Lanford Tells Why Conley Was Placed in Police Station


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

Atlanta Journal

Sunday, June 1st, 1913

Chief of Detectives Gives Out Statement Relative to Transfer of Prisoner From the Tower to Headquarters


No Arrangement Yet Made for Negro to Confront Frank—Report of Finding Girl’s Purse Proves Without Foundation

The prosecuting officials connected with the Phagan case all denied Saturday evening that the state’s theory of the murder has been changed by anything that the negro sweeper Conley has said, but the fact that the negro was transferred t police headquarters, where he can be freely examined by the detectives, seems to show that the officials are not fully satisfied with Conley’s story of the crime as it now stands.

Conley was permitted to leave the jail on an order signed by Judge L. S. Roan, of the superior court. Conley was perfectly willing to accompany the officers anywhere they desired to take him.

From the jail he was carried by Deputy Newt Garner to the solicitor’s office, and it is said that only after the solicitor had talked with the negro two hours and gone over all of the “rough places in the story” was the decision to take him to police headquarters, rather than the jail reached.


Two reasons are assigned by Detective Chief N. A. Lanford for the removal of Conley from the Fultin [sic] county jail back to the state cell in police headquarters, where he was imprisoned for more than three weeks.

The first, according to the chief, is that Conley requested that he be transferred back, stating in explanation or his request that he was greatly annoyed Friday night by persons who came to visit in the tower.

A second reason advanced by the chief is that the detectives themselves prefer to have Conley at police headquarters where he will be easily accessible at any time they desire to further interview him in regard to the Phagan murder.

“There is so much red tape at the jail concerning the admission of officers to see prisoners,” said the chief. “We wanted Conley where we could get to him at any time we thought advisable.”

Chief Lanford says he reported to Police Chief Beavers what Conley had said and the latter then went before Judge L. S. Roan and obtained the order for the transfer.

Conley still maintains that he is ready and anxious to face Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the National Pencil factory, with his accusations.

The detectives and other state authorities are also endeavoring to bring the two principal figures in the murder mystery together in order that they may watch the demeanor of the two men, when the negro sweeper accuses the factory superintendent of being the slayer of Mary Phagan.


The detectives will be unable to stage the dramatic meeting without the consent of Frank’s attorney, Luther Z. Rosser, however, and there is little probability of his going into the matter before Monday.

It was rumored efforts might be made to transfer Frank to police headquarters, where he would be under the jurisdiction of the city authorities and not the sheriff, but the rumor is groundless.

Solicitor Dorsey refuses to comment on the statement of Conley as made to him in a two hours’ conference at his office Saturday.


It is understood that the solicitor vigorously cross-examined Conley, and made the negro go into the most minute detail on every point in the case. The negro is said to have made no important variations from the story he told the detectives Thursday, and the story he recounted with illustrations, when he was carried to the scene of the tragedy on Friday afternoon.

Chief of Police J. L. Beavers, who heard Conley’s recital of his part in the tragedy at the pencil factory, was present at the examination before Solicitor Dorsey, and together the officials looked for flaws and “rough places” in the story.

Conley’s admission that he was an accessory after the fact of the crime has naturally made him the principal witness in the case, and the detectives are making every effort to secure corroborative statements, which bear even on the seemingly unimportant points of his sensational recital.

Detectives Campbell and Starnes were present at the latter part of the negro’s examination by Chief Beavers and the solicitor, and they, it is said, will work towards securing evidence of a co[r]roborating nature.

Attorney William M. Smith has been requested by relatives of Conley to look after the negro’s interests, and he was admitted to the conference for a short time.

Mr. Smith made no objection to the transfer of the negro to police headquarters and says that he is willing for Conley to remain there as long as the detectives desire to keep him.

He is also desirous of bringing about the meeting of Conley and the man he accuses of the crime.


Persistent rumor that the missing mesh bag, said to have been carried by Mary Phagan on the day she met her death, and been located by the police, was silenced late Saturday night when Detective Hollingsworth asserted that the bag pawned by a negro Wednesday and thought, at first to have been the Phagan girl’s, had been identified as the property of another.

The negro pawned the purse with Barney Morris, 92 Decatur street, and the latter instantly became suspicious. As a result the negro was quizzed, but proved conclusively that the bag had been given to him by a woman for whom he worked.

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Atlanta Journal, June 1st 1913, “Lanford Tells Why Conley Was Placed in Police Station,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)