Gov. Brown on the Phagan Case

by Archivist on May 4, 2016

Gov Brown on the Phagan Case 1Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Let the Law Take Its Course, He Says

‘Guilty Will Be Punished, Innocent Free’

Atlanta Constitution

Sunday, May 4th, 1913

I desire to commend, with all the emphasis at my command, the Hearst newspapers’ timely suggestion to the people of Atlanta and Georgian that they remember the sanctity and majesty of the law of the land, and the sure operation of justice through the courts, in contemplating a recent horrible and unspeakable murder in our midst. I desire to offer the Hearst newspapers a word of praise in that they—leading newspapers of the South—while being brave enough to print the news as it developed from day to day, still were brave enough to caution their constituency that it was, after all, merely the news of the day, and not evidence that might considered competent in a court of law.—GOVERNOR JOSEPH M. BROWN

Georgia’s Executive Gives High Praise to Hearst Newspapers for Their Stand for Law and Order and Fair Trial for Accused.

Joseph M. Brown, Governor of Georgia, last night gave to Hearst’s Sunday American the following ringing and significant interview, in respect of the Phagan murder mystery.

By GOVERNOR JOSEPH M. BROWN.

I DESIRE  to commend, with all the emphasis at my command The Hearst’s newspapers’ suggestion to the people of Atlanta and Georgia that they remember the sanctity and majesty of the law of the land, and the sure operation of jusict through the courts, in contemplating a recent horrible and unspeakable crime committed in our midst.

I commend all newspapers, and persons, and influences, and things that hold fast to the law in times of anxious suspense, and when wild and irresponsible rumor runs riot in a community.

We must hold ever in mind that the people have established the processes of law, and that those processes work through the courts, with judges and juries.

Trials of criminals must not be conducted in the newspapers, on the street corners, in the cafes—not even in the homes.

Trials must be conducted in the authorized temples of justice, and not elsewhere. They must not be based upon suspicion or hearsay, but upon competent evidence, sworn to by the mouths of creditable witnesses, or established upon such combinations of circumstances as legally prove the guilt or innocence of the accused.

No elements of class favoritism or race prejudice should operate either for or against a defendant or suspect.

The law requires, and jealously, the conviction of a criminal beyond a reasonable doubt, and neither disconnected nor fragmentary evidence will do in cases involving the life and liberty of persons charged with infractions of the law.

A recent dreadful crime in Atlanta has shocked the entire State beyond expression.

It is known that a young girl, fresh in the flower of youth, has been foully murdered. That fact, and the place and some of the primary circumstances of the crime are settled, beyond dispute—but no more.

Certain suspects are in jail—within the State’s custody, safe and secure. As yet no one has been indicted by a Grand Jury.

That point in the consideration of the matter will be reached in its place.

Suspicions, street gossip, rumor, it makes no difference how seemingly plausible, have no place in shaping a verdict for or against anybody now.

The process of the State’s law has been promptly inaugurated and is proceeding in order.

There is no reason whatever to doubt that it will go forward in dignity, and with all due haste, to the conclusion of the investigation.

The Coroner’s jury now has the Phagan case in hand, and is intelligently and fairly sifting the testimony. Where the Coroner leaves off, the Solicitor will take it up, and thus on, through the Grand Jury, to the court house, the judge and the jury.

This process has been evolved of the long experience of the Anglo-Saxon race—the highest type of humanity on earth—and the ultimate aim of that process is, and ever has been, the firm and certain establishment of the truth, and consequently the intelligent and thorough application of justice.

In passing, and in further emphasis upon the necessity of preserving calm and poise in the situation discussed, I desire to offer the Hearst newspapers a word of praise in that they—leading newspapers of the South—while being brave enough to print the news as it developed from day to day, still were brave enough to caution their constituency that it was, after all, merely the news of the day, and not evidence that might be considered competent in a court of law.

That was a manly thing to do. It renewed and rejuvenated my persistent faith in the fairness of Georgians, and in their ever-present desire to work justice to all and injustice to none, no matter how high or how low, or of whatever creed or cult, sect or faith, color or condition.

Gov Brown on the Phagan Case 2The law holds the scales evenly between the State and the accused, and at all times its eventual aim is justice. The State exacts justice for herself and accords it to the accused.

I have been moved to say this much to you, and through you to the public, in the interest just now of fair play, of law and order—all so dear to my heart, and to the hearts of a vast majority of Georgians.

We must bear in mind that the State is quite as anxious to fix upon the right party the responsibility for this great crime as any man can be, and that the State is infinitely better equipped to do this than any individual, of his own motion, could be.

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Atlanta Georgian, May 4th 1913, “Gov. Brown on the Phagan Case,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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