May Indict Conley in Phagan Case

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

The Atlanta Georgian

Tuesday, July 1, 1913


Indictment of Negro Sweeper Would Be Severe Blow to Prosecution of Frank.

That the Fulton County Grand Jury will go over the head of Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey and indict Jim Conley, the negro sweeper, for the murder of Mary Phagan, in connection with Leo M. Frank, was a probability which came to light Tuesday.

While the report was not verified, its origin was such as to throw a bomb into the camp of the prosecution, as it will mean the indictment of the star witness in the State’s case against Frank.

In the event that Conley is indicted it will mean also that he will be taken from the custody of the police, where he has been carefully guarded from the defense, and will be placed in the county jail, where Frank is being held.

Rumors that Newt Lee, negro night watchman at the National Pencil factory, had made sensational disclosures to his attorney, Bernard L. Chappell, and would be one of the State’s most important witnesses in the trial of Leo M. Frank, were set at rest Tuesday by Mr. Chappell.

The negro’s attorney said after the inquest that he would make no effort to procure the release of Lee, as he believed his client was a vital witness and it would be the wisest plan for him to remain in the protection of the State.

His statements at this time and up to the date of the indictment found against Frank led to the impression that Lee had confided in his lawyer significant circumstances which he had told neither to the detectives nor to the members of the Coroner’s jury.

Denies Confession Reports.

Mr. Chappell said Tuesday, however, that Lee had told nothing which had not already been published in the newspapers and that he was absolutely certain that the negro had been holding back nothing. The attorney said that until Conley had made his string of affidavits for the detectives he had regarded Lee as one of the most important witnesses the State could produce.

Conley’s entrance into the case, he thought, changed the whole aspect of the mystery and largely eliminated the importance of Lee’s testimony for the reason that its significance on the assumption that Frank was the only person having the opportunity to commit the crime was lost when it became known that Conley also was in the factory and acting suspiciously near the time it is thought the girl was murdered.

Lee’s testimony still remains valuable in the eyes of the attorneys for the prosecution, and the night watchman will be called to add to the long string of circumstantial evidence that will be produced by the State. Solicitor Dorsey regards as highly significant the negro’s story of what happened the Saturday afternoon of the murder.

Two Sides of Phone Incident.

One of the circumstances that the State considers suspicious is that Newt Lee found the door leading from the second floor down to the first closed and locked. It had been his experience, he has testified, that Frank, when in the ebuilding [sic] alone, would lock the street door, but leave the door between the two floors wide open.

Lee said that he went to Frank’s office and that the factory superintendent was rubbing his hands in a nervous manner. Another feature of his testimony was that Frank called him up in the evening, something he never had done before. While the prosecution will lay great weight on this testimony, the defense will seek to show that it is entirely without significance.

Admitting that Frank never called Lee before in the evening, Frank’s attorneys will present evidence to show that he had called repeatedly when the former night watchman was employed at the factory, and that he was led to call the night of April 26 because a discharged employee, J. M. Gantt, had been in the factory and he[…]


Attorney Denies Confession—Asserts Conley Affidavits Put the Watchman in Background.

Continued From Page 1.

[…]wished to make certain that Gantt had left.

Those concerned in the trial of Frank are awaiting with interest the outcome of the fight over the subpenas duces tecum issued by the defense. The State has announced that it will combat the enforcement of these subpenas and has branded them as a subterfuge of Frank’s lawyers to discredit the witnesses introduced by the prosecution.

If the State fails, it will have to produce in court all of the affidavits and statements made by its principal witnesses. The defense will be able to use these to make a close comparison of the oral testimony with that which was sworn to weeks before.

In the event that any of the witnesses give testimony in any respect contradictory to the statements in their affidavits the deefnse [sic] will be in a position to impeach and discredit their testimony. Solicitor Dorsey and Attorney Frank A. Hooper have characterized this as trickery on the part of the defense and have announced that they do not propose to submit their mass of affidavits for the use of the defense if the law will protect them in the matter.

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The Atlanta Georgian, July 1st 1913, “May Indict Conley in Phagan Case,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)