Newt Lee’s Attorneys Seeking His Freedom

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

The Atlanta Journal

Tuesday, July 8, 1913

Habeas Corpus Proceedings May Bring Frank and Conley Face to Face

Petition for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of Newt Lee, the negro night watchman at the National Pencil factory who has been held in jail since the Mary Phagan murder as a suspect, has been drawn up at 2 o’clock Tuesday afternoon by the negro’s attorneys, Graham and Chappell, and the firm then was seeking the signature of the nearest available judge of the Fulton superior court to a writ fixing the time and place for a hearing upon the matter and directing Newt Lee be brought into court.

It is by this method that the negro is said to seek his freedom from jail, contending that there is no reason for confining him for any part in the matter. The solicitor is expected to vigorously fight the habeas corpus and insist that Lee be held as a material witness.

Should the petition be signed both the state and the attorneys for Leo M. Frank will be notified and this brings up the possibility of Frank and the negro sweeper, Conley, being brought face to face in court.

At 2 o’clock it was said that the habeas corpus hearing would probably be set for Wednesday morning at 9:30 o’clock.

The following is Newt Lee’s petition:

“To the superior court of Fulton county:

“The petition of Newt Lee shows the following facts:

“1. That petitioner is a resident of said state and county.

“2. That on the 26th day of May, 1913, petitioner was arrested as a suspect in the Mary Phagan murder, and following the investigation of said murder case by the coroner’s jury of said county your petitioner was ordered held as a suspect.

“3. Petitioner shows that two grand juries of Fulton county have failed to indict petitioner in said murder case.

“4. Petitioner respectfully shows that he found the body of Mary Phagan and immediately reported to the proper authorities the finding of the body, as any good citizen would have done, and that his motive in so doing was prompted through his proper raising by good white people, to-wit: the well known Arnold family of Coweta county, Ga., and in accord with petitioner’s conception of right and wrong. Petitioner says that by so reporting to the authorities, he believes that he has done his whole duty to the good people of the great state of Georgia and believes that his continued unlawful imprisonment is an injustice to himself, and is not in furtherance of justice or a correct solution of the murder of Mary Phagan; that he has no direct knowledge of the crime and that his testimony is not sufficiently important to a successful prosecution of said murder case to warrant the continued imprisonment of your petitioner as a witness in said case.

“5. Petitioner shows that he was incarcerated in the city prison of Atlanta; that he was put through the ‘third degree’ by the city detectives and was browbeaten, abused and sought to be entrapped or confused.

“6. Petitioner shows that after he had been put through the ‘third degree’ by the detectives he was removed to the county jail, where he is now being held unlawfully and illegally by C. W. Mangum, as sheriff of said county.

“7. Petitioner further shows that he is restrained of his liberty without warrant or authority, and contrary to the laws of the state of Georgia and the constitution of said state and of the United States of America: Petitioner shows that his continued incarceration is undermining and ruining his health; that he has no money or source of revenue by which he can purchase proper food or other necessities so that he may conserve his health and constitution.

“Wherefore petitioner prays the court[…]

(Continued on Page Seven, Col. 6.)


(Continued from Page One.)

[…]to issue the state’s writ of habeas corpus directed to the said C. W. Mangum, sheriff as aforesaid, to produce the body of your petitioner before your honor or at the time and place to be specified in the writ for the purpose of examination into the cause of the detention.

“Petitioner’s Attorneys.”

“Georgia—Fulton County.

“Personally comes Newt Lee, who, being duly sworn, deposes and says that the allegations contained in the foregoing petition for writ of habeas corpus are true.


“Sworn to and subscribed before me this July 8th, 1913.

“Notary Public for Fulton County, Georgia.
“My commission expires 1916.”

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The Atlanta Georgian, July 8th 1913, “Newt Lee’s Attorneys Seeking His Freedom,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)