Friends Say Frank’s Actions Point to Innocence

by Archivist on May 14, 2016

A young Leo Frank (top center) and friends enjoy a day at the beach in New York.

A young Leo Frank (top center) and friends enjoy a day at the beach in New York.

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

Atlanta Georgian

Wednesday, May 14th, 1913

If Leo M. Frank is guilty of any connection with the murder of Mary Phagan, his actions in the Tower belie the time-honored theories of the greatest criminologists the world has ever produced, visitors to the prisoner declare.

Famous psychologists, working on the supposition that the great weight of guilt upon the mind of a murderer will, if given time, finally overbalance the calm exterior with which he faces his accusers, have made excellent use of what they have termed “silent treatment.”

Prisoners accused of horrible crimes have been thrown into cells and left to brood in the long hours of the night. Often a scream, ringing down the prison corridors, will tell the tale of their guilt. Cell keepers, rushing up, have found prisoners re-enacting their crimes, muttering the same words they used when they slew their victims and beating the air with their fists. In one celebrated case demonstrating this, the man beat his brains out against the bars before he could be rescued. His action, it was claimed afterward, was due to overpowering remorse following the realistic pantomime of the death scene in which he figured.

The psychological theory is commonplace. The mind of the murderer contains two sections—the normal and the subconscious. It is in the first that he frames his denial of guilt; yet the truth is always present, lurking in the subconscious mind. And there it remains until finally the terrible pressure brought to bear by its weight will overpower the normal mind and prevail. It is then the prisoner is easily trapped into an admission of his guilt.

Quiet Alone Needed.

For such a state to be brought in the mind of a prisoner quiet and solitude are required. He must be left to brood over the crime. Then it is that the horror to the human mind of what he has done will finally wreck the denial the guilty man has drawn up, and in despair his confession follows. In such cases the self-confessed criminal is a case for abject pity. The mental fight through which he has gone and lost is pitiful. It affects his entire physical being as well, and oftentimes following such cases the prisoner has been found prostrated on the floor of his cell.

In striking contrast to this theory is the deportment of Frank since his incarceration at the Tower. Confined on the theory that he had a hand in the death of the Phagan girl; placed in a lonely cell; passing his nights in solitude; never at any time seeing the light of day except as a prisoner in the clutches of the law, with its iron bars, steel doors and uniformed officers, Frank has maintained throughout the two weeks of his imprisonment a surprising degree of cheerfulness.

To his friends who have been permitted to see him Frank has proven by his attitude, if nothing else, his innocence, they declare.

“If Frank were a guilty man,” said Dr. David Marx, the noted Jewish rabbi and a personal friend of the pencil factory superintendent, “he would have been crazy by now. He could not have withstood the solitude and conditions to which he has been subjected by the law. That he remains calm and cheerful is proof conclusive that he is innocent, for innocence alone could save a man’s mind under such conditions.”

Among the other of Frank’s many friends who have visited him at the Tower were Leopold Haas, of Haas & McIntyre, real estate dealers.

“Every friend that Frank has made since he came to Atlanta is still as loyal to him as ever,” said Mr. Haas. “His cheerfulness even in his confinement has served a great deal to keep up this loyalty. No one who talks with Frank in his cell can come away still believing he committed the horrible murder or was connected with it in any way. I entertain not the slightest doubt of his acquittal once his trial comes up.”

Arthur Heyman, of the law firm of Dorsey, Brewster, Howell & Heyman, declared after a visit with the prisoner that to say that Frank was guilty of the murder of Mary Phagan was preposterous.

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Atlanta Georgian, May 14th 1913, “Friends Say Frank’s Actions Point to Innocence,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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