Mincey’s Story Jolts Police to Activity

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

The Atlanta Georgian

Friday, July 11, 1913

*Editor’s Note: The following column ran in the final edition of the Georgian with the title “Georgian’s Story Stirs Officials to Action,” and contains the following bracketed text in lieu of the first two paragraphs and preceding sub-headline.

[Mincey Affidavit Leads to Another Cross-Examination of Phagan Case Suspect.

[As a result of the publication by The Georgian exclusively Thursday of the sensational affidavit of W.H. Mincey, the insurance agent, which declared that Jim Conley had confessed on the afternoon of the Phagan murder, that he had killed a little girl, the negro sweeper was again put on the grill late Friday afternoon. The cross-examination was conducted by Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey personally at the police station and was attended by utmost secrecy.

[Conley was taken into the Police Commissioners’ room on the second floor of the station house by a circuitous route to avoid being seen. In the room awaiting him were the Solicitor, his assistant, Frank J. Hooper, and Chief of Detectives Lanford. The negro was questioned for more than an hour. The result of the inquiry was not made known.

[That Mincey’s affidavit is of the utmost importance became obvious with this latest move by the prosecution. Undoubtedly its startling accusations, directing guilt at the negro, have shown themselves to the State to have foundation of more strength than Mr. Dorsey and his colleagues have so far cared to admit.]

Steps Taken Immediately to Discredit Affidavit Published Exclusively in The Georgian.

The Georgian’s exclusive publication of the sensational details of the W.H. Mincey affidavit, in which Jim Conley was alleged to have confessed to the killing of a girl the afternoon that Mary Phagan was slain, created a big stir Friday in police circles and immediate efforts were made to discredit the accusations against the negro.

Detectives set out at once on a still hunt for Mincey. Lines were thrown out to produce witnesses who would swear that Mincey’s word was not to be depended upon. The detective force, which virtually had been resting on its oars in the Phagan case for several weeks, was galvanized into action by the startling charges made in the affidavit of Mincey, which was first made public by The Georgian.

Police Deny Being Told.

Interviews with the detective heads brought denials that Mincey ever had told them the story that was printed in The Georgian. Attorneys for the defense, however, corroborated the published details of the affidavit.

“It is correct in every detail,” said one of the lawyers. “It was not the intention to make any of our important evidence public, but now that Mincey’s story has found its way into print, there is nothing to do but admit that we have the affidavit and that it makes the assertions which The Georgian printed yesterday.

“It is only natural that an attempt will be made to discredit Mincey’s story. But we are assured of its truth and are confident that it will stand the test of all the investigation that can be made.”

J.S. Dukes, manager of the American Insurance Company, by whom…

Continued on Page 2, Column 4.


Speedy Indictment of Negro Is Likely Following Publication of Mincey Affidavit.

Continued From Page 1.

…Mincey was employed until two weeks ago, was seen Friday and was disposed to discredit Mincey’s affidavit.

He declared that Mincey was something of a braggart and that on the Monday following the crime had asserted his belief in the guilt of Newt Lee. When Conley was arrested, said Dukes, Mincey at once became just as certain that Conley had committed the crime.

“Mincey was wondering how much money he might make as a witness and seemed more concerned with this phase of the case than with the identity of the murderer,” said Dukes.

Conley Indictment Likely.

The speedy indictment of Jim Conley on the charge of murdering Mary Phagan was the strong possibility discussed in court circles Friday following the sensational turn given the strangling mystery.

For nearly two months a self-confessed accessory after the fact of the murder of the little factory girl, Conley has been allowed to go without an attempt at bringing an indictment against him. The startling new evidence which indicates most strongly, if the credibility of the defense’s witness can be established, that Conley was not the accessory after the fact, but the actual principal in the crime, is expected to result in a thorough investigation by the Grand Jury of all the rumors and stories which have been in circulation of the negro’s connection with the pencil factory tragedy.

Dorsey Makes No Comment.

Solicitor Dorsey Friday morning would make no comment on the new evidence.

The detectives openly declared their disbelief in the statements of Mincey. They said that he told a different story when he was at police headquarters, and that he asserted after confronting the negro that Conley was not the man with whom he talked the afternoon that Mary Phagan was murdered.

Chief Lanford, of the city detectives, and Harry Scott, of the Pinkertons, said that if Mincey had related to them the story told in his sensational affidavit they would have made an immediate investigation in an attempt to verify it and would have sworn out a warrant charging Conley with the murder if a basis for the story could have been found.

Denies Police Assertions.

Mincey’s statement, in so far as it provides an answer to the detectives, was that he did tell the same story to them; that he did identify Conley as the man he talked with on Saturday afternoon, and that the detectives told him they didn’t care to take his evidence.

“Conley told me Saturday afternoon that he had killed a girl, and didn’t want to kill anybody else,” Mincey swears he told the detectives.

“This man Mincey never made mention of having heard Conley say that he had killed a girl, and Mincey never even identified Conley,” is the reply of Detective Scott to this assertion.

Detective headquarters were thrown into excitement by the publication of the startling developments. Within a few minutes Scott was in conference with Chief Lanford and it was said that it had been decided to make a search for Mincey with a view of bringing him before Solicitor Dorsey for a grilling in regard to his story accusing the negro.

News Disturbs Dorsey.

Solicitor Dorsey was evidently disturbed by the new turn in the mystery, but would make no announcement of his intentions in respect to quizzing Mincey, providing Mincey can be found. The witness is said to be in Chattanooga at present teaching school. Leo Frank’s lawyers, if they know Mincey’s whereabouts, are keeping it a profound secret. They had not intended even that the contents of his affidavit should be made public. They declared, however, that he would be on hand for the trial prepared to repeat everything he said in the affidavit.

The latest rumor in connection with the Phagan mystery is that the girl’s mesh bag pocketbook which she carried to the factory on the day she met her death has been found and has been examined for finger prints. This rumor could not be confirmed at police headquarters.

Lee Hearing Saturday.

The habeas corpus proceedings in behalf of Newt Lee, night watchman at the pencil factory, will be fought out Saturday forenoon at 10 o’clock before Judge Ellis. Bernard L. Chappell, representing the negro, said that he would issue subpenas for at least 50 witnesses whose testimony he would rely upon to obtain the freedom of his client.

Among them will be Leo M. Frank and Jim Conley. The appearance of both of these men, the first accused of murder, the second held as a material witness, will be bitterly contested. Reuben R. Arnold, of counsel for Frank, has declared that no law on earth can force Frank to appear as a witness at the hearing.

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The Atlanta Georgian, July 11th 1913, “Mincey’s Story Jolts Police to Activity,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)