First Week of Frank Trial Ends With Both Sides Sure of Victory

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 3rd, 1913

Solicitor Dorsey Indicates That Real Sensation Will Be Developed for State in Closing Days of Famous Mary Phagan Mystery Case.


Routing of Detective Black and Surprise in the Testimony of Pinkerton Agent Gives the Defense Principal Points Scored—Newt Lee Hurts.

Slow and tedious, almost without frills, full of bitter squabbles between lawyers, made memorable by oppressive heat, the first week of Leo Frank’s trial on the charge that he killed Mary Phagan, the little factory girl, has drawn to an end.

With the close of the week came the promise that still another six days, or more, will be consumed in taking the testimony.

When the last witness was dismissed just before the week-end recess was taken, it was realized that few telling blows had been delivered by the State. However, the promised sensation of the prosecution still is impending, and Solicitor Dorsey hints at hitherto unrevealed lines of evidence that seem to point directly to Frank’s guilt.


Thus far, however, the apparently contradictory testimony of the State’s witness, particularly that of Harry Scott, Pinkerton detective, and John Black, city detective, seems to favor the defense. The corps of city detectives have told of Frank’s nervousness and excitement the day following the discovery of Mary Phagan’s body. The Pinkerton man testified to the prisoner’s composure and balance. This was but one detail of the difference, but the lawyers for the defense made much of it.

Frank’s attorneys, Luther Rosser and Reuben Arnold, have been from the first wonderfully powerful factors in the trial, and are the agencies about whom the friends of the defense build all their hopes.

Time and again this hope has been justified. Under the grilling administered by Rosser, witnesses have squirmed and twisted their bodies and their statements as it were a material instead of a mental fire to which they were subjected.

Detective John Black was one of these. Time and again he contradicted himself as to details, and several times he confessed that he did not remember. Black it was who, of the city police force, was among the most zealous in obtaining evidence against Frank.

Solicitor Dorsey had stated that he expected to show by Black’s testimony that the detectives had gone to Lee’s house only after Frank had informed him that several punches were missing from the watchman’s clock; that Frank’s attorneys, even before Frank’s arrest, had insisted that Frank’s house be searched; that the bloody shirt found in Lee’s house was a “plant” in Frank’s favor. Much of the prosecution’s plans in this regard were fruitless, however, because of Black’s confusion under cross-examination.


One witness, however, and a witness damaging to the defense, who was unperturbed by a pitiless cross-examination was Newt Lee, the negro night watchman of the National Pencil Factory. The negro steadfastly maintained his original story that Frank was nervous the afternoon of Mary Phagan’s disappearance, that he had made conflicting statements concerning the watchman’s clock, and that he had seemed frightened when he found J. M. Gantt in the factory the afternoon on which the little girl probably was slain.

An evident attempt was made by the defense to place suspicion on Newt Lee. The manner in which Lawyer Rosser questioned L. S. Dobbs, the police sergeant who found the body of the dead girl, seemed to imply that much of the negro’s behavior was suspicious.

Dobbs declared that Lee had read the hardly legible notes that were found at the side of the dead girl, and had read them easily. This point the defense urged. Frank’s lawyers also inferred that it was strange the negro should identify the girl as being white in the dim-lighted gloom of the factory basement, and at a time when he confessedly was frightened out of his wits.

The attempt of the defense to throw suspicion on Newt Lee, however, seemed to be of no avail. The steadiness and ingenuousness of the old negro absolved him, in the minds of those who heard, of guilt in connection with the murder.

Except for Lee, none of the witnesses of the week revealed anything of injury to the defense. Mrs. J. W. Coleman, Mary Phagan’s mother, and George W. Epps, the newsboy friend of the little girl, were merely witnesses of incidental facts.

Grace Hix, a companion of Mary Phagan in the factory, called by the prosecution, gave evidence really favorable to the defense, telling that Frank seemed to have no acquaintance with the Pha- […]


[…] -gan girl, and that he seldom talked with the factory girls when he visited the rooms in which they worked.

The extent of testimony of “Boots” Rogers, former county policeman, and J. N. Starnes, city detective, besides outlining incidents about the discovery of the body and the examination of the factory building, was merely that Frank appeared nervous and excited when he was told of the discovery at the factory, and that his speech at various times during the Sunday following the discovery seemed to be suspicious.

Solicitor Dorsey, maintaining from the first that the State has framed a conclusive case against Frank, is steadfast, here at the end of the week, in declaring that he is satisfied with the results and the progress made.

“The case which the State, from the evidence in its hand, has made against Frank, seems to be as strong as before the trial,” he said yesterday.

The lawyers for the defense declined to make a statement at this juncture, declaring that any word from them during the prosecution’s direct examination would appear indelicate. It is known, however, that they are confident of the strength of their defense, and are highly pleased with results of the trial as far as it has gone.

Girl Aids the State.

A valuable witness for the State was Monteen Stover, a young girl who was a companion of Mary Phagan in the factory work. Miss Stover said Frank was not in his office about 12 o’clock, April 26, although the prisoner had stated in the preliminary investigation that he was at his desk at that time. The girl testified she came to the office then for her pay.

Another was R. P. Barrett, an employee of the factory, who said he found a portion of Mary Phagan’s envelope, several long strands of hair, and splotches which he was sure were blood stains, under a lathe on the second floor of the factory.

Dr. Claude Smith, city bacteriologist, testified that the dark stains on the second floor were blood stains.

Mrs. Arthur White, wife of one of the last of the State’s witnesses called before the week-end recess was taken. She said she had seen a negro hiding behind a pile of boxes near the factory entrance the day of the murder and that later, when she entered Frank’s office, she saw him. She spoke to him and he jumped sharply, she said.

It is likely that the trial will continue far into this week, probably consuming all of it.

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Atlanta Georgian, August 3rd 1913, “First Week of Frank Trial Ends With Both Sides Sure of Victory,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)