Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.
The Atlanta Georgian
Sunday, July 20, 1913
By AN OLD POLICE REPORTER.
The most important and interesting development of the week in the Phagan case was the Mincey affidavit, directing suspicion more surely in the direction of James Conley than ever before, if the affidavit is that of a credible witness.
If what Mincey says is true—if his evidence can be made to “stand up” in court—then he is far and away not only the most important witness yet discovered, but his testimony will serve to clear up the mysterious Phagan case in its most obscure phases.
Solicitor General Hugh Dorsey has attacked Mincey’s credibility. Naturally, he would do that.
If Mincey is worthy of belief and is speaking the truth, he has dealt the State’s case against Frank a deadly blow, from which it can not hope to recover.
If he does not speak the truth, and that can be established, it will redound fo [sic] the hurt of the defense, for it will have a bracing-up effect upon Conley’s other story.
But Who Is Mincey?
Who is Mincey? Nobody knows much about him.
Dorsey says he is not to be credited, but he fails to say in detail why.
Mincey’s card in The Georgian, certainly had the ring of straightforwardness.
So, however, had Dr. Cook’s story of his discovery (?) of the North Pole.
Cook’s story was by all odds the best story ever told of the Far Frozen North—but it exploded when it was put to the test. Nine men in ten preferred to believe Cook rather than Perry—but nowadays everybody believes Perry, despite his “bad manners,” and so forth, when he was speaking the truth.
If James Conley did say to Mincey, Conley being apparently half-drunk at the time, “I have killed one girl to-day, and I don’t want to kill anybody else!” and if that fact can be established categorically, it will clear Leo Frank beyond the shadow of a doubt!
If that fact can not be established, however, after the Mincey affidavit has been exploited, it will tend to strengthen the State, and to that extent must damage Frank most seriously.
Detective Lanford says Mincey stated at police headquarters that Conley was not the man he had met—”that it clearly was some other negro.”
Visit to Factory Recalled.
Mincey denies that he said that, but he admits he did not immediately identify Conley, because he was not sure of his company at the minute and kept his own counsel.
The factory people say Mincey did come to the factory, as he says, and make inquiry as to the negroes there, and that he was, perhaps, as he says, rather brusquely treated.
At that time James Conley had not been remotely connected with the Phagan case, and the factory people did not know what Mincey was driving at exactly. Mincey at that time did not even know Conley’s name.
If, however, it be shown that Conley DID say to Mincey what Mincey says he said, it still will be contended, though I think with small hope of success, that it is not conclusive evidence that Conley killed Mary Phagan.
Undoubtedly it would not be that as an isolated proposition, but taken in connection with other things attaching to Conley as a suspect, it would be a smashing piece of evidence against the negro.
To be sure, negroes, half drunk especially, are apt, as a rule, to brag about things that they HAVEN’T done rather than things they HAVE—and to that extent the contention that Mincey’s affidavit, at best, is weak would hold good.
But Conley’s own admission of his presence in the factory on the day of the homicide, his series of lies after suspicion began falling in his direction, his amazing affidavits and counter-affidavits, and the discrepancies in his last affidavit—these, in connection with the Mincey affidavit, make a strong case against him.
Interest Centers in Mincey.
The more spectacular interest in the Phagan case now undoubtedly centers in Mincey.
The Grand Jury will meet tomorrow to consider the indictment of Conley.
It would be unusual for the Grand Jury to indict Conley, with an indictment already standing against Frank for the same offense. It would not be an unheard of thing, however.
Grand Juries are laws unto themselves. They may indict whom they please and when they please.
Indeed, the law and their oaths make it imperative that a Grand Jury indict ALL persons they believe deserving of indictment, regardless of whether that indictment effects pending cases advantageously or disadvantageously.
If the present Grand Jury, upon a one-sided hearing, believes Mincey is speaking the truth in his remarkable affidavit, it will indict Conley, I think.
If it does not believe the Mincey affidavit—if it can be made NOT to believe it, to put it the other way—it will not, of course, indict Conley.
Which will it do?
That is the pretty puzzle in the Phagan case to-day!
Of Far-Reaching Import.
Nothing that has happened, in many aspects of the matter, since the beginning of the Phagan investigation, is so important or possible of such far-reaching results as the Mincey statement.
And that statement, primarily, looks dangerous to the State in the Frank case, and very helpful to it in the case against Conley, when it gets there, if it ever does.
Upon the State in the trial of Frank will fall the burden of breaking it down. Can the State do it?
That is what the State unquestionably is asking itself to-day. That is the thing that plainly is making the State most uneasy, in so far as the case against Frank is concerned.
About it will center the question of Conley’s future status—whether he will continue as an admitted accessory after the fact or become a principal to the murder of Mary Phagan.
That is the thing the Grand Jury will thrash out with itself this week.
It may be said positively that not since the Phagan case first came into public notice has any development been watched with that degree of interest the public generally feels now in the outcome of the Grand Jury’s anticipated meeting to-morrow.
Curiously enough, too, if the State goes TOO FAR in breaking down Mincey in the Frank case, it will hurt itself immeasurably in the trial of Conley later on, in the event of Frank’s acquittal and Conley’s subsequent indictment.
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The Atlanta Georgian, July 20th 1913, “Mincey Story Declared Vital To Both Sides in Frank Case,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)