Judge Roan to Decide Conley’s Jail Fate

by Archivist on April 15, 2017

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

Atlanta Georgian

Friday, June 13th, 1913

Chief of Detectives Lanford Receives No Order to Take the Negro Sweeper to Court.

A more explicit accusation of murder against Jim Conley, negro sweeper at the National Pencil Factory, than has yet been made since his name has been connected with the Phagan mystery, was expected Friday morning when Luther Z. Rosser, attorney for Leo Frank, was to appear before Judge L. S. Roan to combat Solicitor Dorsey’s move to keep Conley at the police station and away from the tower.

The probability that Conley, accuser, and Frank, accused, would be brought face to face at the hearing was lessened when it was learned that Chief of Detectives Lanford had received no order to take the negro into court and had made the statement that he would not bring the negro out of the station without an order to that effect.

The hearing Friday morning was understood to be largely the outcome of a persistent demand on the part of Frank’s attorneys that Conley, a self-confessed accessory after the fact of Mary Phagan’s murder, and possibly the actual principal, should be removed from the police station and held in the tower.

His Rearrest is Probable.

Judge Roan, following this agitation, decided that he had possessed no authority to remand the negro to the police station, rather than to the Tower. To checkmate the transfer back to the Tower Solicitor Dorsey petitioned that Conley be freed, representing that the need for holding him as material witness no longer existed. Judge Roan set Friday morning for the hearing to show cause why the Solicitor’s petition should not be granted.

The effect of the petition’s success merely will be that Conley will be technically liberated, but will be rearrested and held “on suspicion,” or as a material witness at the police station by the police officers. In the event of the failure of the petition Conley will be returned to the Tower unless the fight is carried still further.

Detectives Starnes and Campbell had another long talk with Conley before the hearing in Judge Roan’s court. When they had concluded it was announced that the negro had made no changes in his story and no additions.

He persisted in his declaration, it was said, that if he only could meet Frank face to face he was confident he could make the factory superintendent “own up” to his alleged part in the crime. The detectives said that Conley expressed an apparently sincere willingness to face Frank at any time, and that he also said he was prepared to go before the Grand Jury and repeat his story.

Denies Force in Affidavit.

Conley’s attorney, William M. Smith, was at the hearing before Judge Roan and had in his possession an affidavit signed by Conley, in which the negro said that he was at the station of his own free will and preferred to stay there, rather than at the jail. He esaid [sic] that he has been coerced in no way by the detectives.

Attorney Smith obtained the removal of his client from the Tower on the representation that persons had been allowed to visit the negro and make threats and otherwise intimidate him. One of the allegations was that a pistol had been pointed at the negro in his cell and that one of the visitors had acted in behalf of Frank as a “go-between.”

All of these charges were to be investigated by Judge Roan in the course of the hearing. Many witnesses were called to prove that Attorney Smith had been greatly misled and that the Tower was the proper and legal place for Conley. Others were summoned to testify to the contrary.

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Atlanta Georgian, June 13th 1913, “Judge Roan to Decide Conley’s Jail Fate,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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