Mrs. Rae Frank Goes on Stand in Defense of Her Son

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 16th, 1913


Testimony Used by Defense to Show That the Prisoner Could Not Have Written This Letter, Which Was of Considerable Length, Had He Been Laboring Under Stress of Excitement Which Would Have Followed the Murder of Mary Phagan.


Witness After Witness Declare That They Never Saw Women in Office of Superintendent—The State Brings Girl Back From Home of Good Shepherd in Cincinnati to Give Evidence Against Prisoner—Her Testimony Is Kept a Secret.

The defense played one of its strong cards Friday, when, at the heel of the day’s session, Mrs. Rae Frank was placed on the stand to identify a letter which Leo M. Frank, on Memorial day, and which was read in her presence at the Hotel McAlpin, New York, Monday following the murder.

The letter was one of some length, and contained a price list which M. Frank had requested his nephew to send him.

The time element, which is playing an important part in the trial, was made more important by this letter. The defense will attempt to show that the letter could not have been written had Frank been guilty of the murder, or had he been laboring under stress of excitement.

Mrs. Frank was perfectly composed while on the stand and answered the questions of Luther Rosser in a clear, distinct voice.


At the conclusion of Friday’s session the end was not yet in sight, and no one, not even the attorneys in the case, could predict with any degree of certainty when argument would begin.

The sensation of Friday had no direct connection with the court proceedings. It was the news that Daisy Hewell, a 16-year-old girl, formerly of Atlanta, but who for some time has been an inmate of the Home of the Good Shepherd in Cincinnati, had been brought back to Atlanta in charge of Mrs. Mary Bohnefeld, matron of the police station, to give testimony against Frank.

On the way back to Atlanta Mrs. Bohnefeld did not discuss the Frank case with the Hewell girl, and she does not know what evidence she will give against the accused pencil factory superintendent.

The girl is now at the police station closely guarded, and no one is allowed to talk to her about the case.

For some weeks past there have been stories afloat of a girl in Cincinnati who would throw important light on the case.


Early Friday a rumor was current that the defense would close its case and that Frank would be placed on the stand. This caused one of the largest crowds of the trial to congregate in front of the courthouse. However, it soon became apparent that the rumor was a mere idle story of the street. The witness room on the second floor of the courthouse was crowded with witnesses all day, and despite the fact that over forty witnesses were called during the day there are several hundred yet to be heard from.

Reuben Arnold stated during the afternoon session that he intended to introduce every woman employee of the factory to prove that Frank was not in the habit of receiving women in his office on Saturday afternoons. There will be fully fifty of these. In addition, the defense has subpoenaed approximately 100 more character witnesses who are yet to be heard from.

Reuben R. Arnold, associated with Luther Z. Rosser in the defense of Frank, told The Constitution last night that the entire session of Saturday would be taken up with the examination of some forty or fifty girl witnesses who work on the fourth floor of the National Pencil factory. He said Frank would not take the stand until Monday, or possibly Tuesday.

In rebuttal of these witnesses Solicitor Dorsey will introduce many witnesses to discredit Frank’s character.

All things considered, it will be Wednesday at the earliest before argument will begin. Three days will be consumed in the argument. This will run the case to Saturday night of next week. Assuming that the jury has difficulty in reaching a verdict, Frank will not know his fate before Sunday.

Friday was for the most part taken up in hearing statements of character witnesses. Their statements were stereotyped and nothing new was brought out when they were cross-questioned by the state.

Miss Mary Perk, one of the forewomen employed at the pencil factory, stated that on Monday following the murder she had accused Jim Conley of the crime, and that he had immediately left her presence with a guilty look.


Solicitor Dorsey tried to get the witness to acknowledge that she knew of incidents which would throw light on Frank’s partiality for Mary Phagan, but she denied any knowledge of them.

Mrs. Dora Small, another employee of the factory, testified that on Tuesday following the murder Jim Conley had asked her for money to buy newspapers with. He read these papers eagerly, she said.

Conley had said to her:

“Mr. Frank is just as innocent of that murder as you are.”

Mrs. Small, in speaking of Conley and negroes in general, said she would not believe any of them on oath. This caused considerable laughter.

Later Solicitor Dorsey made the witness say she would not believe Arthur Pride, the negro elevator boy, on oath. Pride had just previously given testimony favorable to Frank and derogatory to Jim Conley.

The defense introduced several witnesses to show that Frank did not receive women in his office on Saturdays. Several of these witnesses were in the habit of seeing Frank on business Saturdays, and they stated they had never seen Jim Conley around the front door.

Several employees of the pencil factory made contradictory statements when cross-questioned.

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Atlanta Constitution, August 16th 1913, “Mrs. Rae Frank Goes on Stand in Defense of Son,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)