Frank Calm and Jurors Tense While Jim Conley Tells His Gastcy [sic] Tale

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 4th, 1913

During the long wait for Conley to appear, Frank, his loyal wife and his no less loyal mother gave no sign of fear. Accuser and accused were about to face each other, a dramatic situation which the authorities had sought to bring about since the negro made his third affidavit charging Frank with the terrible crime.

If Frank at last were on the edge of a breakdown his calm, untroubled features were most deceiving at this time. He seemed no more concerned than when John Black, floundering and helpless on the stand, was making as good a witness for the defense as he was expected to make for the State.

When Solicitor Dorsey announced that Conley would be the next witness the courtroom was electrified with a shock of interest in which the only three persons who seemed not affected were this trio—Frank, his wife and his mother.

Conley took the stand. He lifted his hand to be sworn. Not a sound but the Solicitor’s words disturbed the little courtroom.

“Do you know Leo Frank?” was the first question shot at the negro.

“Yes, sir, I do,” Conley replied.

“Where is he?”

Negro Points Out Frank.

“Right there he is,” said the negro, leveling his finger at the defendant.

Not a quiver disturbed Frank’s features as the negro’s accusing finger pointed him out. If any one in the crowded, breathless courtroom expected the cheeks of the young superintendent to blanch; if anyon[e] expected him to quail and tremble under the damning, glib accusation of Conley, that person was disappointed.

Frank spoke a few words to his wife. Whether they were words of assurance, no one will know. At any rate, Mrs. Frank replied with just the ghost of a smile and the long question of the negro was begun.

Probably everyone in the courtroom was looking for some sign of collapse from the prisoner as the negro unfolded his remarkable tale, more incriminating, more elaborate, more in detail, than ever before.

Jury Listens Breathlessly.

Dramatic in its very glibness and unconcern, Conley’s story, if it failed to shake or disturb Leo Frank, at least had a wonderful impression upon each member of the jury.

Conley told of seeing Mary Phagan enter the factory. This was the first time he had admitted to this, so far as the public had known.

Frank showed only mild interest, but the jurors strained forward in their seats.

Conley told of hearing the footsteps from his vantage point on the first floor, of two persons coming out of Frank’s office.

Frank still exhibited no sign of concern.

Conley then related hearing the footsteps going back to the metal room and of being startled by the shrieks of a young girl.

Mrs. Frank Bows Head.

Mrs. Frank bowed her head, but gave no other sign. Frank still was the personification of coolness and composure.

His mother looked slightly downward and toward the judge’s bench. She seldom raised her eyes except at times to look with an expression of pathetic pleading at the negro witness.

Conley testified with dramatic rapidity the grewsome story he already told the police, changing it in some places and adding to it in others.

He repeated the thrilling incidents of the day with absolute nonchalance. He told of them in such a torrent of rapid words that the Solicitor had to caution him frequently to take his time.

He repeated the alleged conversations, with Frank verbatim. At no time did he display any uncertainty.

He made no slip while he was allowed by the Solicitor to proceed with his grim story.

Tells of Finding Body.

After hearing the shriek of the little girl, Conley impressively told that he heard some one tiptoeing back from the metal room and an instant later heard Frank signaling him from the top of the stairs.

Then followed the tragic story of how Frank had him go to the rear of the building where he said he found the dead body of Mary Phagan.

One revolting and horrible detail after another came from the negro’s lips, and still the man in the prisoner’s chair sat unmoved, unperturbed.

The negro told of carrying the body from the metal room to the elevator and of Frank picking up the girl’s legs and helping him.

Some crocus bagging, heavily stained with the blood of the child victim, was dramatically displayed by the Solicitor. It had no effect on Frank. Conley identified it as the bagging in which he had carried the body of the girl.

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The Atlanta Georgian, August 4th 1913, “Frank Calm and Jurors Tense While Jim Conley Tells His Gastcy [sic] Tale,” The Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)