Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.
August 3rd, 1913
Face Is Immobile, but Gaze Tells Story of Deep Feeling of Man on Trial—A Study of Prisoner at Close Range.
By TABLETON COLLIER.
Everybody says in his heart that he knows human nature, that he can read guilt or innocence, sensuality or asceticism, calm or perturbation in the face of another. Everybody armed to his own satisfaction with this power of divination, has gone to the trial of Leo Frank to watch the man who is charged with the murder of a little girl, the most brutal and conscienceless of murders.
The young man who is thus the center of all eyes sits apparently unconscious of the multiple gaze that continue all day long. Those who go to watch him declare a variety of opinions—that he is calloused or that he is conscience-clear, that he scorns the outcome of the trial whatever it may be, or that he is serene in his innocence.
The watchers generally admit, however, that he is unconcerned.
But in the finding of this verdict they do not see the eyes of the man that are always wide stretched and intent, with brows always slightly lifted, with a gaze that seems to burn.
Eyes Show His Interest.
Leo Frank unconcerned? A man twiddles his thumbs, glances aimlessly here and there, is lax-muscled, vacant-eyed. Then he is unconcerned. But the wide-eyed stare behind the thick nose glasses proves Frank very much concerned. The quick shifting of his gaze from the witness to the questioner, back and forth as question is asked and answer made, proves him very much alive to the proceedings.
To be sure, Frank’s face is immobile, except, perhaps, for the eyes. But fixity of countenance does not always go with unconcern. In this case it is part of the man’s nature. Immobility is the essential part of his physiognomy. It is the immobility of the business man given to calculation, of the gambler, of the person given to repression.
Shrewdness is the essential factor of Frank’s character. It is the natural conclusion that this should be so. Here you have a young man, just 28, who was the head of a highly capitalized manufacturing concern, and its head because of his own efforts and achievement.
He Misses Not a Syllable.
Shrewdness, too, is evident in those wide-open eyes of his. They shift rapidly and constantly, from witness to lawyer, from lawyer back to answering witness. When they settle upon their object, they are fixed enough for the moment, and never furtive. But they linger for no time here nor there.
One man speaks. Frank’s eyes fix him with the wide stare. Another answers or interrupts. The young man’s gaze travels to him. No syllable nor intonation is missed. All this can betoken nothing, but a nervous, careful nature. Nervous in the sense of possessing mental force and high-strung sensibilities; not nervous in the sense of neurotic affection. Nervousness need not mean merely timidity.
Frank is essentially careful. Witness again the evidence of the young man rising to a position of responsibility in the business world.
All this is betrayed by the active eyes. It is not to be read in the mask that is Frank’s face, but only in the eyes.
Frank is not unconcerned. Luther Rosser is firing questions at the witness. Then Frank’s eyes are most earnestly expressive. They are upturned to the figure of his lawyer and in them there is something of ingenuous confidence and trust. They are very wide then. His mouth opens slightly. Altogether there is something in that gaze like the look a child bestows on a person toward whom he feels something of awe.
His Face Never Changes.
Those who say Frank is unconcerned must surely have seen him during the moments when his dynamic eyes were in repose, moments like those when the photographers were aiming their cameras at him, moments when men are not actively trying to break his neck or to save him.
In this, however, the watchers are correct when they talk about his unconcern—his face never changes, for so much as the twitch of a muscle, for minutes and minutes at a time. The body never shifts in the chair it occupies. His eyes move, and in the moving speak, but his face hardly ever speaks. Leo Frank, if not unconcerned, is at least imperturbable.
But sometimes his wife’s hand, resting on the back of his chair and lightly touching his shoulder, pats his arm once or twice. It is a signal from her. His head goes around and is inclined, his ear near her mouth. At her whispered message he turns even farther, and for the fleeting part of a second looks into her eyes. His wide mouth widens farther for the ghost of a smile.
The whole movement is quick, nervous and almost abrupt. But he has smiled.
His wife is as impassive as he. She has none of his nervous make-up, and, if anything, to the observer appears even more unconcerned than does her husband. But the avidity with which she seizes upon certain lines of evidence, bending forward to whisper in her husband’s ear, or backward to reach one of the attorneys, proves her interest. She smiles, too, answering her husband’s smile. But hers, like his, is merely the blink of a smile.
Mother Never Smiles.
Mrs. Frank, the prisoner’s mother, never smiles. She sits against Judge Roan’s stand, her face a sad puzzle, expressive of nothing in regard to what is going on around her, but expressive of a great deal of understanding, sympathy and kindness.
Frank’s own face is a small, nervous, abnormal face and not attractive. It is that of a man too keenly bright. It is not that of an affable, brotherly man. It is not that to attract other men. But the faces of his two best allies, his wife and his mother, are as attractive as his is unattractive. Both bespeak powers of courage and of fortitude. Mrs. Frank, the wife, it seems, is capable of enduring the same trials. Frank’s face is no advantage to him, even with its serenity. The faces of his allies will help him.
Frank is cool, rather than courageous, calculating rather than brave, shrewd rather than daring. All this the wide, active eyes bespeak.
But even if it were not his nature to be thus deliberate, he probably would bear this same appearance of calm, surrounded as he is by every semblance of protection. He is the center of a cordon of friends. At his left is his mother, and beyond her the judge’s bench, that embodiment of safety. Behind him are two of his lawyers, Stiles Hopkins and Herbert Haas. At his right, close to this side, is his wife, and beyond her are others of his corps of lawyers. They are all aggressive, vigorous in his defense, creating an atmosphere of security that surely must bring assurance to him. Little wonder he is calm.
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Atlanta Georgian, August 3rd 1913, “Leo Frank’s Eyes Show Intense Interest in Every Phase of Case,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)