Guesswork and Not Science Asserts Dr. J. C. Olmstead

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 12th, 1913

Dr. John C. Olmstead followed Dr. Westmoreland to the stand.

He was questioned by Arnold.

“What is your occupation?”
“I have been a physician for thirty-six years, and am a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of New York.”

“Would you characterize such an opinion as the one you have read of by Dr. Harris as being a guess or a scientific conclusion?”
“As wild a guess as I’ve ever heard.”

Corroborates Other Doctors.

He was questioned extensively along the same line of questions as were put to Dr. Westmoreland and Dr. Hancock relative to the conflicting opinions of ascertaining the period cabbage had remained in the stomach of a corpse. His answers were in substantiation of the physicians who had preceded him.

“Could an amount of hydrochloric acid in the stomach have been determined in a body nine days after death?”
“It could not.”

“Suppose a chemist had made an examination nine days after death and had revealed pancreatic juice, would you have attached any importance to it?”
“I would not. I’d be surprised if he did find them and would like to know just how he did find them.”

“Did you ever hear of a test being made on a corpse that had any scientific value?”

“Would an opinion resulting from such a test be a scientific conclusion or a guess?”

“It would be an absurd guess, so wild I would not know how to characterize it.”

“Does strangulation result in distention of blood vessels in the female organs?”

“How long does it take ordinary bread to digest?”

“Between two hours and two hours and a half.”

“At what stage of digestion does hydrochloric acid enter the stomach?”
“As soon as food arrives.”


Here the cross-examination began.

“If two ordinary stomachs both of which are normal, eat an amount of cabbage cooked in a similar manner and cooked by the same person, and disgorge the food from the stomach within thirty or forty minutes what would be conclusion at which you would arrive?”
“The experiment would be too delicate to determine successfully. I am a practicing physician and not an analytical chemist.”

He was removed from the stand with only a few questions in cross-examination.

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Atlanta Constitution, August 12th 1913, “Guesswork and Not Science Asserts Dr. J. C. Olmstead,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)