Frank Struggles to Prove His Conduct Was Blameless

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 10th, 1913

Co-Workers in the Factory Declare Stories of Factory Revelries Are Beyond Reason


Testimony of Newsboy Who Said He Accompanied Mary Phagan On Street Car On Day of the Killing Attacked by Defense’s Counsel.

With one set of lawyers fighting to send Leo Frank to the gallows and another struggling just as desperately not only to save him from this fate, but entirely to remove the stigma of the murder charge, the second week of the battle for the young factory superintendent’s life ended shortly after noon yesterday.

The defense was only fairly under way in its presentation of evidence. Another week, at least, will be consumed in the examination of witnesses, and it is regarded as not at all unlikely that the jury will receive the case for its verdict not before the latter part of the following week.

More than 100 witnesses will be called to the stand before the defense rests. Some of them will be questioned and cross-questioned at length. Others will be on the stand only a few minutes.

Conduct in Question.

Many who will be called are factory employees. They will be asked in regard to Frank’s conduct at the pencil factory. This line of interrogation already has been begun by the defense. E. F. Holloway, day watchman at the factory, and N. V. Darley, general manager, testified Friday that women, aside from those of Frank’s family, never visited him at the factory. Herbert G. Schiff, assistant to Frank, who was on the stand during practically all of the Saturday session, testified to the same thing.

Schiff was taken into an exhaustive description of the duties of Frank, which was dry and uninteresting to the casual spectator at the trial. His testimony, however, was regarded by the defense as extremely important. The financial sheet, in particular, on which Frank worked the afternoon of the murder, came up for extended consideration. Schiff told in elaborate detail the complexities of the sheet and the elements that entered into its make-up.

It was the purpose of the defense to show that it would have been entirely out of the realm of human probabilities that Frank, after committing an atrocious and brutal murder, could have sat down and, without a quiver of his pen or a shaking of his hand, put down column after column of figures and made scores of notations with never an error.

Schiff was asked first in regard to Frank’s customs and habits about the factory. From his testimony it was developed that Schiff generally was at dinner on Saturdays from 12:30 to 2 o’clock and that Frank ordinarily was away from the factory from 1 o’clock until 3. This made it practically impossible for Frank to have women visitors in his office during the half-holiday without Schiff’s knowledge. The witness denied that he ever knew of such occurrences.

Gay Parties Impossible.

He added, under the questioning of Reuben Arnold, that it was not at all uncommon for persons from Montag Bros. to call at the factory on Saturday afternoons, and that gay parties of this sort could not have taken place. Salesmen, too, he said, interrupted the work on Saturday after noons.

A spike was placed in C. B. Dalton’s testimony by Schiff’s statement that he was in the invariable habit of working with Frank at the office Saturday afternoons, but that he never saw Dalton before the trial began. Dalton had testified that he was an occasional visitor at Frank’s office on Saturdays, and that Frank always had two or three women with him in the afternoon, but that no man was working in the office with him. Schiff also said he never had seen Daisy Hopkins, who Dalton said was his companion, on these visits.

Schiff remembered that last Thanksgiving was cold and rainy and that there was snow on the ground. This evidence was brought out to show the improbability of Conley’s story which had a woman wearing summery white slippers and stockings visiting the factory to see Frank that day.

The witness recalled paying Miss Helen Ferguson the afternoon of Friday, April 25. He was positive that she did not ask for the envelope of Mary Phagan and that she would have asked no one else, as no one else had anything to do with the distribution of the pay envelopes. It is a custom at the factory, he said, to give one person’s pay to another only on a written order, unless the person making application is a relative.

Frank Easily Disturbed.

Asked in regard to the temperament of Frank, he replied that the superintendent was high strung and nervous and was easily disturbed by little accidents that happened about the factory.

Schiff was shown the financial sheet for the week ending on the Friday of the week the tragedy occurred. He identified it as the work done by Frank Saturday afternoon. He said that the writing was unmistakably that of a young superintendent. Attorney Arnold also had in the courtroom the financial sheet for every week during the year previous to the crime. Schiff identified them all as Frank’s work and said that the least complicated of them never took less than two and a half hours to compile. The average time, he thought, was about three hours.

All of the financial sheets will be submitted as evidence to show that the writing of Frank April 26 was not tremulous, irregular or in any way different from his writing in the 51 other financial sheets on file.

The witness explained the highly complex manner in which the financial sheet was made up and narrated that the costs and profits were estimated each week on several thousand gross of pencils of different grades and classifications, including the materials which entered into their composition.

The other witnesses of the day were George W. Epps, the newsboy who had sworn several days previously that he had ridden to town with Mary Phagan the day that she was killed, and J. M. Minar, a reporter on The Georgian.

A degree of suspicion already had been thrown upon the story of Epps by the testimony of the motorman and conductor of the car on which Mary rode that day. Both testified that they did not see the boy on the car. The motorman asserted that another girl rode with the Phagan girl after the car arrived in town.

Boy’s Credibility Questioned.

The reporter was called to strengthen further the doubt of the lad’s credibility. He related that he had visited the Epps home, No. 246 Fox street, Sunday night, April 27, having learned that the children of the family had been acquaintances of the little girl whose dead body had been found that morning.

He went there, he said, for the purpose of finding who had seen the murdered girl last, and at what time she had been seen. He talked at length both to the boy and his sister. In response to his question as to who had seen Mary Phagan last he said that Vera Epps, the sister, declared that she had played with Mary the Thursday before, and George only told of occasions when he had ridden to town with Mary when she was going to work in the morning, mentioning not at all that he had ridden with her at noon only the day before when she was on the journey that ended in her death.

The most exhaustive examination of any of the defense’s witnesses so far introduced came Saturday with Herbert Schiff on the stand. With an apparently remarkable memory Schiff was able to answer clearly and almost without hesitation a number of detailed questions both by the lawyers for the defense in direct examination, and by the State’s attorneys on cross-examination. Even bits of conversation were recalled, notably one between Leo Frank and a Mr. Ursenbach on the afternoon before the day of the killing.

“Do you recall hearing a conversation between Mr. Frank and Mr. Ursenbach Friday about going to ball game Saturday?” Reuben Arnold asked him.

“Yes,” said Schiff, “but not exactly what was said. I heard Mr. Frank say something about ‘I will go if I can, Charley.”

Seeming to refute Monteen Stover’s story that she looked into Frank’s office and found that he was not within, Schiff testified that it would have been impossible for the girl to see over the open safe door into all the office.

Failed to See Mesh Bag.

Schiff it was who looked into the office safe the Monday following the killing, according to his statement. He said he saw nothing of the silver mesh bag of Mary Phagan, which Jim Conley testified Frank hid in the safe after the removal of Mary Phagan’s body.

That Jim Conley was frightened the Tuesday following the murder, when the investigation was at its height, was another bit of Schiff’s testimony.

“I saw him near the shipping room,” related Schiff. “I asked him what he was doing there, and he said he was afraid to go out. He said he would give a million dollars to be a white man. I answered that that would not do any good, as they had taken Mr. Frank.”

Under Solicitor Dorsey’s cross-examination, Schiff said that Frank appeared eager to employ the Pinkerton detectives to work toward clearing the mystery, declaring that the young superintendent called him over the telephone two or three times Monday after the murder to talk over various matters, once to suggest the employment of detectives.

“He asked me to take up with Mr. Montag the employment of a private detective,” said Schiff, “and suggested the Pinkertons. He said he thought it was only fair to the employees.”

At one stage in the examination of Schiff, Judge Roan threatened to have cleared the courtroom. A number of spectators had burst into laughter at a sally between Attorney Arnold and Solicitor Dorsey.

Questions asked Schiff by the defense’s lawyers seemed to show that by him they would bolster their theory that Mary Phagan’s body was lowered to the factory basement by some means other than the elevator, which the State contends was the means used.

Trapdoor Not Locked.

Schiff testified that not only was there a hole in the rear of the factory leading to the basement, but also a trapdoor, which was not locked. He was asked about the door leading from the National Pencil Factory’s space into the room used by the Clark woodenware department from which access to the basement is easy. He said that he noticed the door had been apparently cracked open.

Schiff’s testimony was unshaken by cross-examination, and he proved an able witness for the defense, much more so than the other factory employee, E. F. Holloway, who became confused on the witness stand under the grilling cross-examination of Solicitor Dorsey.

The attack of the defense on Conley’s character was evident with Schiff on the stand. The witness was asked at length concerning the negro and replied that he was worthless, unreliable and untruthful.

It is likely that Schiff will be called again to the stand when the trial is resumed Monday.

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Atlanta Georgian, August 10th 1913, “Frank Struggles to Prove His Conduct was Blameless,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)