Mistrial Near When Jury Saw a Newspaper in Judge’s Hands

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 3rd, 1913

Inadvertent Action of Judge Roan Caused Quick Conference Between Attorneys for the Defense in Frank Case.


Dr. J. W. Hurt, County Physician, Takes Stand to Tell of Examination of the Dead Body of Girl—Testimony Conflicts With Harris’ at Times.

Practically nothing new was adduced from the testimony at Saturday’s session of the Leo M. Frank trial.

But by far the session—which lasted from 9 o’clock until 1 o’clock, adjournment being had until Monday—was fought with the keenest interest of any thus far held.

This was due to the fact that for a time it looked as if a mistrial might be called for by the attorneys for the defense, when inadvertently Judge Roan held up a copy of one of the afternoon newspapers containing a conspicuous headline in red ink in such a position that members of the jury could see it.

Rube Arnold was instantly on his feet and requested that the jury be sent out. This was done and the attorneys for the defense held a brief conference. When they returned Luther Rosser made a statement in which he said he would ask for no mistrial, but he hoped the judge would caution the jury not to be influenced by the sight of the paper—if they had really seen it—and to instruct them fully on this point.

This Judge Roan did and the trial proceeded.

During the time the matter was being discussed the court room was filled with repressed excitement. The strain on Mrs. Frank was particularly noticeable. She seemed to be laboring under the greatest excitement, and her breathing was deep and labored. Her head dropped to the table beside her and it looked as if she was on the verge of a collapse.


Dr. Hurt’s testimony added little to the case. He told of the examination he had made of the body immediately after death. He could not state positively whether the little girl had been violated, but said the indication pointed strongly to this being the case.

Mr. Arnold cross-examined him at some length in an effort to discredit the testimony of Dr. Roy Harris that Mary Phagan must have been killed half an hour after she had eaten her breakfast of cabbage and bread. Dr. Hurt thought that cabbage took several hours to digest.

Chief James L. Beavers testified that he was in the National Pencil factory when the blood stains were discovered.

Helen Ferguson the first witness on the stand Saturday, testified that she had called at the National Pencil factory Friday to get Mary Phagan’s pay; that Frank had told her Mary would call for it Saturday.

R. F. Lassiter, a policeman, testified to finding Mary Phagan’s parasol at the bottom of the elevator shaft Monday following the murder.

Court adjourned at 1 o’clock until Monday morning.

The crowd Saturday was the largest of any day of the trial. A special detail of police was necessary to keep them from blocking the entrance and crowding the doorway.

From present indications Jim Conley, the negro sweeper, whose statement that he helped Frank conceal the body in the basement is the strong card of the state, will not go on the stand Tuesday.

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Atlanta Constitution, May 24th 1913, “Mistrial Near When Jury Saw a Newspaper in Judge’s Hands,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)