New Evidence in Phagan Case Found

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

The Atlanta Georgian

Wednesday, July 9, 1913

iGrl [sic] Called to Tell of Negro She Saw in Pencil Factory—Lee Stays in Jail.

A sensation in the Phagan murder mystery developed Wednesday afternoon when Solicitor Dorsey summoned Miss Mattie Smith under a special subpena to question her in regard to a negro she saw in the National Pencil Factory the morning of the Saturday that Mary Phagan was murdered.

Miss Smith told a Georgian reporter that she saw a negro there that morning and believed it was between 9 and 10 o’clock. She thought she might be asked to identify Conley. If she identifies the negro, it will disprove Conley’s statement that he did not go to the factory until after he had met Frank Saturday.

Judge W. D. Ellis Wednesday morning postponed indefinitely the hearing on the application for a writ of habeas corpus to liberate Newt Lee, material witness in the Phagan murder mystery.

The action came as a result of an agreement reached between Graham & Chappell, attorneys for Lee, and Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey. It is believed to mark the end of all efforts to gain the negro’s freedom before the trial of Leo M. Frank July 28.

The most unconcerned person in the courtroom was Newt Lee. He was brought before Judge Ellis by Deputy Sheriff Miner.

Lee is Unconcerned.

“It don’t make no difference to me whether I am inside or outside the jail,” he said to a reporter. “It’s just as the white folks say. I don’t know what all this is that’s going on. I know that my church offered to get me a lawyer. I guess this Mr. Chappell must be the one.”

Chappell did not appear in the courtroom. Lee was represented by C. J. Graham, Chappell’s law partner. Graham and Arnold had a conference half an hour before the hearing, and after it was announced that the judge would be asked for a postponement. Solicitor Dorsey arrived shortly before the hearing began and shortly afterward William M. Smith, attorney for Jim Conley, and Herbert Haas, associated with the defense, entered the courtroom.

Attorney Chappell was opposed in his move to obtain the liberty of Lee not only be the lawyers for the defense, but by those of the prosecution.

“I have advised against this action,” said Solicitor Dorsey, “and I have no idea that it will be successful. The State will be able to prevent the liberation of the negro, as we regard him as a most important witness in our case against Leo Frank. By permitting him to go free would be taking serious chances of losing him as a witness when the case comes to trial.”

Attorney Chappell desired to have Frank present at the hearing in order to repeat his former statements that so far as he knew there was no possibility that Lee could in any way have been connected with the crime.

Conley, who admitted to having assisted in the disposal of the body, was expected to deny that Lee had any connection with the crime to his knowledge.

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The Atlanta Georgian, July 9th 1913, “New Evidence in Phagan Case Found,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)