Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.
August 6th, 1913
As soon as court opened Mr. Rosser asked the judge if he was ready to hear argument on the proposition to eliminate parts of Conley testimony. He said he was prepared to support his motion with authorities.
Judge Roan replied that he would postpone this decision until 2 o’clock.
Solicitor Dorsey declared that he had witnesses he expects to put on the stand Wednesday morning to substantiate the part of the negro’s testimony in dispute. He said:
“I just want the court to understand that I am going to do this.”
Judge Roan replied:
“I’ll give you the benefit of whatever you bring out.”
Conley was then recalled to the stand for the conclusion of his cross-examination.
Jim Conley was the same cool, unafraid negro when he returned to the stand Wednesday morning in the trial of Leo Frank after almost two whole days under the cross-examination of Luther Rosser. He had passed through fire and didn’t seem to mind it. He had no fear of anything that was yet to come.
Mr. Rosser might threaten him or might joke with him; it was all the same to the negro. He had tried both and had established but one thing—that Conley is a liar, and Conley admits that.
Arnold might describe him as “that miserable wretch in the witness chair,” he could gaze calmly out the window as he had done before. He didn’t quite understand all those names they were calling him, anyway.
If, in all the time that Conley was under the raking fire of Rosser’s cross-examination, he was disturbed in the slightest degree it was when he was being asked about that mysterious affidavit of William H. Mincey.
The declaration of Mincey that Conley had boasted the afternoon of April 26 of killing a girl was sinister and held in it the possibility that Rosser would finish by blazing forth with a direct charge of murder against the negro. Conley moved uneasily in his seat. He refused to meet the eye of his inquisitor. He fidgeted with his hands, but with his lips he framed a denial of every damning charge contained in the document.
The ordeal soon was over, Conley regained his composure, and when court adjourned a few minutes later a grin of triumph cleft his black face almost in twain.
Attorney Sees Conley.
Conley’s attorney, William M. Smith, provided him with supper and breakfast at the jail and talked for some time with the State’s star witness. He had been prevented from holding any sort of a conference with his client the night before, and protested at this procedure at the close of court Tuesday night. Judge Roan extended him the privilege of seeing Conley. Reuben Arnold asked that an exception be entered in the record.
Conley slept between nine and ten hours and arose much refreshed.
“I’se telling the truth now,” he said to a newspaper man who encountered him outside the jail. “That Mr. Rosser ain’t got no chance to get me mixed up because I’m telling just what happened.”
Frank occupied his usual cell on the second floor of the Tower. He was joined by his wife and mother as soon as he arrived at the courthouse.
Rosser Reads Affidavits.
Rosser asked Dorsey for the original of Conley’s third affidavit. The Solicitor advised Mr. Rosser that the original had never been signed. Rosser took a copy of the affidavit, which the Solicitor said was identical with the original, and read it to Conley. It was a signed statement from the negro, in which he admitted the other two affidavits contained lies and the ones which the detectives said was the last word in the great mystery.
The reading consumed nearly fifteen minutes, Rosser enunciating clearly and slowly, emphasizing every statement that differed with Conley’s evidence on the stand.
Freely Admits He Lied.
All of Rosser’s quiz Tuesday had only the one possible effect—that of casting suspicion in the minds of the jury of the story that Conley now is telling. He spread his lies with a lavish hand in that first affidavit he made to the detectives.
He freely admitted this and rather gloried in his prowess as a first-class liar. He lied in his second affidavit, although he maintained that this was a step nearer the truth. And in his third affidavit, which he and the detectives had joined in proclaiming “the whole truth,” there were still little discrepancies and deviations from the straight path of veracity.
But this tale that he was unfolding to the jury, this was the pure, unalloyed, gospel truth. He had raised his right hand and sworn that he was going to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Mr. Rosser was most unkind to throw over it a shadow of suspicion.
And the lawyer labored in vain to shake the negro’s storyq [sic] as it had gone before the jury. Rosser midway in the Tuesday forenoon session abandoned his line of interrogation in regard to statements that Conley had made to the police and detectives and began questioning Conley directly on the crime.
Questioned Closely on Time.
He questioned him most closely in regard to the time in an effort to show conclusively to the jury that Frank and Conley did not have the opportunity to accomplish all which the negro narrated before Frank left the factory for luncheon at his home, No. 68 East Georgia avenue, at which place he arrived by 1:30 o’clock, according to the State’s own witnesses.
Conley testified, under Rosser’s cross-examination, that he went to the rear of the factory at Frank’s direction and there found the body of the slain girl. He said that he yelled to Frank that the girl was dead and that Frank told him to bring her to the front of the factory.
Conley said that he did not know how he was going to carry the girl and he asked Frank. Frank, he said, yelled back something about getting some crocus bagging, but he did not quite understand him and walked to the front of the factory so that he could hear the superintendent better. He noticed the clock at this moment. It was four minutes of 1 o’clock.
With this time as a starting point, […]
CONLEY ON STAND AGAIN; SAYS HE’S NOT ‘SCARED’
Continued from Page One.
[…] Rosser began to quiz the negro closely as to how long it took him to accomplish each part of the remainder of the afternoon’s events.
It was plain that the negro’s estimates did not coincide with what the lawyer though they should be.
Defense’s Views Evidently Differ.
“How long did it take you from the time that you came forward and looked at the clock until you had taken the body down to the cellar and was back again on the second floor, and Frank went to wash his hands?” asked Rosser.
Conley thought it was only four or five minutes. It evidently was the opinion of the defense that it should have been nearer twenty minutes, as it included rolling the body of the girl into the cloth from the cotton box, carrying it to the elevator, the wait while Conley says Frank went into the office after the key, the trip down the elevator, the carrying of the body to the rear of the basement, the disposal of the cloth and the return to the second floor.
Rosser asked how long it took Frank to wash his hands. Conley replied that it was only a minute or two. Rosser then inquired how long Frank had Conley in the closet while the two women were in his office. Conley said it was eight or ten minutes. This incident, if it is as Conley represented it, would have brought the time up to 1:12 or 1:15.
Rosser then asked how long it took Conley to write the four notes, two of which were found by the girl’s dead body.
Wrote Notes in a Hurry.
“You couldn’t have written those four notes inside of ten minutes to save your soul, could you, Jim?” Rosser inquired.
“Yas, sah; I think I wrote ‘em in about a minute and a half,” replied the negro.
“You’re some rapid writer,” retorted Rosser after he had called attention to the laborious scrawl.
Rosser then questioned Conley as to the time of each part of his conversation with Frank while he was in the office that afternoon. He asked him about Frank giving him the cigarettes with the money in the box, about Frank giving him the $200 roll of bills and the attendant conversation, about the conversation in respect to Conley’s watch and to Frank’s wealthy folks in Brooklyn.
While he did not make the actual computation of time, he impressed strongly on the minds of the jury that it would have been impossible for all this to have occurred in connection with the undisputed fact that Frank arrived home at or before 1:30 that afternoon.
Defense to Test Story.
It is understood that persons interested in the defense have rehearsed a number of times every event that the negro says took place in the disposal of the body as Conley narrates it, and that they will be prepared to testify, that it could not have been completed by the time that Frank had arrived at his home.
This was by far the most important testimony in the examination of the negro. Rosser also quizzed him sharply regard to the cloth in which he wrapped the body; his evident theory being that, as a matter of fact, no cloth was used at all and that Conley, the only one connected with the crime, simply dragged the body to the rear of the basement. No cloth was found by the police or detectives, although Conley testified that he threw it in the same place he threw the hat and shoe.
The sensation of the day came when Reuben Arnold moved to have stricken from the record all of the testimony regarding Frank’s alleged conduct previous to the day of the crime.
The motion was met with strenuous opposition on the part of the prosecution but received a favorable ruling from Judge Roan who said that he would hold himself in readiness to reverse the decision before court convened Wednesday morning should the Solicitor be able to show him sufficient law on the subject to warrant a change.
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