Gantt’s Release Asked in Habeas Corpus Writ

Gantt's Release Asked in Habeas Corpus WritAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal

Tuesday, April 29th, 1913

Petition Made to Judge George L. Bell and Will Be Heard at 4 o’Clock

J. M. GANT [sic] charged with the murder of Mary Phagan is seeking his release upon a writ of habeas corpus.

Petition for such a writ was made Tuesday morning to Judge Bell of the superior court and he directed that a hearing be had at 4 o’clock Tuesday afternoon.

Judge Gober, attorney for Gant, made the petition, and will argue Tuesday afternoon for the immediate release of the former bookkeeper.

Gant sets forth in his petition to Judge Bell that he is absolutely innocent of the crime of which he is accused, and that his detention by the police is without reason or authority.

Gant was arrested Monday about noon in Marietta, as he was on his way from Atlanta to his mother’s home, who lives in the country a short distance from Marietta.

He was arrested as he stepped from the street car, and was retained Monday afternoon to Atlanta and lodged in police station on the charge of having murdered Mary Phagan.

Upon his arrival, he was reluctant to talk, but at police station he made a vigorous statement in which he denied any knowledge of the murder of the four

Gantt’s Release Asked In Habeas Corpus Writ Witnesses Positive

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teen-year-old girl and gave a clear explanation of his visit to Marietta.


Judge Gober, who is a relative of his and who came to his assistance as attorney, demanded an immediate hearing for the prisoner. But Chief of Detectives Lanford announced Tuesday morning that neither Gant nor Arthur Mullinax would be given an immediate hearing and that both would continue under arrest.

Immediately after this announcement, Judge Gober presented to Judge Bell the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and the petition was set for an immediate hearing Tuesday afternoon.

At this hearing, the police will be called upon to advance whatever evidence they have to connect Gant with the murder, and he will offer a defense based upon his own statement and that of his sister, Mrs. F. C. Terrell, of 284 East Linden street.

She says that he spent Saturday night, the night of the murder, at her residence, where he made his home, and he insists also that he returned to his sister’s residence at about 10:30 o’clock and remained there during the night. Their statements vary in that she says he came home for supper, while he admits that it was 10:30 o’clock before he returned.


“I did not kill Mary Phagan. I haven’t seen her within a month. I am innocent, and I swear it.


“Now, I’ll tell you exactly what I did Saturday. First, I saw the the [sic] Memorial parade. Then I got with some friends and we walked over town a little, here and there, but to no particular place. I was intending to leave town Monday. A pair of old shoes I had worn a month ago were down at the pencil factory. I used to work there, you know, and they were left on the first floor.

“I wanted to get them and asked Mr. Frank, the president of the plant, if I could get into the building. He said I could, and referred me to the negro night watchman. I got into the building and found the shoes. I didn’t stay but a short while. About 7:30 o’clock I met two friends. We went to a pool room uptown and played pool until 10:30 o’clock. I didn’t play, but sat around and watched the other fellows. When I left the pool room, I went directly to my sister’s home on Linden street. She met me at the door. I went to straight to bed and was asleep almost the moment I hit the mattress.”


“Where were you when told of the murder?” he was asked.

“I got up late Sunday morning. That night, I went to see Miss Annie Chambers, of 18 Warren place, with whom I have been going ever since Christmas. We were sitting in the parlor. Her little brother, Philip, came in with a story about a girl being murdered in the pencil factory.

“I was acquainted with most of the girls that worked there. I asked him what was the girl’s name.

“’I don’t know,’ he answered. ‘They haven’t identified her yet.’ It was about 8 o’clock at night, then. That was the first I knew of the killing. When I left Miss Chambers’ home I went to my sister’s house and to bed.”


In denying the charge that he was infatuated with Mary Phagan, Gant said:

“When she was a little girl, about ten years ago, I knew her in Marietta. They lived close to the home of my family in Cobb county. Then I knew her again when she worked in the pencil factory. I had never paid her any particular attention, and was not in love with her. I don’t guess she was in love with me. She never said anything, if she was, and she didn’t show any signs that would indicate it.”

“I could wring the neck of whoever accuses me of such a thing,” he blazed. “It’s the most atrocious crime I’ve ever heard of. I never could have conceived it, let alone commit it. The man is a murderer who would unjustifiably accuse another of such a deed.”

Gantt was bookkeeper at the National Pencil company until three weeks ago, when he was discharged.

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Atlanta Journal, April 29th 1913, “Gantt’s Release Asked in Habeas Corpus Writ,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)