalty fixed by the court. The case will be carried to the highest courts if Judge Roan refuses a new trial.

There was a hush of horror as the dreadful “Hanged by the neck until dead, and may God have mercy on your soul,” was uttered by the judge. The signs of Frank’s emotion were as few as ever. A few minutes later he was asserting, clearly and calmly, his entire innocence.

Frank heard his sentence with but a slight show of nervousness. He stood leaning slightly against the railing in front of the judge’s bench looking straight into Judge Roan’s eyes. Occasionally he moistened his lips, but otherwise, he was calm. His eyes though, were bloodshot and his skin more pronounced white than ever before.

Frank Again Protests Innocence.

Judge Roan addressed him:

“The jury which has been trying you for the last several weeks has found you guilty. Have you anything to say why sentence should not be passed on you at this time?”

Frank leaned slightly against the railing and placed one hand behind his back before replying. Then he said in a calm even voice:

“Your Honor, I say now as I have always said: I am inno-[…]


[…]cent. Further than that, I will state that my case is in the hands of my counsel.”

The prisoner’s voice was so low that for a moment his hearers were not aware that he had finished and a deathly silence reigned. Then Judge Roan spoke:

“Your counsel informs me that they will move for a new trial,” he said, addressing Frank, “but in the meantime, it is my sworn duty to pass sentence on you.”

“I have tried to give you a fair trial. I may have erred, but I have done my duty as my conscience dictated.”

Judge Roan then picked up from his desk the sheet of paper upon which his sentence was written. As he did so, through some slight misunderstanding, the crowd arose to its feet.

“Take your seats; take your seats,” said Judge Roan, then read the sentence. In legal form, it was this:

“The State against Leo M. Frank; indictment for murder; Fulton County Superior Court, May Term 1913. Verdict of guilty, July term, August 25, 1913.”

“Whereupon it is considered ordered and adjudged by the court that the defendant, Leo M. Frank, be taken from the bar of this court to the common jail in the County of Fulton, and that he safely there kept until his final execution in the manner fixed by law;”

“It is further adjudged by the Court that on the tenth day of October, 1913, that the defendant, Leo M. Frank, be executed by the Sheriff of Fulton County in private witnessed only by the executing officer, a sufficient guard, the relatives of the said defendant and such clergymen and friends as he may desire;”

“Such execution to take place in the common jail of Fulton County, and that said defendant on that day, between the hours of 10 o’clock a.m. and 2 o’clock p.m. be by the Sheriff of Fulton County hanged by the neck until he shall be dead, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

“In open court, this 26th day of August, 1913. L. S. Roan, Judge of the Stone Mountain Circuit, presiding.”

“When Judge Roan had finished reading the sentence Frank sank back into a chair between his two friends, Leo Strauss and Julian Boehm. His face had grown a bit paler, but the calm stolidity which characterized his attitude throughout the grim proceeding remained.

Attorney Reuben Arnold, who had defended Frank at the trial, arose and addressed Judge Roan.

“Your honor,” he said, “we make a motion for a new trial.”

“I will hear the arguments on the motion on October 4,” replied Judge Roan.

Luther Rosser, Frank’s chief of counsel, was heard to remark, aside when this date was fixed: “Well, that will extend the time of execution then.”

At 10:40 o’clock Frank took his place between two deputy sheriffs and was escorted down to an automobile waiting below and whisked off to the jail. At the doorway to the Thrower building another automobile containing Mrs. Leo Frank was waiting. When Frank emerged from the building, he exchanged glances with his wife, but no words were spoken.

When the machine with the prisoner moved out into the street towards the jail Mrs. Frank’s automobile fell in behind and followed.

No Women Hear Sentence Passed.

But a few persons not more than 30 in all heard the passing of the sentence. Amongst them, there were but two of Frank’s friends, Strauss and Boehm. The other witnesses were made up of Sheriff Mangum, half a dozen deputy sheriffs, numerous court attaches, and newspapermen. There were no women in the courtroom.

Frank came in before this counsel. Smilingly they nodded to those in the room. Shortly after he had taken a seat Rosser and Arnold came in and took seats close by Frank.

To Arnold, Frank leaned over and whispered:

“What shall I say?”

“That your case is in the hands of your counsel,” replied the attorney.

Sheriff Mangum escorted the judge to his bench and stood during the reading of the sentence with his back to the window near the bench, facing the crowd. He did not look at Frank throughout the proceedings.

At the close of the sentence, there was no demonstration of any kind. Quietly the crowd filed out behind Frank and waited until the elevator, descending from the fourth floor with the prisoner and his captors only, returned for them.

The automobile bearing Frank, with the fateful words “sentenced to hang by the neck till dead” still echoing in his ears, arrived back at the grim old Tower at 10:40 o’clock. Frank stepped out between Deputies Burdette and Owens. His face was a bit sallower, his eyes a little wider open. Otherwise, he was the same astoundingly cool prisoner.

The trio walked to the jail door and Frank asked his escorts to wait a moment. A minute later another car drew up and the devoted wife of the convicted slayer alighted, Deputy Scuttles at her side.

Frank’s face lighted up. Mrs. Frank smiled the tragic smile of courage and loyalty and they were clasped in each other’s arms, the young wife showering kisses on the man who had just heard his doom pronounced.

They disappeared into the gloom of the jail corridor, Mrs. Frank’s arm around her husband’s shoulder a shielding, motherly embrace that touched the men who walked with averted faces at Frank’s side.

A moment more and Frank was in his mother’s arms at the cell screened from foreign eyes and words of hope showered upon him to drown the echo of the terrible pronouncement of a brief while back.

The young woman was dressed in black, relieved only by a white lace collar. She looked composed, but the traces of a night and weeping were in her eyes. The mother was pale and worn. Neither would talk to newspapermen.

Mob Influences Jury, He Says.

Emil Selig, the father-in-law of Frank, brought him his breakfast Tuesday morning. The convicted man, if he suffered any shock from the verdict Monday, was said to have recovered entirely from it by the morning. He was as stoical as ever and even while in the shadow of the gallows, he expressed himself as just as certain that he ultimately would be exonerated of the terrible crime as he was on the first day he was suspected.

“My God’. Even the jury is influenced by mob Law,” were the words with which he greeted the news of the verdict Monday afternoon.

Frank was with his wife at the Tower when the intelligence came Rabbi Marx, Dr. Rosenberg, the Frank family physician, and a number of their friends were in the office of Sheriff Mangum, Dr. Rosenberg arriving some minutes after the verdict was known at his courthouse.

Rabbi Marx and Dr. Rosenberg went with the news to the accused man and his wife.

“The jury has found you guilty, see,” said the physician.

Mrs. Frank screamed and broke into hysterical weeping. It was her husband who calmed her and assured her that everything would be all right in the end.

Within a few minutes, he persuaded her to leave the jail in company with Rabbi Marx and Dr. Rosenberg. The traces of the tears were still on her face when she came through the corridor. With the aid of her escort, she avoided the newspaper men and entered the waiting automobile.

Dr. B. Wildauer came down shortly after. “I am as innocent today as I was a year ago,” was Frank’s comment on the verdict, according to Dr. Wildauer.

The blinds of the Selig home at No. 68 East Georgia Avenue, where Frank and his wife lived with her parents, were closed Tuesday morning. Neighbors said that Mr. and Mrs. Selig and their daughter had stayed with relatives overnight.

Attorney Arnold left for Bedford Springs, Pa., Tuesday afternoon for a month’s rest. Mr. Arnold will return to Atlanta in time to participate in the argument for a new trial for the pencil factory superintendent, which has been set for October 4.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, August 27th 1913, “Fight Begun to Free Frank,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)