The “Truth” About The Leo Frank Case (1915) by C.P. Connolly

Original 1915 first edition front cover

Photo of Leo Frank contained within Connolly’s book

(Many people email us asking what’s that phallic looking thing Leo Frank is holding upright in his left hand at his crotch? Answer: Leo Frank is holding a Cigar in his left hand. To Quote Psychology’s most famous Quack, Sigmund Freud, “Sometimes a Cigar is just a Cigar”).

Available to download in PDF (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader The “Truth” About The Leo Frank Case (1915) by C.P. Connolly:

Christopher Powell Connolly (1863-1935), better known as C.P. Connolly, was a radical, lawyer and American investigative journalist who was associated for many years with Collier’s Weekly and the muckrakers. Connolly was a former Montana prosecutor. He is remembered in particular for his extensive reporting on the case of Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman who was convicted August 25, 1913, and sentenced to death in August 26, 1913, for the slaying of a thirteen-year-old girl at Noon on April 26, 1913.” (Wikipedia, 2011,

In terms of his position, C.P. Connolly was considered a prominent “Frankite” taking the partisan side on the Leo Frank case (opponents of Leo Frank, called his defenders, who often omitted, or embellished, some of the relevant facts, testimony and evidence are known as “Frankites”). He quantified all of his writing on the case of Leo Frank in his 95 page book, ‘The “Truth” About The Leo Frank Case’ (1915), articulating the defense position, against the prosecution version, in an effort to show why Leo Frank was wrongly convicted.

Assuming the average person reading this book has never and will probably never, read the official legal records, testimony, affidavits and documents of the Leo Frank case (cross referencing them and pondering them deeply), this book is very well designed for proselytizing new Leo Frank partisans (earning 4 out of 5 stars for this purpose), especially amongst newbies who have unclarified working knowledge or intimacy with the facts of the case, or neutral people with some knowledge about the case who are sitting on the fence of uncertainty concerning which side is more convincing.

Conclusion: the book is really good for swaying uninformed people to the Leo Frank defense side of the case and thus makes an excellent proselytizing tool for creating new “Frankites”.

Please excuse typos, errors and mistakes, this is the OCR Scan version below, for greater clarity, download the original PDF scan provided.





Copyright, 1915, by C. P. CONNOLLY




The following brief story of the Frank case, taken
from the testimony and records of the trial, supple-
mented by a reference to newspaper files and by per-
sonal interviews with witnesses, ought to do some good
in holding the mirror up to an ancient phase of
human nature. Krupp has not yet made a gun power-
ful enough to pierce prejudice; and of all prejudice, re-
ligious and racial are the most obstinate and senseless.

Here in America I think we have approximated toler-
ance in this regard more than anywhere on the globe,
though I speak out of a patriotic faith more than from
a personal knowledge.

All humans are much alike, under whatever skies they
dwell, or according to whatsoever creed they profess.
The heart of the Russian peasant is much like the heart
of the Illinois farmer. It is only the things we have
been taught, and among them creed hate, that makes us
different, one from the other. Who that has read of
the persecution of the Jews in Russia and in Spain is
not ready to cry out in condemnation of all racial and
religious prejudice?

I found Leo M. Frank one of that class of intellectual
young men which is the hope of America. A finer type,
judging from an observation running over three weeks,
I do not know. I am certain that morally he is just as
clean of conscience and of conduct, This is, ! believe,


the opinion of everyone that has come in personal con-
tact with him. He is a remarkable young man. And
the wrongs that have been done this young man in the
name of Law and Justice–they are impossible of de-

The scenes and incidents here portrayed occurred
in the South. There will doubtless be those who,
desirous of drawing sectional lines in this case, will
say that because I have treated my subject with the
pen-point of truth and without apology, the vision
is peculiarly that of a Northerner. I can only say
that there is no one who has realized with warmer
sympathy the peculiar conditions in the South which
occasionally bring their tense situations, and which the
people of the South have borne with such splendid pa-
tience. I have been for years a firm believer in the
great future of the South, to me the finest section of
our country. Its best citizenship is unsurpassed any-
where; on the other hand, it has no monopoly of incom-
petent public servants.

I have seen racial and religious prejudice everywhere.
I have seen it fanned into bloodshed in the West. I
have seen it in the North. There is but one reason,
aside from the peculiarly atrocious murder of Mary
Phagan, which made possible the injustice done Frank.

Atlanta is still practically untouched by the flow of im-
migration from Europe which has made our Northern
cities so tolerant in matters of race and religion. It is
ridiculous to protest that there has been no prejudice
against “the Jew” in this Frank case. The whole at-
mosphere of the case reeks with it. You cannot make
the Jew have any respect for these protests. He knows


the storm when he sees it. Centuries of oppression have
made him weather-wise.

East Orange, N. J., Dec. 22, 1914.


SATURDAY, April 26, 19I3, a holiday, Mary Phagan
went from her home in Atlanta to the National
Pencil factory at which she worked, to get some
pay still owing her. She did not return to her home.
A search was instituted, without success. At 3:30
o’clock the following morning her dead body was
accidentally discovered in the basement of the pencil fac-
tory by the night watchman, whose duty it was to make
the rounds of the building. Two men were immedi-
ately arrested. One was Leo M. Frank, the superin-
tendent of the factory, who stated that he had paid the
girl her wages in his office at noon on Saturday. The
other was Newt Lee, the night watchman, who had dis-
covered the body. Alongside Mary Phagan’s body
were found two illiterate notes in pencil, purporting to
have been written by the victim, and stating that the
deed had been done by ” a long, tall, sleam, black negro.”

The notes were manifestly a clumsy invention of the
murderer to divert suspicion. It soon became apparent
that the night watchman was not the guilty person.
Suspicion fastened on Frank and rapidly intensified.
During the next three or four days the police, the news-
papers, and practically the entire population of Atlanta
came to the conclusion that Frank was the guilty person.
Then a third man, a negro named Jim Conley, who also
worked in the factory, but who was not known to have


been in the factory at the time of the murder, was ac-
cidentally discovered washing a stained shirt. He was
arrested and held as a suspect, but suspicion was not
seriously directed toward him. The stained shirt was
returned to him by the police, and his name was prac-
tically eliminated until three weeks later, when it was
discovered that he could write. He had previously de-
nied that he could write.

Still later it was discovered and admitted by Conley
that he had been in the factory at the time of the mur-
der. When the fact that he could write was pressed
upon him he told in succession four different formal
stories, each of which was taken down by the police.

On the trial he told a fifth different story.

His first story was that he had not been at the factory
at all. His second story, in which he still maintained
that he was not at the factory on the day of the mur-
der, admitted that he had written one of the notes, but
claimed that he had written it the day before the mur-
der at Frank’s dictation, and that Frank had written
the other note. Both notes were in the same hand-

His third story admitted that he was at the factory
on the day of the murder, but knew nothing of the mur-
der, and in this story Conley said that he had written
one of the notes at Frank’s dictation on that day, in-
stead of on Friday, and that Frank had written the other
note. He said he had no idea at the time what use
Frank was to make of the note except that Frank had
told him he was going to send the note to his (Frank’s)
mother in Brooklyn and recommend Conley to her as a
good negro. He did not admit having written both


notes until two months afterward when he was sworn
as a witness on the stand. He finally claimed that he
had helped Frank carry the body from the second story
of the factory, where Frank had murdered the girl, to
the cellar. He gave as his reason for not telling this
story at first that Frank had promised to protect him
or to pay him a large sum of money, and he was wait-
ing for Frank to make his promise good. The fasten-
ing of the authorship of the notes on Frank, however,
as told in one of Conley’s first stories, fixed the crime
on Frank, on the theory entertained by the police that
whoever was the author of the notes was the author of
the crime. Frank was the first one to furnish the in-
formation to the police that Conley could write, as soon
as he learned that Conley had denied this fact. After
the trial of Frank, Conley was indicted and convicted
as accessory after the fact and sentenced to one year.

Frank was convicted by the jury, the trial judge after-
ward saying that he was not convinced that Frank was
guilty, but overruling Frank’s motion for a new trial
and stating that not he but the jury were the ones to
be convinced- which action of the trial court was sus-
tained by the Supreme Court. By a constitutional
amendment, adopted in 19o6, the Supreme Court of
Georgia cannot reverse a case on other than errors of
law. An extraordinary motion for a new trial, based
on newly discovered evidence, was subsequently made,
in which were incorporated the affidavits of many wit-
nesses who repudiated their former testimony on col-
lateral facts. This extraordinary motion was over-
ruled by the trial court (presided over this time by an-
other judge), and this action was again sustained by


the Supreme Court. Subsequently Frank’s counsel
moved the trial court to set aside the verdict on the
ground that Frank was not present when the verdict
was rendered, due to the fact that the trial judge feared
for Frank’s life at the hands of a threatening mob sur-
rounding the courthouse, in the event of his acquittal
by the jury. This motion was also rejected by the trial
court, and this action again was sustained by the Su-
preme Court on the ground that the motion should have
been incorporated in the original motion for a new trial.
Two judges of the Supreme Court of the United States
and later the full court have refused Frank’s petition for
Federal intervention.

So the case stands at the present


LEO M. FRANK is in a cell under sentence of death
at Atlanta, Ga., convicted by a jury of the murder of
Mary Phagan, a fourteen-year-old child. The Supreme
Court of Georgia has twice refused Frank a new trial.
It is believed in Georgia, at the time this is written, that
neither the Governor nor the Pardoning Board of
Georgia is likely to interfere; that the same fatality
that has attended Frank from the beginning will, in all
human probability, bear company with him to the end.

On the last day I was in Atlanta I went to the office
of one of Frank’s lawyers to say good-by. The tele-
phone rang. ” If they don’t hang that Jew, we’ll hang
you,” came the message. The lawyer tried to learn the
name of his unknown menacer, but without success.

After Frank had been convicted, and even before his
trial, scores of such anonymous messages came by letter
and telephone to his lawyers.

Frank is the victim of the police fastening the crime
on him as the result of a public opinion which demanded
conviction. This same public opinion now terrorizes
officials and citizens who believe Frank innocent – and
there are many such citizens in Atlanta to-day. They


are afraid to proclaim their convictions- afraid of a
business boycott, afraid of being marked for social per-
secution, or mayhap afraid of violence.

In certain parts of the South, as indeed in certain
other sections of our country, there are those who still
harbor the medieval picture of the fire-breathing, mur-
derous Jew portrayed by Marlowe. Undoubtedly the
man who murdered Mary Phagan was “not so much
an example of human nature in its depravity and in its
paroxysms of crime as an infernal being, a fiend in the
ordinary display and development of his character.”
Leo M. Frank is a young man of whose intellectual
attainments any community might well be proud. At-
lanta has been combed to find something against his
moral character, and a like comb has been applied to
Brooklyn, N. Y., the city of Frank’s youth, and to
Ithaca, N. Y., where he attended Cornell, but without
success. Though he was convicted largely on the theory
that he was a degenerate, William J. Burns, after his
conviction, offered a reward of $5,ooo to anyone who
would produce evidence of a single immoral act of
Frank’s whole life, without producing a claimant; and
then the police of Atlanta made the astounding state-
ment that they had never claimed that Frank was a de-
generate. Solicitor General Dorsey, who prosecuted
Frank, still insists that the charge is true, though the
$5,000 reward is outstanding and unclaimed.

No defendant in a criminal case in Georgia may give
testimony under oath in his own behalf, nor is his wife
allowed to testify either for or against him; but he may
make a statement not under oath to the jury. His own
lawyers are not allowed to ask him any questions, and


the prosecutor never asks any, for he fears the answers
of a witness not subject to the penalties of perjury.

When Frank had concluded his four-hour statement
to the jury, the crowd in the courtroom, though mostly
antagonistic to him, was deeply moved. It was one of
those moments so rarely experienced of an audience ab-
solutely spellbound. Moisture was in the eyes of some
of the jurors. “The statement,” said one newspaper
which all along has been antagonistic to Frank, “car-
ried the ring of truth in every sentence, and scores in
the room whose minds hadn’t been made up left the
court room convinced of the man’s innocence.”


During one of the days of intense excitement in vogue
throughout the trial, as Frank was being taken from the
courthouse to the jail, the crowd wedged threateningly
about the automobile. Sheriff Wheeler Mangum, an
outspoken believer in Frank’s innocence, hurriedly told
Frank to get under cover behind him. “I am an old
man,” said this brave Confederate veteran, “and you
are young. If they get you, it will be over my dead

Frank has been twice sentenced, the last time to die
on his birthday.

When on that last occasion he was
asked if he had anything to say, he made a remarkable
statement. As showing its effect even in cold print,
United States Senator William E. Borah of Idaho told
me, before I went to Atlanta, that it so gripped him at
the time that he was half inclined to take a train and go
to Atlanta for the purpose of learning more about the
case. Speaker Champ Clark gummed it in his infre-


quent scrapbook as a rare gem. He declared it one of
the most remarkable and convincing statements he had
ever read. When Frank had concluded this statement
there was hardly a dry eye in the court room, according
to many witnesses, and Solicitor General Dorsey, who
relentlessly prosecuted Frank, was moved to say that
Frank was a consummate actor.

I have no doubt that
Atlanta sided with the Solicitor General, for one of the
stories most religiously circulated by certain well-mean-
ing and highly respected citizens of Atlanta after
Frank’s arrest was that the tenets of the Jewish faith
forbade the violation of a Jewess but condoned that of
a Christian woman.

Another grotesque story that was
told about Atlanta after Frank’s conviction, and be-
lieved, was that Nathan Straus, who was passing through
Atlanta at the time on his way to California, had
brought $4o,ooo in cash to Atlanta to buy up the Su-
preme Court of Georgia to overturn the verdict.

Some may say that thousands of men in Europe are
being sacrificed in a senseless war, and that, after all,
the fate of Frank is no worse than that of others who
must suffer in this world of injustice and mistakes. In-
deed, the Macon (Ga.) “Daily Telegraph” of March
26 last, speaking of the Frank case, said editorially:

“If a mistake is made involving a single human life,
it would be deplorable; but it is better that such a mis-
take should be made than that our legal system should
be brought into disrepute.”

These are remarkable sentiments; but they are not un-
common in this case; and yet they are regrettable.

Frank is as cool and collected in extremis as any hu-
man being could be expected to be.

He looks through


his prison bars with the eyes of the stoic who goes to
meet his fate with calmness, confident that Atlanta will
some day know the truth, but certain that he will be
finally judged by One who, though He notes the fall of
the sparrow, is unmoved by the clamor of the mob.

When Mary Phagan was killed the newspapers ac-
counted for the public interest by saying that every
mother in Atlanta felt as if Mary Phagan had been her
own daughter. I think it is time that every parent took
the same interest in Frank’s case. The lessons of this
case may come home to any of us at any time. Death
is bad enough; attainted death is another thing; but the
infamy of such a death in the case of an innocent man
is an unspeakable thing. If Frank is absolutely inno-
cent – if the hand of the law reached out for him with-
out warning, with no mark of murder upon him, and
has hounded him to his death, then his fate is surely as
tragic as was that of Mary Phagan. The wrong com-
mitted by a whole people is far more tragic in its con-
sequences than any wrong committed by a single indi-
When he was about to render his decision on the mo-
tion for a new trial, the Judge who presided at Frank’s
trial was in ill health; while the motion was pending he
had received over seventy threatening letters; and –
he put the case up to the Supreme Court of Georgia.
He said:
“I have given this question long consideration. It has
given me more concern than any other case I was ever in,
and I want to say right here that, although I heard the evi-
dence and arguments during those thirty days, I do not know
this morning whether Leo Frank is innocent or guilty. But

I was not the one to be convinced. The jury was convinced,
and I feel it my duty to overrule the motion.”
A Georgia jury, dominated by one of its members,
once returned a verdict that shocked the moral sense.
Chief Justice Thomas J. Simmons of Georgia, in the
court over which he then presided as a trial judge, im-
mediately ordered the verdict set aside with the remark
that ” it takes at least thirteen men in Georgia to deprive
a man of his property.” And yet here is a man about
to be deprived of his life on the verdict of twelve jurors,
without the consent of the conscience of the judge who
heard the testimony.
Under a constitutional amendment adopted in 19o6
the Supreme Court of Georgia is not allowed to re-
verse any capital case where no error of law has been
committed in the trial, no matter how weak the evi-
dence may be, and cannot investigate or pass upon the
question of guilt or innocence. Two of the Supreme
Court judges were for reversing the case on alleged er-
rors of law, but four voted to sustain the conviction.
In a published statement, after the Supreme Court
of Georgia had for the third time refused to interfere,
Frank said:
“Can it be that the law, and our system of its ad-
ministration, is so inexorable that truth and innocence
may never be heard after once the die is cast? Is the
door forever closed and the way barred? Is the tech-
nical finesse of the law to forever preclude a hearing
of facts, and human right to be trampled beneath the
judicial feet? If this is so, and I cannot as yet believe
it, then our twentieth century civilization is but a myth,
and the divine spark in each human breast a fairy tale.

The upper photograph is the note Conley at first claimed was in Leo M.
Frank’s handwriting. Two unprintable words are not show\n. The lower note,
identified by the whiter paper and clearer surface, is the one Conley at first
claimed he wrote at Frank’s dictation. He finally claimed to have written
both notes at Frank’s dictation.


Then, in truth, we hark back hundreds of years in hu-
man progress to when the arena and ‘thumbs down’
was the last word of the law. It just cannot be that
way! The revolving years of twenty-odd centuries
must have brought a juster heritage than a condition
barbaric in its essential details.”
I am not concerned so much for the fate of Frank,
though that appeals strongly to me, as I am for the fate
of a legal system which in cold blood decrees the death
of an innocent man, and thereby indicts our entire civ-
ilization; for the truth will ultimately prevail. I am
concerned for three or four pillars of our civilization
which in the Frank case have completely collapsed. One
single act of injustice may suffice for a whole nation to
be stricken with moral atrophy.
While Frank’s trial was pending and just before the
jury retired for deliberation, Judge L. S. Roan, who
presided, held a consultation on the bench, and in the
presence of the jury, with the Chief of Police of At-
lanta, and with the Colonel of the Fifth Georgia Regi-
ment, to decide on the best means of protecting Frank
in case of his acquittal by the jury. The Fifth Regi-
ment was kept under arms throughout the night. Be-
fore delivering his charge to the jury, Judge Roan also
called the lawyers into another room and advised that
neither Frank nor his counsel be present when the ver-
dict of the jury was rendered, for fear that if Frank
were acquitted the mob would hang both him and his
lawyers. While the prosecuting attorney was making
his concluding argument in the case, the newspaper ed-
itors of Atlanta joined in a petition to the presiding
judge to adjourn the case over for a day, “because,” as


the Atlanta “Journal” said: ” It was known that a ver-
dict of acquittal would cause a riot such as would shock
the country and cause Atlanta’s streets to run with in-
nocent blood.” It was common street talk that if the
jury discharged Frank, or dared to disagree, Judge
Lynch would take a hand before Frank could reach his
home or the jail. ” Innocent or guilty, we’ll ‘get’ the
d- Jew!” was a remark frequently heard in the crowd
around the courthouse on the day of the verdict. The
mob was breathing vengeance in the very face of the
judge and jury.

Neither Frank nor his lawyers were present in court
at the moment which, according to Anglo-Saxon justice,
is considered the supreme moment of his trial, when the
twelve jurors look the defendant in the face and con-
demn him to death or set him free. All were cringing
before the mob. When the jury brought in their verdict
and as the judge was polling them in a room from which
the audience had been excluded, the cheers from the
crowd surrounding the court-house were so deafening
that the judge, ten feet away, heard with difficulty the
responses of the jurors. These things are not the hear-
say of irresponsibles. They are the admitted facts as
set forth in the appellate records over the sign manual of
the trial judge. As they caught the word “guilty ” the
crowd, stretching away on all sides, sent up a roar that,
without exaggeration, resembled the bellow of the
jungles. On the previous trial day, as these terrifying
bays swept over the crowd in repeating waves outside,


Frank’s wife, in the court room, shrank each time in
terror behind her escort, her face white as death.

Frank’s lawyers failed to raise the question of his ab-
sence at the time of the rendition of the verdict. They
did this at Frank’s request. That question favorably de-
cided would have released him to liberty without further
parley or proceedings. Frank wanted a new trial and
vindication. He thought as much of his honor as of his
life. Besides, his lawyers – and they were able ones –
assured him this constitutional question could be raised
at any time. They based this opinion on the decisions
of their courts for fifty years. But, alas for Frank, the
Supreme Court of Georgia decided differently in his case.
When the verdict was rendered, street-car employees
quit their street cars to join the crowds that cheered;
women in fashionable groups in Atlanta’s stores and at
semisocial functions clapped their hands. It was a Ro-
man holiday in Atlanta. The news of the verdict was
chalked up on the score board at a baseball game, and a
wild demonstration of approval ensued in the grand stand
and on the bleachers. Hundreds “cake-walked” for an
hour in front of the pencil factory of which Frank had
been the superintendent and where the girl had been mur-
dered. Telephone bells rang incessantly. “It looked
as if every man, woman, and child in Atlanta wanted to
use the telephone as soon as the verdict was rendered,”
said an official of the Southern Bell Telephone Company.
More than three times the number of telephone connec-
tions were called for on that Monday afternoon than on


any previous day in the history of the company in At-
lanta. A week after the trial a barbecue was given in
honor of the prosecuting attorney and the jury.
Let me quote from the Atlanta ” Constitution” a pen
picture of the scene around the courthouse when the ver-
dict was rendered:

“A veritable honeycomb of humanity spread over the sec-
tion from Whitehall to Central Avenue, on Hunter Street, and
from Alabama to Mitchell on Pryor. Men and women clung
to the walls of buildings and stood in doorways. Windows
were crowded with women and girls and children. It was as
though a street audience had gathered to watch an eventful
procession. The shrill orders of the mounted policemen rose
over the hum of the crowd. As the reporters at the telephone
shouted the verdict to their offices, the word came through the
windows. It was received with a shout. The cry of ‘guilty’
took flight from lip to lip. It traveled like the rattle of mus-
ketry. Then came a combined shout that rose to the sky.
Pandemonium reigned. Hats went into the air. Women wept
and shouted by turns. As Solicitor General Dorsey appeared
in the doorway of the courthouse, while the crowd yelled its
reception of the Frank verdict, there came a mighty roar.
The Solicitor reached no farther than the sidewalk. While
mounted men rode like Cossacks through the swarm, three
muscular men swung Mr. Dorsey (the prosecuting attorney)
on their shoulders and passed him over the heads of the crowd
across the street to his office. With hat raised and tears cours-
ing down his cheeks, the victor in Georgia’s most noted crim-
inal battle was tumbled over a shrieking throng that wildly
proclaimed its admiration. Few will live to see another such
The trial took place on the first floor of the old city
hall, which was used as a courthouse during the con-
struction of Atlanta’s new county building. It was dur-
ing the hottest days of summer. The windows were


open; the heads of men standing in the street were prac-
tically on a level with the sills of these open windows.
In an alley on one side of the court crowds of men sat
perched on the low roof of a shed ten feet behind the
judge and the witness chair, and looked directly into the
court room. Spectators inside the court room sat im-
mediately behind the jurors. The jurors themselves
could feel every pulsation of the crowd.
Time and again the crowd in the court room clapped
their hands and stamped their feet in approval of some
act of the prosecutor and laughed aloud at the objections
of Frank’s lawyers. Frank’s lawyers protested, but the
only relief the court gave was to direct the sheriff to
find out who was making the noise. When Frank’s
lawyers in the early stages of the trial called the names
of several Jewish ladies as character witnesses for Frank,
the crowd jeered and laughed. When, toward the end
of the thirty days’ trial, they moved the court for a mis-
trial on the ground of these various demonstrations of
applause and hisses- the clapping of hands, the stamp-
ing of feet, and the boisterous, sarcastic laughter in the
presence of the jury -the crowd jeered more uproar-
iously than before. The judge repeatedly but timidly
threatened, but the sheriff informed him in open court
that the only way order could be maintained was to
clear the room. I know how difficult it is to believe these
things – I doubted them myself at first – but they are
there in the printed record; and, however incredible it
may seem to the reader, I am understating rather than
overstating them.
When Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey, the prose-
ccuting attorney, was in the middle of his impassioned


argument, pointing out how this “fiendish degenerate ”
took Mary Phagan’s life, he held up the bloody clothes
before the jury and, dramatically pointing to them, said:
” I ask you to look at them – I ask you to look at them.”
In the tense stillness Mary Phagan’s mother uttered a
terrifying shriek. The crowd in the court room rose as
a man to their feet. The hands of numbers of these
men went to their pockets. Every bailiff in the room
instantly called out in excited tones: “Order! Or-
der! ” It was a critical moment. This gives only an
idea of the scene. As the prosecutor concluded his fiery
address to the jury, which, instead of being a calm
analysis of the testimony, was an appeal to passion and
prejudice, and tended to increase rather than to allay the
frenzy of the crowd, he dramatically repeated the words
“guilty, guilty, guilty.” With each ” guilty ” the bell
in a neighboring church simultaneously tolled, and the
superstitious crowd regarded it as Providential approval
of the words.

There is not a note in all the gamut of human pas-
sion that has not been sounded in the Frank case. There
is not a fabric of civilization which it does not touch
somewhere- the press, the courts, the police system,
labor and capital, racial prejudice, politics, the hue and
cry of the impassioned pack hungering for the blood of
their fellow. But for brevity, the heart of the Frank
case may be summed up in three words–politics, pre-
judice, and perjury.
Frank’s most ordinary movements, such as catching a
street car on this corner or on that, the lowering of his
head, the fashion of his hair, the rubbing of his hands,


the tone of his voice, the contour of his lips, were magni-
fied and lifted into glaring light, while every move of his
was under green and gullible suspicion. All the riff-
raff who love the garish light came forward with the
most unbelievable tales, which were given unquestioned
credence, and no one of any prominence dared to raise
his voice in behalf of common sense for fear of the same
white light of publicity, from which they shrank in such
a reeking mess. No one gave Frank credit for any inno-
cent purpose or unguilty motive. From the first, sus-
picion of guilt fastened on him; and three weeks later,
when the real murderer was discovered, the community
was greedy for the sacrifice of Frank.

Saturday, April 26, 19Q3, was Confederate Memorial
Day, when the veterans of Lee have their annual parade.
It was a dark, gloomy, overcast day. On the following
Sunday morning, at about half past three o’clock, the
body of Mary Phagan was discovered by Newt Lee,
a negro night watchman, in the cellar of the factory of
the National Pencil Company, at 37-39 South Forsyth
Street, in the heart of Atlanta. This factory employed
over a hundred girls. “When we looked at the body,”
swore one of the officers, “‘ Why,’ said I, ‘ for Heaven’s
sake, this is nothing but a child!’ ” The street lights
were just being turned out and day-light was breaking
as the officers left the building after their haunting in-
Mary Phagan lived in a suburb of Atlanta called Bell-
wood. She was considered the most beautiful girl in
her neighborhood, and was a general favorite. She


had impersonated the ” Sleeping Beauty” at a church
entertainment on the Christmas Eve before her death.
She was employed at the pencil factory, and worked in
the metal room on the second floor, but had not been at
work for several days, owing to a shortage of the metal
with which the pencils are tipped. She had taken a street
car near her home at 1 1:5O on the morning of
the day of the murder. She was dressed in holiday
fashion, and must have been rarely attractive. She
was on her way to the factory to draw the small
sum of $I.20 due her for the work she had done
during the previous fiscal week up to the time that
the metal tips had run out. The employees were
usually paid off on Saturdays at noon; but this Saturday
being a holiday, notices had been posted in the factory
that the help would be paid off on Friday evening. Not
having been at the factory, Mary had not seen this no-
tice, and reported at the usual hour on Saturday.

Leo Frank was the superintendent of the factory. He
was twenty-nine years old, and had been married to an
Atlanta girl of his own (Jewish) faith about two years.
He was born in Texas, but his parents removed to Brook-
lyn, N. Y., when Frank was but a few months old. He
is a graduate of Cornell. His father had been a travel-
ing salesman. Frank was a small stockholder in the
pencil concern. It had been his habit to go to the fac-
tory on holidays to catch up with his office work. So far
as he knew, if we accept his story, he was alone in the
factory at the time of Mary Phagan’s arrival, except for
two workmen who were doing some repair work on


the fourth floor and who were never connected with the
crime. Frank’s office was located on the second floor
with an entrance from the street by means of a stairway.
Frank swore that Mary Phagan arrived at his office, he
thought, between ten and fifteen minutes after twelve
noon. The State insisted that she was murdered be-
tween twelve and five minutes after twelve noon. In any
event, Mary Phagan is not known to have left the fac-
tory alive after entering it, though numerous persons
who said they knew her came forward immediately after
her death with story after story that they had seen her
on the street that night. One man who was raised with
her swore that he saw her near the pencil factory at
twelve o’clock that Saturday night in company with a
young man whom he also identified; that he called her
by her Christian name and that she answered in kind;
another positively swore that he saw Mary in company
with “a young Jew” in front of the pencil factory at
four o’clock that Saturday afternoon; but these were
undoubtedly of that class which the limelight of every
tragedy reflects. Her stepfather made the rounds of
the moving-picture shows, but failed to find Mary, and
neither he nor his wife slept that night. The next morn-
ing a rap at the door startled them, and the mother in-
stinctively sensed the truth. It was a chum of Mary’s,
who told them Mary had been murdered.
When Mary Phagan entered Frank’s office she asked
for her pay. Frank asked for her number, without ask-
ing her name, and, receiving it, went to the cash box,
identified the envelope by the number, according to the
company’s system, and handed the envelope to the little
girl. As Mary got to the door leading to the outer office


she turned and asked if the metal had arrived. Frank
told her “No.” He heard the sound of her footsteps
dying in the distance as Mary went downstairs. A mo-
ment later he had an impression that he heard a female
voice, but could not determine which direction it came
from, and paid no further attention.
When the officers, led by Newt Lee, found the body,
they were unable to tell, because of the cinders and saw-
dust which covered the face and hands, whether it was a
white girl or a colored girl. Her face was pitted and
seamed with indentations and scratches from the cinders,
a bank of which stretched along the side of the cellar
for a hundred feet or more. There had evidently been
a struggle. Her hat, one slipper, and her handkerchief
lay in widely different parts of the cellar. Her silver
mesh bag, containing her little money, was never found;
neither were the flowers or the ribbons that had been
stripped from her hat. The murderer apparently had
escaped from a sliding door in the rear of the basement,
forty feet from where the body was found. This door
led to an unfrequented alley. The inside hasp had been
pried off with an iron bar which lay by, and in the
haste of flight the door had been left open- wide
enough for a human exit. On the inside of this door
were the marks of bloody finger prints made in pushing
the sliding door back.
Frank and Newt Lee were both arrested and held as
suspects, together with several others, though the police,
the newspapers, and the people of Atlanta came to sharp


and instant conclusion as to Frank’s guilt. This can be
accounted for only on the theory that Frank was, accord-
ing to his own statement, the last one to see the girl alive
(if he had been guilty, as he pointed out afterward, this
would have been the last admission he would have made) ;
that he had asked the night watchman to report at four
o’clock in the afternoon of that holiday, and that when
the night watchman reported, he had told him he might
go out again and return at six; that on that same evening,
after going home, he had called the night watchman at
seven o’clock on the telephone and asked if everything
was all right at the factory. These things are still con-
vincing circumstances of Frank’s guilt in the opinion of
many Atlantans who early formed their opinions and
have not changed.
The public seemed to leap instantly to a conviction of
Frank’s guilt upon the first announcement of the crime
and of the fact that Frank had been in the building and
that he had telephoned Newt Lee, “a thing he had never
done before.”
But these facts were not the only things that made
against Frank. That he was an employer of cheap la-
bor aroused a strong feeling in certain quarters. The
South has taken grudgingly to the employment of its
white women in factories. The fact that Frank was a
Jew was another indictment against him; there was sold
on Atlanta’s streets a bit of doggerel verse in which the
murder of Mary Phagan was attributed to either “a
lustful Jew or a brutal negro,” and it sold like hot cakes.
The same stories, grisly and repulsive, that have been
bandied from tongue to tongue in the undercurrents of


masculine gossip about every historic degenerate were
told of Frank – and they traveled like wildfire, and were
believed, perhaps because they were new to Atlanta.
Again there were stories, facts, and suspicions that
found their way into the newspapers in floods. George
Epps, a youth of fifteen, who claimed to have been a
chum of Mary Phagan, swore at the coroner’s inquest, a
few days after the tragedy, that he had ridden to town
from Bellwood with Mary Phagan on the street car on
her way to the factory that Saturday. He said that on
that trip Mary told him of attempts Leo Frank had made
to flirt with her, and of apparent advances in which he
was daily growing bolder. ” She said she was getting
afraid. She wanted me to go to the factory every after-
noon in the future and escort her home. She didn’t like
the way Mr. Frank was acting toward her.”

These alleged remarks of Mary Phagan were not com-
petent evidence under well-known legal rules; but the
public accepted the story in perfect good faith at the time,
until months later, when at the trial young Epps swore
that he could tell time by the sun (although that
Memorial day was dark and cloudy) and that he knew
that Mary Phagan had got off the street car at seven
minutes past twelve by the sun. Thereafter when any
one in Atlanta wanted to describe a young liar, they said
“he’s a little Epps.” The motorman and conductor of
the car contradicted Epps as to his presence on the car
that morning with Mary; they knew her well and said
she was alone; some of Epps’ young friends have de-


dared that they saw him that morning riding to town
on an ice wagon. An Atlanta “Georgian” reporter who
interviewed young Epps and his sister on the day the
body of Mary Phagan was discovered, swore that young
Epps then said that he occasionally rode to town with
Mary Phagan on the car, but said nothing about being
on the car with her that Saturday. Young Epps had an
overweening fondness for putting himself in the lime-
light even in his own neighborhood. He is now in the
Georgia Reformatory.
The police gave to the newspapers mysterious hints of
telephone operatives who were prepared to swear to
certain damaging conversations over the pencil factory
line on the night of the tragedy, and of Mary Phagan
having been called over the telephone to come to the fac-
tory; but these witnesses never materialized at the trial.
A woman of the underworld, whose connection with the
police of Atlanta is beyond dispute, came forward with
the most circumstantial story of how Frank had re-
peatedly telephoned her that Saturday night between
6.30 and io o’clock, begging for a room, that he wanted
a room at her place because he implicitly trusted her;
that it was a case of life and death- and this over the
telephone. She declared that Frank had been a frequent
visitor at her house, and that since his arrest she had had
a secret conference with him in the jail. She also swore
that she had been offered large sums of money to leave
the city. As a matter of fact, there was a card party at
Frank’s house that night, and there were a dozen guests
in the room where the telephone was located. Also,
Frank’s telephone was on a different system from this


woman’s telephone. But the public did not know these
facts, Frank, by the advice of his counsel, remaining
silent during all these developments.
Stories of Frank’s alleged philandering, utterly in-
consistent with the conduct of his whole life, filled the
air, every one of which was later–but too late-
proved to have not the slightest foundation in fact.
Frank was practically a stranger in Atlanta, unknown ex-
cept to a small circle. He is of a rather shy, nervous,
and intellectual temperament. He and his wife lived
with Mrs. Frank’s parents. On account of real or
fancied racial prejudice, the Jewish people of Atlanta
move altogether in their own religious-social set. Frank
was president of the local B’nai Brith, a charitable and
fraternal organization. He had lived in the city less
than five years. The public from the beginning seemed
ready to believe anything about this young Jewish
stranger from the North. One slander was multiplied
into a hundred, and all were accepted without question
in the state of public fanaticism.
Among the suspects was a colored man named “Jim”
Conley, who had been arrested on the Thursday succeed-
ing the murder because of the fact that he was seen
washing a shirt in the factory. He was a floor sweeper
employed on the fourth floor. Conley lay in jail for
three weeks, almost forgotten, while the whirlwind of
calumny had been swirling about Frank’s head. Then
it was discovered that Conley could write. The signifi-
cance of this discovery is explained by the fact that near
the body of Mary Phagan were found a pencil and two


pieces of paper, on which were written a note or notes,
addressed to Mary Phagan’s mother, which the murdered
girl was “supposed” to have written, and in which she
told her mother how she was murdered, giving a physical
description of the person who, according to the notes,
murdered her. This description was exactly the reverse
of “Jim” Conley’s physical characteristics. The notes
described the murderer as a “long, tall, sleam, black
negro.” Conley is short and stout, with a “ginger-
cake” complexion. These notes are here reproduced
with several unprintable words elided.
One note read (in pencil) : “Main that negro hire (d)
down here did this i went to . . . and he push (ed) me
down that hole a long tall negro black that hoo it wase
long sleam tall nekro . . .”
This note was crowded toward the extreme bottom
edge of the page, and was therefore evidently the first
note, and the writer did not have room on this page to
finish; either that, or he was possessed by a desire to
emphasize-still more strongly the physical characteristics
of the “murderer.” The other, or second note (in
pencil read: “… but that long tall black negro did
buy his slef.”
One of the first efforts of the police was to locate
the author of these notes. In pursuance of this purpose,
each of six suspects, among them Frank and Newt Lee,
were required to write portions of the notes for compari-
son of handwriting. All of the suspects gave specimens
of their handwriting without hesitation except Conley,
who claimed that be could not write. The proof that he
could write was finally furnished after three weeks by
Frank, who did not know that Conley’s handwriting had


not been compared with the handwriting of the “murder
notes,” or that Conley had denied that he could write –
the police had kept these facts to themselves- but the
credit of the discovery was denied to Frank at the time
and claimed by the police with sensational flourish, in a
full-page newspaper story, as a clever piece of clairvoy-
ant detective work. There is no doubt that Conley was a
keenly surprised negro when he discovered from the
newspapers (for he could read, although he denied that
too) that the police were looking, not for the “long, tall,
sleam, black negro ” described in the notes, but for the
one who wrote the notes.

A bank teller supposed to be an expert declared that
these notes were in the handwriting of Newt Lee, the
negro night watchman; another bank official in Atlanta
declared they were in the disguised handwriting of Leo
Frank. One expert declared that the notes were written
by the murderer, “a shrewd man, with intent to reflect
guilt upon an illiterate negro.” Thus again was public
suspicion directed against Frank. This was before the
discovery that Conley could write. These notes were,
as a matter of fact, in the handwriting of “Jim ” Con-
ley, as he afterward confessed, though up to the time of
the trial he insisted that one of the notes was written by
Frank and the other by himself. But the notes were so
obviously in the handwriting of the same person that the
police made him change his story before the trial, as they
admitted they had made him change it in many other re-


Conley’s presence in the factory was unknown and
unsuspected by everyone connected with the unravelment
of the mystery until May 28, ten days after it was dis-
covered he could write. During all that time he denied
having been at the factory that day – in strong contrast
to Frank, who promptly stated he had seen the little
girl at the factory and had paid her off. Frank was
indicted after the police and the prosecutor knew that
Conley had admitted the authorship of the “murder
notes,” but the Grand Jury was not advised of this fact.
The police had already given the public to understand
that they had overwhelming evidence of Frank’s guilt.
” Jim” Conley, obliged to acknowledge authorship of
the “murder notes” by the knowledge of the police that
he could write, and by a comparison of the “murder
notes” with his handwriting, finally admitted that he was
at the factory on Saturday. This admission was made
after the visit to the jail of a woman witness who saw a
negro in the factory entrance that day. During this
visit Conley was noticeably nervous. One of the officers
testified that he “chewed his lips and twirled a cigarette
in his fingers; he didn’t seem to know how to hold onto
it; he could not keep his feet still.” Conley had no mis-
sion at the factory that day, unless his story was true,
that he was there at Frank’s direction, fortified with a
bottle of cheap whisky, to see that nobody entered the
factory during Frank’s ” flirtations.” Frank was to give
a certain signal from the second floor by stamping with
his feet, when the front door downstairs was to be
locked until such time as he whistled “all right,” when
the door was to be unlocked.


If Mary Phagan went down the stairway that noon, as
Frank declared, then she was in plain view, with her
silver mesh bag in her hand, of this intoxicated, lust-
ful, improvident, and impecunious negro, who lay con-
cealed all that morning in the shadow of a pile of pack-
ing boxes stacked at the foot of the stairway. This en-
trance was always dark even with a burning gas jet, but
on that Saturday it was darker than usual because of the
lowering day without and because, being a holiday, the
gas was extinguished. At the foot of the stairway was
an elevator shaft which led to the still darker cellar or
basement, and alongside of this elevator shaft was also
a trap door leading to the basement by means of a ladder
– the “hole ” referred to in one of the “murder notes,”
if my theory of this crime is correct; for the negro made
the notes in part tell truth, just as he made his main
story in part tell truth.
On the Saturday of the murder, notwithstanding it
was a holiday, Frank, who was all attention to business,
had gone to the factory to catch up with his work.
Several people were in and out of the office during the
morning. From three o’clock in the afternoon, when
Frank returned from his lunch, until six (the State con-
tended that Mary Phagan was murdered on the second
floor between twelve o’clock noon and five minutes after
twelve) he was alone in the office working on a financial
sheet which it was his custom to mail each Saturday to
the stockholders of the concern. This sheet, according
to the computation of experts, necessarily occupied him at


least three hours. It was in Frank’s handwriting, with-
out a trace of nervousness, and with but one slight error
in the entire calculation. Both sides practically admitted
that it would have been physically impossible to have pre-
pared this sheet in his own handwriting that afternoon
if Frank had murdered the girl at noon. Frank was
nervous after the discovery of the body next morning –
as indeed was everybody else. The factory had to be
closed down on Monday because of hysteria among the
women employees. He could therefore hardly have been
the abnormal creature to have performed this piece of
intricate calculation and pencraft without trace of nerv-
ousness or confusion. The State, therefore, ineffectually
endeavored to show that this work was done in the morn-
ing. There was, however, the testimony of too many
witnesses who had been in and out of the office that day
before Frank left for lunch to have left this matter in
any doubt. After completing this statement, Frank
wrote a letter in his own handwriting to his uncle, the
president of the pencil company, who had just gone
North and was stopping at the Hotel McAlpin in New
York, on his way to Europe. That letter is here set out
because Solicitor General Dorsey, in his argument to the
jury, insisted that certain sentences in it were strong in-
dications of guilt:
“ATLANTA, GA., April 26, 1913.
“DEAR UNcLE -I trust that this finds you and dear Tante
(Aunt) well after arriving safely in New York. I hope that
you found all the dear ones well in Brooklyn and I await a
letter from you telling me how you find things there. Lucile
and I are well.
“It is too short a time since you left for anything startling


to have developed down here. The opera has Atlanta in its
grip, but that ends to-day. I’ve heard a rumor that opera will
not be given again in a hurry here.
“To-day was ‘yontiff’ (holiday) here, and the thin gray
line of veterans, smaller each year, braved the rather chilly
weather to do honor to their fallen comrades.
“Inclosed you will find last week’s report. The shipments
still keep up well, though the result is not what one would
wish. There is nothing new in the factory, etc., to report.
Inclosed please find the price list you desired.
“The next letter from me you should get on board ship.
After that I will write to the address you gave me in Frank-
“With much love to you both, in which Lucile joins me, I
“Your affectionate nephew,
Perhaps I can best give the reader an idea of the kind
of “evidence” produced against Frank, and of the ab-
solutely unfounded and ridiculous suspicions against him
by quoting here from the printed argument of Solicitor
General Dorsey to the jury:
“Now here is a sentence that is pregnant with signifi-
cance, which bears the earmarks of the guilty conscience;
tremulous as he wrote it? No, he could shut his eyes and
write and make up a financial sheet -he’s capable and
smart, wonderfully endowed intellectually, but here’s
a sentence that, if I know human nature and know the
conduct of the guilty conscience, and whatever you may
say about whether or not he prepared the financial sheet
on Saturday morning, here’s a document I’ll concede was
written when he knew that the body of little Mary Pha-
gan, who died for virtue’s sake, lay in the dark recesses
of that basement. ‘ It is too short a time,’ he says, ‘since


you left for anything startling to have developed down
here.’ Too short! Too short! Startling! But ‘too
short a time,’ and that itself shows that the dastardly
deed was done in an incredibly short time. And do you
tell me, honest men, fair men, courageous men, true
Georgians seeking to do your duty, that that phrase,
penned by that man to his uncle on Saturday afternoon,
didn’t come from a conscience that was its own accuser?
“It is too short a time since you left for anything startling
to have developed down here.’ What do you think of
that? . . . And do you tell me that this old gentleman,
expecting to sail for Europe, the man who wanted the
price list and financial sheet, cared anything for those old
heroes in gray? And isn’t this sentence itself signifi-
cant? ‘To-day was yontiff (holiday) here, and the thin
gray line of veterans here braved the rather chilly weather
to do honor to their fallen comrades’; and this from Leo
M. Frank, the statistician, to the old man, the millionaire,
or nearly so, who cared so little about the thin gray line
of veterans, but who cared all for how much money had
been gotten in by the pencil factory. . . . I tell you that
that letter shows on its face that something startling had
happened, and that there was something new in the fac-
tory, and I tell you that that rich uncle, then supposed
to be with his kindred in Brooklyn, didn’t care a flip of
his finger about the thin gray line of veterans.”
If there is any evidence of guilt in this letter, then one
might be convicted on circumstantial evidence for reciting
the Lord’s prayer. The truth is that Frank’s uncle was
himself a Confederate soldier, although, of course,
neither Solicitor-General Dorsey nor the jury knew this.
Frank explained that the reason he had asked Newt


Lee to report at four o’clock on Saturday was that he was
to have gone to the ball game; but that on account of the
raw day and the accumulation of work he didn’t go.
There was therefore no occasion for the services of the
watchman, and when he came, the day being a holiday,
he had told Lee he might go out and return at six.
On leaving the factory that night at six, Frank had
found at the street entrance, in conversation with the
watchman, a man named Gantt, a former timekeeper and
chief clerk at the factory, who had been discharged by
Frank some days before because of a cash shortage which
Gantt had refused to make good. The night watchman
himself testified that Frank had told him that he had dis-
charged Gantt, that he didn’t want him around the fac-
tory, and for Lee to watch him if he saw him around.
Gantt was a large man, “six feet two inches,” who
had just come across the street from a saloon and was ap-
parently intoxicated. He wished to get into the factory
to get an old pair of shoes which he said he left there.
Lee swore that he thought Frank looked startled when he
ran into Gantt at the door, but explained that he thought
Frank feared that Gantt “might do him dirt.” After
some hesitation, Frank told Lee to go into the factory
with Gantt, to see that he got his shoes, to see him out,
and then to lock up.

Frank explained that immediately on his arrival home,
and at half-past six, he had called Lee on the telephone,
but was unable to get him; that he again called him at
seven o’clock when Lee, who was supposed to punch the
register at that hour, would be sure to be in the neighbor-


hood of the telephone; that he had asked if Gantt was
gone and if everything was all right at the factory, and
that Lee had answered both questions in the affirmative.
Frank further explained that Lee had been in the em-
ploy of the factory less than three weeks at the time, and
that in addition to the unwelcome presence of Gantt in
the factory that night, it was not unusual ‘for him to call
up the watchman, as former watchmen well knew; that
the factory had no regular nocturnograph, with stations
in different parts of the factory where the night watch-
man would be compelled to punch; and that having only
the regular register, it had been his custom to call the
watchman on various pretexts, even as late as eleven
o’clock at night, for the purpose of assuring himself that
the watchman was in the factory, awake and alert; and
that other officials of the factory as well as himself had
been in the habit of doing this. Lee, in fact, admitted
that Mrs. Frank, as well as the bookkeeper, had rung him
up in the three weeks he had been there. Negro help
is not the most reliable in the world, and there was in
the factory, in addition to the danger from fire, valuable
secret machinery which it was necessary to safeguard.
That Frank’s anxiety was not wholly unjustified was
proved by the fact that Gantt hung around the factory
some time and went into the office and used the telephone
while he was there.
Dismissing for the moment the psychology of the
“murder notes ” and the story of Conley’s doings on that
Saturday, let us turn to the developments which moved
the police to place Conley’s apparent guilt on Frank, and
to make Conley the crooked, unstable, crumbling, broken
rod of Justice.

WITH the finding of the body of Mary Phagan that
Sunday morning there began in Atlanta a public
delirium, which has hardly yet, after a year and a half,
subsided. There had been some sixteen or eighteen
women murdered in Atlanta in the previous two or three
years, most of them colored women. None of the mur-
derers had been caught. Two white women, charged
with the murders of their husbands, had recently been
acquitted by Atlanta juries. Back in 19o6 there had
been a riot, growing out of assaults and murders of white
women, in which some fifty negroes had been shot or
beaten to death on the streets of Atlanta.
Immediately after the Phagan murder the Mayor of
the city called a special meeting of the City Council to
consider the murder, and the Council offered a reward
of $i,ooo. The rewards offered aggregated $4,300.00
The Mayor urged the chief of police to caution his men
to keep the crowds moving on the streets and to quickly
disperse gatherings where the Phagan tragedy was the
topic of discussion.
The newspapers had editorials calling on the police
officials to find the murderer or murderers of Mary
Phagan, or suffer the political consequences. The At-
lanta Constitution said editorially two days after the
discovery of Mary Phagan’s body:
” The detective force and the entire police authorities
of Atlanta are on probation in the detection and arrest


of this criminal with proof. To justify the confidence
that is placed in them and the relation they are assumed
to hold toward law and order, they must locate this arch-
murderer …. If ever the men who ferret crime and
uphold the law in Atlanta are to justify their function,
it must be in apprehending the assailant and murderer
of Mary Phagan.”
Another newspaper expressed the same thought in a
cartoon in which the spirit of the community was pic-
tured in a figure pointing dramatically and underneath
the words: ” Solve it.” This newspaper hysteria was
but one element in the storm cloud of passion and poli-
tics which surrounded the case.
The police, panic-stricken by their own sense of of-
ficial incompetency, as shown by full-page newspaper ac-
counts of Atlanta murders now recalled that had never
been traced, and goaded by public clamor and the ridi-
cule by the newspapers of their former failures, sought
to appease public wrath by the immediate arrest of two
men, the one who had seen Mary Phagan last alive, and
the one who had discovered the body. That at first
they believed Newt Lee guilty is proved by the fact that
they got access to Newt Lee’s house, and that on the
next day a “bloody” shirt belonging to Lee was found
by them in a trash barrel in Lee’s house. A scientific
examination of this shirt disclosed that it had been
clumsily smeared.
The police, finally convinced of Lee’s innocence, now
centered their attention on Frank, and the fact that Frank
was a Jew added fuel to the popular indignation, and
culminated in a blaze of racial prejudice which charred
all footprints of the crime.


“No Jew in modern times,” said Colonel Pendleton
H. Brewster, a law partner of Solicitor General Dorsey,
who prosecuted Frank, “has been persecuted as this Jew
has been.”
“Tom” Watson’s magazine, the Jeffersonian, which
is published near Atlanta, said:
“Our little girl – ours by the eternal God! has been
pursued to a hideous death and bloody grave by this
filthy perverted Jew of New York.”
When William J. Burns, by the dexterous ruse of his
Southern manager, Dan Lehon, escaped from the mob
about to hang him at Marietta, the former home of Mary
Phagan, the leader of the gathering crowd approached
Burns, shouting: ” Is that you, Burns? Is that Wil-
liam J. Burns, the man who sold out to the Jews ?” and
the Jeffersonian, justifying the action of the mob, said
that Burns ” came boastingly confident, and virtually say-
ing that the rich Jews of Atlanta, New. York, and Chi-
cago would not allow Frank to be hanged.” (All above
italics are Watson’s, not mine.)
The Solicitor General, though adroitly paying a tribute
to the Jewish race in his argument to the jury, pointed
out that “when Becker wished to put to death his bitter
enemy, it was men of Frank’s race he selected.” He re-
ferred to Abe Hummel, “the lawyer who went to the
penitentiary in New York,” and Abe Ruef, “who went
to the penitentiary in San Francisco.”

We have seen how there came forth the stories of
witnesses” from the brothels and dives. A little girl
was sent to a reformatory in Cincinnati. The story was


circulated that Frank was responsible for her downfall.
The police approached another girl who had fallen and
endeavored to get her to swear that Frank was respon-
sible for her disgrace. A former forewoman of the
pencil factory made affidavit after Frank’s conviction
that three of the detectives prominent in gathering evi-
dence against Frank sought to have her give certain scan-
dalous testimony against Frank.
Another young woman made affidavit that one of these
same detectives tried to get her to tell the same story
her married sister afterward did tell at the coroner’s
inquest regarding Frank. Many people in Atlanta be-
lieve that on the walls of Frank’s office was an art gal-
lery of lewd pictures. The only foundation for this
story was a business calendar illuminated with a pretty
face. These stories convicted Frank in the public mind.
During the time these lies were being published Dr.
Marx, the Jewish rabbi, went to the editor of one of
Atlanta’s newspapers and protested against their pub-
lication. At the conclusion of the interview the editor
said: “Anyhow, if we don’t publish these things the
other papers will, and we can’t afford to be scooped.”
The police were diligently at work overlooking no op-
portunity to fasten guilt on Frank, when an incident
occurred which made it impossible for them to retrace
their steps.
Frank had employed the Pinkerton Detective Agency
to ferret out the murder the Monday following the crime.
His motive in doing this, as he stated, was that the pub-
lic feeling was running so high in Atlanta that the public
would naturally expect the pencil company to do every-
thing in its power to help solve the mystery, and that this


feeling was in accord with his own sentiments. But in
this he was fated to misconstruction. Solicitor General
Dorsey, on the trial and in his argument before the Su-
preme Court of Georgia, insisted that Frank had em-
ployed the Pinkertons as a blind to cover up his own
guilt, and that his employment of the Pinkertons was
one of the strongest links in the chain of evidence
against him. Like many other innocent moves of Frank
and his counsel, made in the cloud of suspicion that sur-
rounded them, the employment of the Pinkertons was
unfortunate for Frank.

An ordinance of the city of Atlanta makes city detec-
tives of all private detective operatives and subjects them
to police supervision and control. No private detective
agency can operate in the city of Atlanta without the
consent of the Board of Police Commissioners. The de-
tective agency, therefore, that runs counter to the Police
Department of Atlanta forfeits, at the pleasure of the
police, its right to do business in that city. This ordi-
nance was one of the factors in the conviction of Frank.
L. P. Whitfield, a Pinkerton operative at the time of
the investigation into the murder of Mary Phagan, has
stated under oath that Harry Scott, the assistant super-
intendent of the Pinkertons in Atlanta, told him that
“unless the Jew is convicted the Pinkerton Detective
Agency would have to get out of Atlanta.”
When, after the trial, William J. Burns undertook a
personal investigation of the Frank case at the earnest
solicitation of Frank’s friends, the police of Atlanta re-
voked the license of the Burns detectives to do business


in Atlanta, and drove that agency out of the State. On
the trial of Frank, Harry Scott swore that it was the
policy of his agency in criminal cases to work with the
police of the various cities. “We never clash over
views,” said Scott.
It will be remembered that when Mary Phagan left
Frank’s office, she inquired if the metal for the metal
tips had come. Frank had replied ” No.” The girl
would, ordinarily, therefore, have gone on her way. But
it was necessary to the theory of the State that Frank
and the girl should, for some reason, have gone back to
the metal room in the rear of the second floor. How
to get the two there was the dilemma. Detective Harry
Scott of the Pinkertons swore on the stand at the trial
that when Frank interviewed him about Scott’s employ-
ment in the case, he had told Scott that he had replied
to the girl “I don’t know.” although Frank had always
declared that he had replied “No” and others heard
him. Scott, in his written reports of this conversation
both to the attorneys and to the police at the time, as
well as in his testimony at the coroner’s inquest, stated
that Frank said that he had replied “No,” but on the
trial Scott explained that his “No” meant “I don’t
know.” He said it was a “grammatical” error – and
this was the man Frank had employed to ferret out the
murder. The whole case just drips with such perver-
sions of the truth.
Frank having replied “I don’t know,” the State ar-
gued that he had gone back to the metal room with Mary
Phagan to see if the metal had arrived, and there the
incidents leading to the murder and the murder itself
had occurred.


The Mayor of the city was at loggerheads with the
police officials. Just before Mary Phagan was mur-
dered there had been much talk and rumors of graft on
the part of the Atlanta police, and a public investigation
had been threatened. Atlanta had grown from a popu-
lation of 87,000 in 19oo to a population of 200,000 in
1913. The heads of the police force were the crude
product of a small city suddenly burgeoned into metro-
politan greatness.
Associated in a way with the Mayor in his fight against
alleged police graft was Colonel Thomas B. Felder, the
man who is generally credited with having procured the
release of Charles W. Morse from the Federal prison at
Atlanta. Felder is a lawyer of prominence and repre-
sents very large interests throughout the country. He
had worked in conjunction with William J. Burns in ex-
posing the dispensary frauds in South Carolina. He
claimed to have been employed in the Frank case by
certain neighbors of Mary Phagan’s parents. Felder
brought to Atlanta a Burns representative in the person
of C. W. Tobie of Chicago, an expert investigator in
criminal matters. Also he sought to secure from Mary
Phagan’s step-father written authority for his own em-
ployment in order to secure professional entrance into
the case.
There was in Atlanta about this time a certain ad-
venturer of national note named Arthur S. Colyar, the
son of one of Tennessee’s best citizens. He was one of
the strangest and most mysterious figures that appeared
in all the Frank case, and his exit was as mysterious as
his entrance into the case. His rascalities cover the
whole country, and some of his exploits are as remark-


able as the man is mysterious. He was lawyer, detective
and newspaper man. He had served time in prison, and
had later studied for the ministry. He had figured crook-
edly in the Molineaux murder case in New York. This
man, who was working with the police on the Frank
case, is the putative author of the degenerate theory,
which aroused so much feeling in the beginning against
Frank. An Atlanta woman swore that Colyar offered
her a large sum of money if she would swear to certain
acts of shocking indecency toward her on the part of
Colyar inveigled Felder into a room in the Williams
House No. 2 in Atlanta, where they met the secretary
of Chief Lanford of the Atlanta detective bureau. In
this room, it was alleged, there was a dictagraph, and
the alleged dictagraph report was given to the news-
papers. According to this report, Felder had tried to
bribe the secretary of Chief Lanford of the Detective
Bureau to procure for him a certain affidavit obtained
by the police from J. W. Coleman, the step-father of
Mary Phagan, in which Coleman declared that he had
not employed Felder to represent him; that Felder had
sought to inject himself into the case, and had offered
to work without fee from Coleman, claiming that others,
whom he did not name, had promised to pay his
The only plausible purpose of this alleged dictagraph
exposure was to ridicule Felder in the public mind and
to destroy any possible usefulness he might have in the
Frank case- and it did that most effectively. Why
Felder should have offered to pay $i,ooo, as the police
claimed, for an affidavit which the police could have im-


mediately duplicated, does not clearly appear. It has al-
ways been a riddle.
Felder, gored into frenzied reply to the dictagraph
revelations, gave out a public statement in which he said
that the publication of the story was “but the symptom
or manifestation of one of the most diabolical conspira-
cies ever hatched by a venal and corrupt ‘system’ to
protect crime in a civilized community.” He alleged
that this conspiracy was formed immediately after the
arrest of Newt Lee and Leo Frank; that the whole police
system of Atlanta was as dangerous to society as the
“bloody and deadly society of the Mafia.” He charged
that he had seen a list of “blind tigers” and immoral
resorts which in consideration of monthly bribes, were
receiving police protection.
“I would have the good people of this community
know,” said Col. Felder, “that from the day and hour
of the arrest of Lee and Frank, charged with the mur-
der of little Mary Phagan, Newport Lanford and his
co-conspirators have left ‘no stone unturned’ in their
efforts to shield and protect these suspects, and I shall
demonstrate later the truth of this statement with so
much clearness that ‘he who runs may read.'” This
pledge was never made good; for with this fulmination,
Col. Felder subsided, and retired from the scene. Fel-
der declared that Colyar had told him “that the city de-
tective force was engaged in suppressing evidence in the
Phagan case; that they were in a conspiracy with the
Pinkertons, who had been employed by Frank to inves-
tigate the case, and that they had entered into a con-
spiracy to thwart the efforts of the Burns Agency and
myself in the investigation in progress. . .. .That Lan-


ford had arrested a negro by the name of Conley, and
had held him at the police station for two or three weeks,
and had extorted from the negro a confession to the
effect that he himself had killed Mary Phagan, and that
Newt Lee and Frank were neither participants in the
murder nor had knowledge thereof.”
Even Allan Pinkerton, the head of the Pinkerton De-
tective Agency, felt called upon to enter a denial of Fel-
der’s charges that the Pinkertons were protecting Frank.
Harry Scott, the local Pinkerton man, assured the pub-
lic that he had all along proceeded on the theory of
Frank’s guilt; that he had conclusive evidence against
Frank not yet made public, which would be forthcoming
at the trial. The police also hastened to assure the pub-
lic that not only had they been working vigorously to
convict Frank, which was literally true, but that they
had the absolute evidence of his guilt. If they could
convict Frank and confute Felder, they would restore
themselves to the good graces of the public and avoid
the impending graft investigation, which was the thing
they most feared. And to cap the climax of this acci-
dental conspiracy of which Frank was the victim, and
to which the entire community was now unwittingly com-
mitted, the Burns representative packed his trunk and
left town declaring that he also was a firm believer in
the guilt of Frank. The plot was thickening about
Frank with as deadly certainty as if irresistibly drawn
by a lodestone, and with a harmony of climax that would
have done credit to the genius of a Belasco. Of this
side issue, so unfortunate for Frank, and for which he
was in no way responsible, the Atlanta Constitution said:
” One thing is certain -it means one of the bitterest


fights for control of the city government that Atlanta has
ever known. A singular fact it is that this war of fac-
tions should have grown out of the murder of an inno-
cent child.”
About a week before the Colyar-Felder-Lan ford scan-
dal broke, the police discovered that Conley could write,
and must have known from a comparison of his hand-
writing that he was the author of the “murder notes “;
but they kept this information to themselves. Five days
before Felder’s explosion, they did, however, give out a
statement, after Conley had been under arrest for three
weeks, that Conley was under suspicion; that he had
made the statement at the time of his arrest that he had
stayed at the home of his mother on the night of the
murder, but that his mother had contradicted this. This
statement put the public on knowledge that the police,
despite their declarations, were not altogether satisfied
with the evidence against Frank, and had others under
It is not at all unlikely that they had already secured
a confession from Conley, as intimated by Felder. They
had, however, already given the public to understand that
Frank was unquestionably guilty, and they had abso-
lutely convinced the public that Frank was a degenerate,
when this happened; and now Felder had accused them
of trying to protect Frank. Would the public temper
tolerate another confession of bungling incompetence on
their part? Could they drop the case against Frank and
be certain of the conviction of Conley? After all, Con-
ley was only a friendless negro, and to convict a mere
negro of this crime, after the carnival of sensation and
the mystery that had surrounded it, would make them the


butt of the community and hasten the graft investigation
and the consequent political overthrow which above
everything else they feared. Besides, thanks to their
campaign of slander, the community was now in full
cry after the “lustful Jew.” It was impossible for them
to turn back. It would be easy to convince the public
that Frank had procured Conley to write the “murder
notes” because the public was already convinced of
Frank’s guilt. They determined that the sacrifice of
Frank was necessary to save themselves.
They secured an order of court, and took Conley from
the cell where he was confined in the county jail, locally
known as “The Tower,” in the custody of the Sheriff,
and placed him under their own watchful scrutiny at
police headquarters, where, day after day and week after
week, they put him through his facings. They tinkered
with Conley’s story, soldering it here and filing it there,
until it was shaped into a semblance of truth. That it
was a hard task, no one who reads the testimony and the
variations of the negro’s story as given out from day
to day by the police will deny. After one of these
numerous statements had been given out to the public,
Conley said: “It is the truth, the whole truth, and I
hope to God that He strikes me dead this very instant if
it ain’t “- and the next day he had changed his story.
The remarkable thing is that Solicitor-General Dorsey
actually told me that the oftener the negro changed his
story, the more reliable it was likely to be; that it was
a constitutional habit of a negro to keep on lying until
he finally lit on the truth.
Meanwhile, the Formby woman, the keeper of the
questionable house who had made affidavit that Frank


had repeatedly telephoned her on the night of the mur-
der between 6:3o and io o’clock asking for a room and
saying it was a case of life and death, mysteriously dis-
appeared from Atlanta, and her whereabouts is unknown.
The police announced that they would produce her at
the trial, but they did not. Her story would not fit in
with Conley’s. Solicitor-General Dorsey accepted the
theory that Frank was at home that night, and argued
to the jury that he had deliberately repeated to the com-
pany, as testified to by some of the witnesses, a humor-
ous story he had just read in a magazine, in order to
hide the nervousness he must have felt in the knowl-
edge that Mary Phagan then lay dead at his hands in
the factory basement.
Let us turn now to Frank, who all this time, by the
advice of his lawyers, was sitting mute in his cell-
“The Silent Man in the Tower,” as the newspapers
called him.
On the morning of the discovery of the body, the po-
lice called up Frank’s house, but were unable to get any
response. The telephone was on the first floor in the
dining-room, and the family slept on the second floor.
Frank said that some time during the night he had a
dreamy, indistinct impression that he had heard the tele-
phone ring. It was not until seven o’clock in the morn-
ing that he answered the call. The family slept later
than usual on Sunday morning. Frank was then told
that he was wanted at the pencil factory “right away.”
He replied that he hadn’t had any breakfast, and asked
where the night-watchman was. He was told in short
manner that it was very necessary for him to come at
once, and that hn automobile would be at once sent for


him. The officer who telephoned swore that Frank did
not ask what had happened. Frank swore that he asked:
“What’s the trouble? Has there been a fire?” and that
the officer replied, “No, a tragedy.”
When the officers arrived at Frank’s house, Mrs. Frank
came to the door in a bathrobe, and a second later Frank
stepped to the door “from behind a curtain.” “His
voice was hoarse and trembling, and he was nervous and
excited; he looked to me like he was pale,” swore one
of the officers. The police officials were even then sus-
picious of Frank, though they did not at that time know
that Frank had seen the girl at noon of the previous day,
and had paid her off. I asked Solicitor-General Dorsey
why the officers were so prematurely suspicious of Frank.
“Well,” he said, “when the officers got to the house
on Sunday morning, both Mr. and Mrs. Frank came
to the door; that was a suspicious circumstance. Then
Frank was apparently nervous; he ran his hands through
his hair; he was hoarse – and you know,” continued the
Solicitor, “that according to the accepted works on
criminology, those are strong circumstances of guilt.”
In Solicitor-General Dorsey’s brief in the Supreme
Court of Georgia occurs this almost incredible language:
” Isn’t it significant that the wife and husband both
answered the door-bell? Is it not significant that the
wife, undressed, came to the door first, and was followed
by the husband ‘dressed for the street’? ”
After Frank got into the automobile, he was told that
Mary Phagan had been found dead in the pencil factory
(she had meanwhile been identified by one of the other
girls who worked at the factory) and was asked if he
knew the girl. He said he didn’t know any girl by the


name of Mary Phagan; that he knew very few of the.
employees by name outside of the office force. It was
then suggested that they drive to the undertaker’s. As
they left the undertaker’s, Frank told the officers that he
thought he recognized the girl as one that he had paid
off at the factory on the day before, and that he could
tell her name by a reference to his cash book. They
went to the factory, and, referring to the number of her
pay-envelope, Frank looked at his book and found that
her name was Mary Phagan.
Much was made of Frank’s nervousness on the morn-
ing of the tragedy. He is of a highly nervous tempera-
ment. He was condemned afterwards during his trial
for his lack of nervousness. He could not be blamed
for becoming calloused under the injustices that were
heaped on him from the beginning to the end of this
tragedy. Every time that Frank was said by one of
the witnesses to have rubbed his hands (a nervous habit
of his) or stroked the back of his head, Solicitor-Gen-
eral Dorsey in his brief in the Supreme Court of Georgia
underscored these words. Evidently they were to his
supersuspicious mind most incriminating circumstances
of guilt. ” How did he breathe?” asked Dorsey of one
witness. “Very heavily.” “How did he swallow?”
“Very deep swallows.” What convincing evidence!
Even at the very inception of the case, these exagger-
ated suspicions were directed against this defenseless Jew.
The inquest was in fact not an inquest into the death of
Mary Phagan, but an inquest on every innocent movement
of Frank’s on the day of the murder, for it apparently had
already been decided to fasten guilt on him. Every one
that attempted to tell the truth in his favor was brow-


beaten. His stenographer was subjected to rigid cross-
examination and repeatedly told to be careful about what
she swore to. On the Sunday morning that the officers
went to Frank’s house, and refused to tell him what had
happened until after they had left the house, Frank
asked if he might take time to get a cup of coffee. His
wife was the first to suggest it to the officers. The offi-
cers refused to let him have his coffee. Again at the
factory Frank asked if he might not get some coffee.
“Out of all the men that morning at the factory,” said
Solicitor-General Dorsey, in his type-written brief in the
Supreme Court, which he himself handed me to read,
“Out of all the men at the factory, Frank was the only
one who called for coffee.” Think of a man being con-
victed on that kind of evidence, and on appeal having a
prosecutor make it a part of his written argument and
brief !
On the trial Solicitor-General Dorsey was allowed to
prove that Newt Lee was not nervous at the time of the
discovery of the body and afterwards, and he did prove
it. This was for the purpose of showing that Frank was
guilty because he was nervous and Newt Lee wasn’t.
And yet at the coroner’s inquest one of the officers swore
that Newt Lee, when he was taken to the station house
with Frank, was so nervous that his hands shook vio-
On the Monday morning following the officers were
again at Frank’s house. He was again wanted at the
police station. When Frank arrived at police headquar-
ters he found the attorney for the pencil factory there
representing him. In the mental warp of the community,
and in the volcanic and ridiculous argument of the prose-


cutor on the trial, this was another strong link in the
chain of evidence of Frank’s guilt. “I tell you, gentle-
men of the jury, that because he sent for Mr. Rosser, big
of reputation and big of brain, the reason he wanted him
at the Police Headquarters, and the reason he wanted
Haas, was because his conscience needed somebody to
sustain him.”
As a matter of fact, Frank had nothing to do with the
employment of counsel. Solicitor-General Dorsey knew
that fact when he made his argument. It had been testi-
fied to on the trial. Sigmond Montag, one of the princi-
pal stockholders in the pencil factory, was told by a
newspaper reporter that Frank was under suspicion and
was about to be arrested. Mr. Montag notified Herbert
Haas, the attorney for the pencil company, over the tele-
phone, and told him, as Haas knew, that Frank was a
perfect stranger to police headquarters and that Haas
ought to be present. And subsequent events proved the
wisdom of the precaution. The chief of police refused
to let Haas see Frank; they proposed to put him through
one of their disgraceful third degrees. Haas telephoned
for Luther Rosser. Rosser forced his way into the
room where they had Frank. Frank made a full and
complete statement, which was taken down in short-hand.
He made another statement at the coroner’s inquest, and
another on the trial; and no one ever caught him in a lie.
The State contended that Frank murdered the girl
on the second floor of the pencil factory; that he struck
her a blow over the eye – where there was a wound or
contusion – in anger because of her refusal of a shame-
less proposal; that she fell against the sharp point of a
machine, receiving the injury behind her ear; and that


Frank, in a panic, then strangled her with the cord, for
fear of exposure. But there was found not a drop of
blood on the second floor of the factory, and the girl
was brutally abused, and bled freely. Solicitor-General
Dorsey claimed that Frank might have wiped up the
blood. Nor was there an ounce of cinders on the sec-
ond floor, though the girl’s face had been rubbed back
and forth in these sharp grains, evidently in the attempt
to smother her or her cries.
There were some strands of loose hair, of a color re-
sembling Mary Phagan’s hair, found on a machine on
the second floor of the factory. They were not found
on the machine by the officers after a thorough search of
the factory on Sunday. Also, there was a dark stain
on the second floor, covered with a white substance used
in the factory and known as “haskoline “; but this stain,
like the hair, was not discovered on Sunday by the offi-
cers, but on Monday by a man named Barrett who
worked in the factory, and who after the conviction of
Frank, preferred a claim to the city council for the re-
ward offered for Frank’s conviction. It would have
been impossible for the officers not to have seen this
substance on the floor if it had been there Sunday
morning. The chemist who analyzed these “blood”
stains for the State testified that it was coloring matter
and dirt, which, however, did contain four or five cor-
puscles of blood, whether human or not he did not know.
But this testimony loses all significance when one con-
siders that there are as many as 8o,ooo corpuscles in a
single drop of human blood. Besides, these stains were
not found where the girl lay when first found, if she
ever was found on the second floor, but where Conley


said, after the stains were pointed out to him, he had
dropped the body because it was too heavy. Accidents
frequently happened in the factory, and often fingers
were cut and mashed and bled freely in this same metal
The expert who microscopically examined the strands
of hair found on the machine, and compared them with
Mary Phagan’s hair, informed the prosecutor, before the
trial, that the hair was not that of Mary Phagan; but
this information was withheld from the defense, who
knew nothing of the microscopical examination, and was
not brought out by the prosecutor on the trial. The
prosecutor proved by other non-expert witnesses that the
hair “resembled ” Mary Phagan’s, and argued to the
jury that the finding of the hair was the most convincing
evidence that Frank had murdered the girl on the sec-
ond floor of the factory, and that she had not been
killed by some prowler in the basement, although he
knew at the time, on the word of his own expert, that
the hair was not that of Mary Phagan. He admitted
this in subsequent proceedings, when confronted with
the proof, but insisted that the testimony of the expert
was not important and that he had proved by other non-
expert witnesses that the hair resembled Mary Phagan’s.
The strands of hair were missing at the trial, the prose-
cutor claiming they were lost; and they have never been
found since.
There was a colored maid employed at Frank’s house
named Minola McKnight. This maid’s husband, Albert
McKnight, it was alleged, told a fellow employee of
McKnight, a white man, that his, McKnight’s wife, had
told him that on Sunday morning Mrs. Frank had told


her mother, in Minola McKnight’s presence, that Leo
had told her the night before that he could not sleep;
that Leo was drunk and that he asked his wife to get
his pistol and let him kill himself; that he didn’t know
the reason why he would murder; and that Mrs. Frank
had been compelled to sleep on the floor because Frank
was drunk. I doubt if Frank was ever drunk in his
life. The evidence showed that whenever he took a
drink it was at a soda-fountain; and no drunken man
ordinarily stops in a candy store on his way home and
buys a box of candy for his wife as Frank did that night.
I doubt also if any woman in her senses ever told her
mother in the presence of her colored maid that her hus-
band had confessed murder.
The police, without authority, arrested Minola Mc-
Knight. They took her to the prosecuting attorney’s
office. There she denied, in her husband’s presence, that
she had ever said anything of the kind. She “wept and
cried and stuck to” this story. The police clapped her
in the dismal, dungeonlike police station. Minola be-
came hysterical. After several hours of confinement,
and at twelve o’clock at night in the jail, she signed an
affidavit prepared for her, practically as told above. She
was then released. As soon as she was released she de-
nied the story, and said she had made the affidavit be-
cause the police told her if she did not they would keep
her in jail.
When this affidavit appeared in the newspapers Mrs.
Frank, for the first time, gave out an interview. She
said that the public prosecutor and the detectives “know
that I cannot go on the witness stand under the law of
Georgia, and deny the affidavit which they have wrung


from my cook in the torture chamber of the third de-
Albert McKnight, in his eagerness to get his share
of the reward which his coachers were looking for, went
too far, and was proven a perjurer in other matters.
He took the stand as a witness and said he was at Leo
Frank’s house that Saturday noon when Frank came
home for lunch; that he was in the kitchen; there was
a swinging door between the kitchen and the dining
room; that he could see Frank from where he sat in the
kitchen by means of a mirror in the dining room, and
that Frank came home not later than I :3o and stayed
only ten minutes and that he ate no lunch. (This was for
the purpose of showing that Frank was too nervous to
eat.) Frank, his wife, his wife’s parents, and Minola
McKnight all testified that Frank had eaten lunch. It
was proved conclusively on the trial, by diagram and
witnesses, that it was impossible for McKnight to have
seen the mirror from the kitchen.
But McKnight went further. He said he left the
house about the same time Frank did and saw Frank
take a certain car. But it was proven beyond any doubt
that Frank had taken another car on a line that inter-
sected the street on which his house was. As Frank
came out of his house he saw some friends standing in
front of their residence on a cross street, and recognized
among them a visitor from a neighboring city, and went
over to greet them. This took him out of the way of
his regular car. A friend sat with him in the car,
on the way downtown; also there was a blockade; an
automobile got jammed against the side of the car, and
the two men sitting in it were within two feet of Frank.


The circumstance was thus fixed in their minds. Mc-
Knight did not know of the incident which had taken
Frank out of his way and which was testified to by half
a dozen people, and so McKnight swore he saw him take
the car which Frank usually took.
McKnight, after Frank’s conviction and the refusal
of the Supreme Court to interfere, repudiated his testi-
mony, as did many other witnesses. Shortly there-
after he was beaten into insensibility as he was going
along a lonely street at night, and lay in the hospital in
a precarious condition for many weeks. The police an-
nounced that he had voluntarily gone to jail and sur-
rendered himself and recanted his former repudiation of
his testimony. Subsequently Minola McKnight was also
assaulted and knife-slashed in her lonely little shack.
But she, too, survived.
There is on the statute books of Georgia a law which
provides that the person who swears falsely against a
defendant on trial for his life may be prosecuted and
punished with death. The logic of this is that the per-
son who swears away the life of another is himself, con-
structively, guilty of murder. These various witnesses
who repudiated their testimony did not know of this
law. When they were arrested after repudiating their
testimony on the trial they were doubtless confronted
with this statute. The result naturally was consterna-
tion, and a desire to save their own lives. It has been
charged that some of these witnesses repudiated their
testimony for a monetary consideration. If we assume
that this is true, what does it prove? Why, that Frank
was convicted with the aid of testimony on collateral
circumstances intended to prop Conley’s story, testified


to by witnesses who are not only admitted perjurers but
alleged bribe takers. If we believe they did not receive
money, at least they swore falsely at some stage of the
proceedings. Whatever their motives in swearing
against Frank on the trial, their motives in repudiating
their subsequent affidavits were the stronger, for they
were thereby saving their oum lives.

JIM CONLEY was twenty-seven years old. He had
gone to the public schools of Atlanta for two years. He
had served a term in jail. He had been fined six times
for disorderly conduct. He had worked for the pencil
factory for two years, and was a floor sweeper. One of
the witnesses employed at the factory testified that Conley
“always seemed to be kind of nervous or half drunk.”
More than once he had been found lying drunk in the
factory. He was a low, squatty negro with a “ginger-
cake” complexion. He lived in a little shack with a
woman who was not his wife, and her two children, in
that part of the city given over to the colored population.
He was a frequenter of low negro dives and pool rooms.
He was arrested in the factory on the Thursday morning
following the murder while engaged in attempting to
wash some stains from a shirt. After the finding of the
body of Mary Phagan, Conley had been seen reading with
avidity the “extra” newspapers dealing with the crime.
One of the women employed at the factory testified that
she said to Conley a day or two after the murder: “Jim,
whenever they find the murderer of Mary Phagan, it is
going to be that negro who was sitting near the elevator
when Mrs. White went upstairs Saturday.” Conley
dropped his broom in a panic and left the room.
There cannot be much doubt in the mind of any
ordinarily intelligent person who studies the case that


Conley was on an early holiday debauch on that Memorial
Day; that not being allowed to loaf around saloons in an
intoxicated condition in Atlanta, where all strong drink
is prohibited by law, he went to the factory as the nearest
and most friendly place to sleep off his cups; he had been
arrested several times for being drunk on the streets;
that while thus clandestinely ensconced in that dark hall-
way, with his savage instincts afire, he struck Mary
Phagan over the eye the blow which Frank was alleged
to have struck, as she came down the stairs with her purse
and pay envelope and paused a moment for some purpose
which is hinted at in one of the murder notes. Conley
himself swore that he noticed the kind of shoes one of
the young ladies had on who went up the stairs. His
eyes were even then seeking prey.
Conley was impeached in every way known to the law.
A score of people testified to his general bad character
and to his lack of credibility even under oath. Members
of his own race, people that had known him all his life,
with one accord testified that he was unworthy of belief.
The State, with all its power, the police with their intri-
cate associations, were unable to find one who would say
a word for Conley’s credibility. The prejudice against
Frank was intense; the State was using every expedient
to bring about his ruin; the police department was in full
cry upon his track; and yet the combined efforts of the
two could not in the whole State of Georgia find one man
to vouch for Conley. His “wife” was never subpcenaed
(and not being his lawful wife she could have testified)
to corroborate his story as to his whereabouts on that
Saturday night, whether he was home, as he said, or not.
Conley knew from the beginning that the police were not


after him, but after Frank. He was the “pet” of the
police, the prosecutor, and the crowd in the court room,
who, discrediting the testimony of negroes as a class, pre-
ferred his story, not two consecutive lines of which were
the same, to the story of the young Jew from the North,
whose story never materially varied.
It is common knowledge in the South that negroes
are adepts in making up falsehoods when caught in the
commission of crime, and can fabricate detailed and cir-
cumstantial tales. That was a habit of slavery times.
Whenever the beaten pathway of the story planned by
Conley and his coachers was left, he would answer either
that he did not know, or that he had lied before. He
could tell the story of the disposal of Mary Phagan’s
body either backward or forward, but his invariable
answer to all other questions was: ” I don’t know,” or
“I don’t remember.” If Conley had been a white man
he would have collapsed on the witness stand from sheer
shame of his own admitted perjuries.
Frank was convicted on Conley’s testimony. Without
it there was no case. With it there was worse than no
case. Not one person ever came forward on the trial that
saw Frank and Conley together the day of the murder,
although Conley swore they walked the streets of Atlanta
for blocks. On the extraordinary motion for a new
trial one woman swore she recognized Conley on the
street with a “Jew.” She knew it was a Jew, because
“he had his face so close to the negro’s.”
Conley swore that on Friday afternoon before the mur-
der Frank had asked him to come to the pencil factory
on the next day, Saturday; that he had some work for
him to do on the second floor. He got to the pencil


factory about 8:30 A. M. on Saturday. He met Frank
at the entrance. Frank then told Conley, according to
his story, that he wanted him to watch inside the street
entrance, “like I had watched before” while Frank would
be “chatting” with a young lady, to prevent anyone
going upstairs. “When the lady comes,” said Frank,
“I will stomp like I did before. That will be the lady,
and you go and shut the door. When I whistle you can
then unlock the door and you come upstairs to my office
then like you were going to borrow some money, and
that will give the young lady time to get out.”
Conley testified that he saw six persons going up the
stairs at the entrance that morning before Mary Phagan
arrived. There were eighteen or twenty persons who
went up. The stairway was back quite a distance from
the entrance, and there was a large vestibule between the
entrance and the stairway, so dark even on ordinary days
as to require a light. On this day there was no light
burning, it being a holiday.
After Mary Phagan went up the stairs, Conley swore
he heard her footsteps going toward Frank’s office.
Later he heard two people walking out of the office “and
going like they were coming down the steps,” but they
went back toward the metal department. Then he heard
a scream. Next he saw Monteen Stover, a young girl of
Mary Phagan’s age, enter the building. She had on a
pair of tennis shoes and a raincoat. After Monteen
Stover came back in about five minutes, Conley heard
someone from the metal department “come running
back there upstairs on their tiptoes,” and later he heard
someone tiptoeing back toward the metal department.
“After that I kind of dozed off and went to sleep. Next


thing I knew Mr. Frank was up over my head stomping,
and then I went and locked the door, and sat on the box
a little while, and the next thing I heard was Mr. Frank

When Conley heard Frank whistle he unlocked the
door, as prearranged by Frank, and went up the steps.
Frank was standing at the top of the steps on the second
floor – there were double doors leading to the second
floor halfway up the stairway -” shivering and trembling
and rubbing his hands. He had a little rope in his hands
–a long, wide piece of rope. He looked funny out of
his eyes. His face was red.”
When Conley got to the top of the stairway Frank
asked him, “Did you see that little girl who passed here
a while ago?” and Conley replied that he had seen one
pass upstairs, and that she had come back down the
stairs; but he had seen another girl go up the stairs who
hadn’t come back.
Frank thereupon told Conley that the little girl that
hadn’t returned wanted to know something about her
work, and he had gone back to the metal department with
the girl to see if the metal had come. Frank told
Conley that he had spoken disrespectfully to the lit-
tle girl, she had resented it, “and I struck her,
and I guess I struck her too hard and she fell
and hit her head against something, and I don’t know
how bad she got hurt. He asked me if I wouldn’t go
back there and bring her up, so that he could put her
somewhere, and he said to hurry, that there would be
money in it for me. When I went back to the metal


room I found the lady lying flat on her back with a rope
around her neck. She was dead, and I came back and
told Mr. Frank the girl was dead, and he said ‘ Sh-sh! ‘
I noticed the clock, and it was four minutes to one. He
said to go and get a piece of cloth to put around her, and
I went and got a piece of cloth. I saw her hat and a
piece of ribbon and her slippers lying there, and I took
them and put them in the cloth with the body. The cloth
was tied just like a person that was going to give out
clothes on Monday.”
Conley then went on to say that he tried to carry the
body of the girl, but that she was too heavy, and he let
her fall, and that Frank then helped to carry her to the
elevator, where they lowered her into the cellar. Conley
alone carried her in the cellar to the place where she was
found, “after pitching” the hat, the ribbon, and slip-
pers “over in front of the boiler.” Frank and he then
went back to Frank’s office on the second floor on the
“Frank commenced rubbing his hands and rubbing
back his hair, and all at once he happened to look out of
the door and there was somebody coming, and he said:
‘My God, here is Emma Clarke and Corinthia Hall!
Come over here, Jim; I have got to put you in this ward-
robe,’ and he put me in the wardrobe, and I stayed there
a good while, and they come in there and I heard them
go out, and Mr. Frank come and said: ‘You are in a
tight place,’ and I said: ‘Yes?’ and he said: ‘You done
very well.'”
Frank then gave Conley a box of cigarettes and told
him he could keep them. He asked Conley if Conley


could write, and Conley said: ” Yes, sir, a little bit,” and
then Frank dictated the ” murder notes.” At first they
didn’t suit, and he had to write several. ” Then Frank
pulled out a nice little roll of greenbacks and said:
‘Here is two hundred dollars,’ and I took the money and
he said: ‘You go down there in the basement and you
take a lot of trash and burn that package that’s in front
of the furnace,’ and I told him I was afraid to go down
there by myself. He looked at me then kind of fright-
ened and he said: ‘Let me see that money,’ and he took
the money and put it back in his pocket, and I said:
‘Is this the way you do things?’ and he said: ‘You
keep your mouth shut. That’s all right,’ and Mr. Frank
folded his hands and looked up and said: ‘Why should
I hang? I have wealthy people in Brooklyn,’ and he
said: ‘Don’t you worry about this thing; you just come
back to work Monday like you don’t know anything, and
keep your mouth shut; if you get caught I will get you
out on bond and send you away’; and he said: ‘Can you
come back this evening and do it?’ and I said: ‘Yes,
that I was coming to get my money.’ ‘Well, if you
are not coming back,’ he said, ‘let me know, and I
will take those things [meaning the notes that Conley
had written at Frank’s dictation] and put them down
with the body’; and I said: ‘All right, I will be back in
about forty minutes.’ ”
Conley went ov -r to a beer saloon across the street and
took the cigarettes out of the box, and found there were
two paper dollar bills and two silver quarters in the
cigarette box, “and I looked at the clock and it said
twenty minutes to two.” When he got home he sent


for some sausage and cooked it and laid down and went
to sleep, and didn’t leave the house but for a moment until
Monday morning.
Having given the substance of Conley’s story in his
own words, let us turn back for a brief analysis of his
previous stories. Mention of these various stories in
the form of affidavits was made to the newspapers at the
time, as each affidavit was signed by Conley, so that the
police could not consistently deny them, and they were
compelled to produce them at the trial.
On the i8th of May, over three weeks after the mur-
der, Conley was confronted with the evidence that he
could write. Previously he had been asked by the de-
tectives: “Can you write?” “Naw, sir, I never
could.” “Will you swear it? . I shore will. I ain’t
goin’ to swear to no lie, either.” After they showed
him his handwriting, “White folks, I’m a liar,” he said.
He now admitted that he could write, but denied being
the author of the notes; gave a circumstantial account of
his doings on the day of the murder, saying he had spent
the morning on Peters Street, in a section of Atlanta de-
voted to negro trade. He said he had bought a half pint
of whisky from a negro walking along Peters Street at
eleven o’clock that morning. He insisted that he was
not at the pencil factory on Saturday.
The police were not satisfied with this story. They
nagged Conley through a course of third degrees. They
resorted to all the tricks of the trade. They bullied and
cajoled. They told him that his handwriting was the
same as that of the “murder notes.” “You accuse your-
self. We believe you did it. Everybody else will be-
lieve it. There ain’t but one way to do-‘ kick in ‘-


tell all about it.” They told him that Frank and his
friends were proclaiming that he was the murderer, and
they showed him glaring newspaper headlines to this
Six days after his first statement and after the grilling
work of the detectives, Conley declared that on the Fri-
day afternoon before the murder he had written one of
the notes and that Frank had written the other. He also
said that Frank had given him the box of cigarettes, with
the money in it, as told by him on the trial; that Frank
had at the time asked him if he knew the night watchman,
and if he ever saw him in the basement, and that Frank
had said he would see that Conley got some money a little
bit later. Frank had then said, looking up at the ceil-
ing: “Why should I hang? I have wealthy people in
This affidavit shows that on Friday afternoon prior
to the murder Frank got Conley to write one of
the notes; he inquired about the basement, and asked
if Conley knew the watchman, and mysteriously in-
timated that there was some reason for Frank’s belief
that he might hang, but he didn’t think so because he had
“wealthy people in Brooklyn.” Frank, therefore, as Con-
ley intended in his imaginative negro way to imply, meant
to murder Mary Phagan on the following day; that he
probably intended to put the crime on the night watchman
by means of the notes, and at least that he contemplated
escape from punishment for some crime the punishment
for which was death by hanging; and further that Conley
was going to get some money in some mysterious way.
The police pointed out to him, as they admitted after-
ward, that this would not do – it showed premeditation,


and it was impossible that Frank could have premeditated
the murder.
Conley still denied at this time that he was at the fac-
tory on Saturday, or that he knew anything about the
Four days later Conley made another affidavit. He
said this was to be his last statement, and had made up
his mind to tell the “whole truth “; that the reason he
said before that he had seen Frank at the factory on Fri-
day and had written one of the notes for him was that he
” might not be accused of knowing anything of this mur-
der, for I thought that if I put myself there on Saturday
they might accuse me of having a hand in it.” This time
Frank had whistled, and when Conley went up the stairs
Frank grabbed him by the arm and rushed him into the
office, and then Emma Clarke and Corinthia Hall had
come and he had hidden in the wardrobe, and then the
notes had been written. After Conley had written his
one note Frank had slapped him on the back and said:
“That’s all right, old boy, write it again,” and Conley
wrote it three times. Then Frank said: ” Why should
I hang?” This time when Frank asked him about the
night watchman and Conley had replied he didn’t know
anything about him, Frank had “stuck one finger in his
mouth and said: ‘ S-s-sh! that’s all right!’ ”
This ” s-s-sh ” is the same ” s-s-sh ” that Conley left
out in this part of his story on the witness stand and in-
serted at the time he came back from the metal room and
told Frank Mary Phagan was dead. Frank had then
said ” S-s-sh.” But ten minutes later Frank had turned
on the electric motor which operated the elevator, the
noise of which machinery could be heard all over the silent


factory, with two workmen on the fourth floor, and with
the front doors of the factory open, as Frank had given
him the signal to open them. In effect, Frank had given
the signal: “I have just murdered a girl; open every-
thing up wide.”
The police still were not satisfied with Conley’s story.
I am quoting from the testimony of the detectives them-
selves now. They pointed out things in Conley’s story
that were improbable, and told him he must do better;
they would look over the story he had last dictated and tell
him anything that was out of place in it, anything that
wouldn’t do, and they thus finally led him up to his last
affidavit before the trial, which on the trial he said was in
many particulars untrue. Conley said in one of these
affidavits that he met Frank accidentally on the street on
Saturday and that Frank got him to go to the factory
with him. On the trial he swore that Frank had made
the appointment for him on the afternoon before. In his
second affidavit or statement, made on May 24, he said
that Frank had come to him on Friday afternoon at four
minutes to one to write one of the murder notes. This
was the hour that Frank had called him on Saturday to
the top of the stairs to take care of the body. In his
next statement four days later he said this was a mis-
take. In the affidavit of May 28, he first introduces
the story of being hid in the wardrobe. He has now
transferred his story from Friday to Saturday. He said
he stayed in the wardrobe a pretty good while, ” for the
whiskey and beer I had drank got me to sweating “-
one of the probably truthful descriptions of his condition
on that day. This wardrobe incident was undoubtedly
interpolated to give the impression that while Frank was


aware some secrecy was necessary, Conley did not at the
time know what it all meant. As a matter of truth,
Frank could not have recognized the two women until it
would be too late to hide Conley. The arrangement of
the stairway and the office was such that it was impos-
sible; yet Frank had told him, ” here comes Emma Clarke
and Corinthia Hall.”
It must be remembered that up to this time Conley
did not know that there had been any murder. He had
not seen Mary Phagan alive or dead. He only knew that
Frank had got him to write one of the “murder notes”
which Frank said he was going to send off to his people
in Brooklyn – perhaps to show them how well Conley
could write; otherwise he didn’t know what the note was
to be used for. He did not know anything about Mon-
teen Stover. He had never seen her. He had denied
all along that he had ever heard a scream that day in
the factory, and denied it, so far as his affidavits show,
up to the time of the trial.
But in the next and final affidavit made before the
trial Conley casts away all former stories so far as they
conflict and tells, as he told on the trial, that Frank had
called him upstairs and told him he had killed a girl
who lay back in the metal room. This was at four min-
utes to one. The girl had been murdered fifty minutes
before, according to the theory of the State. Frank had
first signalled him by stamping to lock the front door,
long after he had murdered Mary Phagan, and a few
minutes later he signalled him to unlock it and come up-
stairs. No one had entered meanwhile. The two work-
men were upstairs on the fourth floor, with free access
to the second floor by means of the stairways. In this


affidavit he told about disposing of the body in the base-
ment, though in details the story differed from what
he told on the stand. He said nothing about hearing
Mary Phagan scream; he did not see her go upstairs;
he had not yet heard any tip-toeing back and forward
to the metal room; he did not say anything about Frank
having a rope in his hands, nor about his eyes being
” funny,” or his face red, nor about Frank asking him
if he had seen the two girls go upstairs, nor about any
rope around the girl’s neck, nor about burning the body
– and this he said was his last and final statement, and
he had determined to tell the whole truth, just as he
had said of his other affidavits. Frank, in this affidavit,
had taken back the two hundred dollars after giving it
to him without giving any reason, because there was no
mention of burning the body.
Conley said the reason, he had withheld all this knowl-
edge was that Frank had promised to come to his aid
and that he and his friends were to put up a large sum
of money for him. But he told enough in his first
affidavits to place a mountain of damaging evidence on
The police were now satisfied. They had been satis-
fied with each of Conley’s former affidavits as they were
made, and heralded their triumphs in the newspapers
until some wiser head had called their attention to their
impossible discrepancies. But Conley had now found
the body. The conviction of Frank was assured, and
the police announced that they would not take a fortune
for their evidence against Frank.
Conley’s final affidavit before he took the witness
stand represented Frank as taking this trifling, irrespon-


sible negro into his confidence without the slightest mo-
tive. Conley hadn’t seen Mary Phagan go upstairs, and
yet Frank, in order simply to have Conley’s help in tak-
ing the body down on the elevator, shares his secret
with Conley. Conley therefore testified at the trial that
when Frank “whistled” him upstairs, he asked him if
he had seen two girls come upstairs, and Conley volun-
teers: “Yes, and I saw only one come down.” Conley
therefore knew there was one of the girls missing, and
Frank, of necessity, had to take him into his confidence.
The other important addition Conley added on the trial
was that he had acted as a “lookout” for Frank on
former occasions.
Conley illustrated the truth of his story of former
watching, which he never had mentioned in any of his
affidavits before the trial, by saying that he had watched
on the previous Thanksgiving Day (the coldest and
snowiest day for that time of year that Atlanta has ever
known) when a young lady in a white dress and white
shoes and stockings had called at the factory to meet
Frank. Frank was in the office all that Thanksgiving
morning working with others. -He left for the day in
company with one of the young men at 12 o’clock noon,
carrying some bundles for a Jewish charitable entertain-
ment which had taken place that Thanksgiving night.
This story of “watching” on former occasions, or
for that matter on that Saturday, is the most fishy, un-
believable tale out of school. It was adroitly conceived,
whoever was the author. It was the explanation of how
Conley happened to be there at the factory on that holi-
day. His previous “watching” was never referred to


in any of Conley’s numerous affidavits made before the
Conley must have been a pretty astute student of the
law, for he could not otherwise have known that this
story of “watching” for Frank would give him the
excuse for telling on the witness stand of disgusting,
poisonous, prejudicial ” facts” similar to the gossip of
the streets, the clubs, and the cafes.


IT would take an entire book to detail Conley’s admitted
lies on the stand.
I shall undertake to show very briefly: First, the ab-
surdity of Conley’s story; second, the admitted facts
which controvert it; third, the convincing evidence
against Conley inherent in the “murder notes.”
Mary Phagan left her home at about fifteen minutes
to twelve on that Saturday. She caught a car at I I :50
noon, which was due to arrive, and which according to
the conductor and motorman did arrive at the point
where she is said to have left it at 12 :07Y. There was
some dispute as to whether she left the car at this point,
or continued on to another point, but this would make
no difference in the time at which she arrived at the
factory; it would, if anything, make her later at the fac-
tory; the streets were congested on that holiday, and the
street cars moved with difficulty. She could not have
arrived at the pencil factory by any possibility before
12:i2. Various witnesses swore that it took them five
minutes to walk the distance between the point where
she was said to have alighted from the car and the fac-
tory. This time agrees with the time Frank swore she
Monteen Stover, whom Conley said followed Mary
Phagan up the stairs, testified that she got to the


office at exactly five minutes after twelve and left
at ten minutes after twelve. She, too, had come
for her pay. She did not see Conley at the foot of the
stairway, though he saw her and noticed that the heels
of her shoes “weren’t much good.” Conley said he was
hiding, ” so Mr. Darley (an assistant superintendent)
wouldn’t see him,” because Frank had told him not to
let Darley see him. That “explained” why Conley was
in hiding and why nobody had seen him that day.
Monteen Stover’s testimony contradicted Frank, who
swore he had not been out of his office between 12 and
12.3o noon. Frank said it was possible that he had
stepped out of his office for a moment in the performance
of some routine that would not ordinarily have impressed
itself on his mind. Monteen Stover testified she was
in the office but a moment and waited the remainder of
her visit outside in the hallway. Frank might have been
in the inner office and not heard the approach of a little
girl wearing tennis shoes.
Conley, in one of his characteristic contradictions,
swore, in one place in his direct examination, that Mon-
teen Stover went upstairs before Mary Phagan. This
was undoubtedly the truth, and that is one reason why
Conley, perhaps unintentionally, told it. He never men-
tioned Monteen Stover’s visit at all in his affidavits
sworn to before the trial. If Mary Phagan went up-
stairs before Monteen Stover and screamed, why did
Conley let Monteen Stover follow? He was there for
the purpose of just such “watching,” and had been cau-
tioned by Frank “to keep his eyes open.”
Frank’s stenographer had left the office at two minutes
after twelve. She really left as the whistles were blow-


ing, but returned for her umbrella, which she had for-
If Conley’s story is true, then Mary Phagan arrived
between two minutes after twelve and five minutes after
twelve, gave her number to Frank, received her pay en-
velope from the cash box, went back to the metal room
with Frank, and screamed out before Monteen Stover
arrived – all in the space of three minutes. While Mon-
teen Stover was there Frank was strangling her back in
the metal room, I5O feet away, and was back in his office
before twenty minutes after twelve, because he was then
seen sitting in his office at work at his desk by Lemmie
Quinn, a foreman in the factory. Quinn stayed five
minutes, and Frank showed no slightest trace of nervous-
ness. Five minutes after Quinn left, Mrs. White, the
wife of one of the men at work on the fourth floor, also
saw Frank in the outer office as she went upstairs.

As she went upstairs, Mrs. White had spoken to
Frank. At about ten minutes to one this lady and her
husband and another man saw Frank on the fourth floor,
who told them that he was going to lunch and would have
to lock up the factory. The two men told Frank they
would not be through with their work before he got
back from lunch, and then Frank told Mrs. White that if
she wanted to go before he got back from lunch she
would have to go then, or he would be compelled to lock
her in the factory; that he was all ready to go except to
put on his hat and coat. Mrs. White left, and was at a
furniture store four blocks from the factory at one
o’clock. She had followed after Frank down the stair-


way, and saw him on the second floor writing at a desk
in the outer office as she passed out.
These witnesses are not disputed. So that when Con-
ley returned from the metal room at four minutes to one
o’clock and told Frank that Mary Phagan was dead, he
must have been talking to Frank’s double or his ghost, be-
cause Frank, according to himself and three other white
witnesses, was upstairs on the fourth floor getting ready
to leave the factory for lunch. He did leave at one
o’clock, and was home at twenty minutes past one. A
dozen witnesses saw him on his way home, at his home,
and on his way back to the office. Conley said when he
left the factory at about half past one he left Frank
He was contradicted by Albert McKnight, a state’s
witness, and a colored man, who swore that Frank was
home at 1.30, though according to McKnight he didn’t
eat any lunch. A perfectly disinterested witness, watch-
ing for her son, saw Frank get off the car near his home
at 1.2o. The evidence that he was home and had lunch
at half past one is conclusive, and indeed has never been
seriously contested. All such discrepancies were lightly
passed over by the prosecutor in his argument to the jury.
The point I wish to make is that here is McKnight’s, a
colored man’s, testimony directly contradictory of Con-
ley’s story, if the overwhelming evidence of white wit-
nesses in this whole case is to be disbelieved, and this
colored man was a state’s witness. It demonstrates the
utter disregard of the prosecutor for facts, in that he
has even his own witnesses involve his case in irrecon-
cilable entanglement. In connection with this time ele-
ment, it might be well here to note another of Conley’s


apparent discrepancies. When he reported to Frank at
four minutes to one that Mary Phagan was dead in the
metal room, it must have been a piece of remarkable
news to the man who was supposed to have strangled
her to death an hour before, or at five minutes after
Perhaps Frank was not sure that she was dead, be-
cause Conley swore he had another rope in his hands,
ready perhaps to use in case the rope around the girl’s
neck should fail; although how a man bent on complet-
ing such desperate, cold-blooded work should be nerv-
ously “slhivering and trembling and rubbing his hands”
(with a rope in one hand), is not just clear to anyone of
average intelligence. The State insisted that Mary Pha-
gan was attacked before Monteen Stover came to the fac-
tory at 12.05. But Mary Phagan, according to three wit-
nesses, one of them a state’s witness, was on the street car
several blocks away as late as seven minutes after twelve.
At about twenty minutes after one, according to Con-
ley’s story, Frank had said to Conley: ” My God, here
comes Emma Clarke and Corinthia Hall!” These two
women were in Frank’s office that day, but they were
there, not at twenty minutes after one, but at twenty-five
minutes to twelve. Six white witnesses swore to this
time – and Frank was at his desk, not dictating “mur-
der notes” to Conley, or paying him $200 to burn the
body of Mary Phagan, but attending to his legitimate
business. Conley knew from the newspaper reports of
the coroner’s inquest that these two women had called,
but his inferior brain was not able to grasp the time ele-


One of the farcical pieces of testimony given by Con-
ley was to the effect that after the body of Mary Phagan
had been wrapped in a “crocus” sack and deposited in
the basement of the factory, Frank and Conley repaired
to Frank’s office on the second floor. After the hiding
of Conley in the wardrobe, the “murder notes” were
written; and then the drunken, ignorant negro and the
Cornell graduate and factory head sat down to a quiet,
friendly smoke. After a few mutual congratulations on
the success of the murder, Frank having recovered from
his ” shivering and trembling,” and Conley having, as
he said, sweated the whisky and beer out of his system
in the wardrobe sufficiently to be able to write, Frank
gave Conley $2oo in bills to go down to the basement and
burn the body with some “trash.” Upon Conley’s say-
ing he would not go down unless Frank went with him,
Frank took back the $2oo. Conley finally agreed to come
back in forty minutes and burn the body and get the
money, but he went home and went to sleep, and forgot
all about the $2oo, although his “wife” that very morn-
ing had importuned him for the rent for their little shack.
This alleged action of Frank is contrary to all human
nature. It was not the time to anger Conley. There
was no money in the office. The help had just been paid
off, and Frank’s bank book showed a balance the day
before of $16.
Conley, in one of his affidavits before the trial, said
that Frank had asked him to give him back the money,
and that he would “make it all right” with him on Mon-
day morning. He said nothing at that time about


Frank getting angry because he refused to burn the body.
The burning of the body was an afterthought. And so
I might go on showing up this lying, unbelievable negro.
But is there any use? Anyone who will believe him
now will continue to believe him to the end. Conley’s
testimony was but an artificial compliance with the law,
which required at least one witness to swear away a
human life, and the negro’s testimony was good enough
to swear away the life of a Jew. One of the strongest
objections to racial and religious prejudice is that it saps
the very foundations of justice, for no man can have
justice where this prejudice, always stronger in the aver-
age mind than the promptings of justice, sways the judg-
ment of court, jury or populace.

With Mary Phagan’s body were found two notes.
There was found also a pencil and a pad back containing
half a dozen unused pages, from which one of the notes
had been torn.
The first note reads as follows:
“mare that negro hire (d) down here did this i went
to . . . and he push(ed) me down that hole a long tall
negro black that hoo it wase long sleam tall negro i wright
while . . .”
The second note reads:
“he said . . . play like the night witch did it but that
long tall black negro did buy his slef.”
The first note starts off: “Mam, that negro hire (d)
down here did this.” This refers to one person -that
is, “that one negro hired down here did this.” There
were several men “hired” on the second floor, and any


number of girls. So that “that negro hired down here ”
could not have referred to any one hired on the second
floor. Of course, Conley swears that Frank got him to
write the notes in his (Frank’s) office on the second
floor; but every earmark of these notes shows that they
were not the work of deliberation but of haste. Up to
the time of the trial Conley insisted Frank wrote the
longer note, beginning “Mare.” This was patently a
lie. So he claimed on the trial that Frank got him to
write both notes. If it was only one note, as it was evi-
dently intended to be, it could have been written on one
sheet. The second note shows an afterthought. In the
first note, he writes “long, tall negro,” and then he adds
“black “- so that the police will be sure to know it is
not a yellow or “gingercake” negro.

Conley claims Frank had the pad on which these notes
were written on his desk. Frank would not be likely to
have on his desk for current use, unless for scratch pur-
poses, an old pad four years old. But if he had this old
pad for scratch purposes, would it be likely to be a pad
composed entirely of sheets filled with carbon impres-
sions ? For it now turns out that the sheet on which the
first or “Main” note was written was a carbon impres-
sion of an order for supplies directed to the Cotton States
Belting and Supply Company, and signed by a man
named Becker, now a resident of New Jersey, who was
at the time master mechanic at the pencil factory. The
number of the order is shown on the note-” io1 8,” and
the supplies ordered can be distinctly seen through the
microscope. The original of this order, as well as sev-


eral of the immediately preceding and succeeding orders,
is in existence and in the possession of Frank’s lawyers.
The original order was dated in September, i909. It
was the custom to send the original orders out and to
retain the carbon impressions. These pads filled with
carbon impressions were carried into the cellar as refuse
when, as Becker swears, his office was cleaned up; that
is to say, when he left the factory on the last Saturday of
December, i912, a few months before the murder. Since
January I, 191I1, all pads used for orders were printed
with the date” 191 -” and the” I9o-” headline shown
in this first note discarded.

It was too dark in the cellar, with the dim light, for
Conley to see the carbon impression of the first note
which he at first said Frank himself wrote, but it would
have been impossible for Frank in his well-lighted office
on the second floor, in the middle of the day, not to have
seen it. If the notes had been written in the office on
the second floor, why was the pad back on which the sec-
ond note had been written found with the notes and the
pencil and the body in the cellar? Here were all the ma-
terials used in the making of the notes found in the cellar.
Where then were the notes written? In the cellar and in
the cellar only, by the light of the gas jet kept burning
there. Every one who knew Conley at all intimately says
he had a mania for writing notes. His own “wife” told
one of the detectives that Conley used to bring home
these pencil pads from the factory and practice writing
on them.
If the body was to be burned, why write the notes at


all? Why should Frank let Conley know that he was
going to place Conley’s incriminating handwriting be-
side the body?
The prosecutor and the police contended that Conley’s
story that Frank had dictated the notes to Conley was
true on the face of the notes themselves, because no
negro would write ” did this “- he would have said
“‘done this “- and no negro would write the word
“negro “- he would have written “nigger.” The old-
time, uneducated, ante-bellum negro was often given to
saying “I done it,” and among the first inaccuracies of
speech to be corrected by teachers in the South is this use
of “done.” The same is true of “negro.” The negro
doesn’t like the word “nigger.” But we don’t have to
rely on theories. Conley in his testimony on the trial
used the word ” did” in the same sense nearly a hundred
times. For instance, “I did as he said.” ” They would
keep at me until I did.” “He walked faster than I did,
and when I saw [not seen] he was walking faster than I
did, then I walked faster too.” But a clearer proof is at
hand in the several “love” letters Conley wrote to his
colored sweetheart with whom he became acquainted while
both were in jail. In these letters the words “did” and
“negro ” occur frequently, and these letters are fright-
fully obscene.
There is another strong piece of evidence inherent in
the notes themselves. Conley makes Mary Phagan say
that the “long, tall, sleam, black negro” would “play ”
– that is, make it appear -” like the night witch did it,”
but that he “did it buy his slef.” Again, turn to Con-
ley’s expressions on the witness stand: “It seemed like
he was too far back.” “You just come back to work


Monday like you have never known anything.” “Going
like they were coming down the steps.” The term
“night witch” has been used by negroes to designate an
imaginary evil spirit that crawls through keyholes and
suffocates little children, or lurks in dark places at night
and waylays grown-ups. It is inconceivable that Frank,
a Cornell graduate and a Northern man, unused all his
life to association with negroes until his advent in At-
lanta, and then only in the remotest business association,
would know of this negro superstition concerning the
“night witch.” Indeed, the whole idea of the writing
of the notes is so idiotic that no white man of intelligence,
much less a Cornell graduate, would have conceived it.
He could not have conceived either the language, the
ideas, or the purpose of the notes.

Would Frank not know that these notes in Conley’s
handwriting would immediately fasten suspicion on Con-
ley, and that Conley, to protect himself, would imme-
diately expose Frank? The fact that Conley claimed
before the trial that he wrote one note and Frank the
other, shows that in his dense ignorance he did not know
that handwriting is individual and would reveal the
author; and that argues that when he left the notes along-
side the body his cunning deceived him.
The notes repeat three times the words “a long, tall,
black negro.” Conley, on the witness stand, described a
” stout, black negro” behind the bar. He described a
woman as “a tall, heavy-built lady.” He claimed Frank
“had a good, long, wide piece of cord in his hands.”
He described another as “a little bitta chunky man, wears

big eyeglasses.” Another he describes as “a tall, slim-
built, heavy man.”
What white man would conceive the preposterous idea
that a girl in her dying agony could or would write?
What white man would believe that such a pretense would
deceive anybody of intelligence? The purpose of the
notes, no matter who wrote or dictated them, was to
divert suspicion, which would be immediately defeated
by the handwriting itself, which was not Mary Phagan’s,
and by tracing the authorship. Frank would have known
that instantly, but Conley was capable of no such logic.
He placed the pencil and the notes and the pad by the
body to make people believe Mary Phagan had written
the notes in the cellar. He thought that the police would
recognize it as a negro’s crime, and so he made the notes
describe a negro. He knew that the crime occurred in
the basement, and so he described the man who was em-
ployed down there. His cunning in this is shown when
in one of his first affidavits he makes Frank ask him
on Friday afternoon certain questions about the night
watchman, and when Conley replied, Frank had said
” S-s-sh, that’s all right.” He never dreamed of the
storm of prejudice that would swirl around Frank and
make it so easy for him to say, and to be believed, that
Frank had dictated the notes. Conley makes Frank ask
him if he can write. Frank knew Conley could write.
He had received numbers of notes from Conley asking
for money.

The truth is that Frank was in his office that day, as
he had been on other holidays, busy receiving people in


the morning, attending to his correspondence and to
scores of office details as he described them at length to
the jury. In the afternoon he had worked on his finan-
cial sheet – and no man who did that complicated piece
of work and recorded it with an unshaking pen ever mur-
dered Mary Phagan that noon. He was utterly uncon-
scious of the tragedy that was enacted below stairs in the
dark entrance, as Mary Phagan got to the foot of the
stairway. The voice of the woman that he thought he
heard was Mary Phagan’s voice. It was stilled by a
whisky-crazed negro, who threw her unconscious body
down the trap door or ” hole,” and followed it. Her fall
was broken by the ladder, which accounts for the scrap-
ing wound found below her knee. Her umbrella, which
she had evidently leaned against the elevator shaft when
she “went to ” (fasten her hose supporter, for illustra-
tion) as described in one of the murder notes, was found
at the bottom of the elevator shaft. Conley never men-
tioned it in his affidavits or direct testimony. He did not
mention her handkerchief, blood-stained, found in the
cellar. He denied ever having seen Mary’s purse until
he was recalled at the last moment of his evidence. Then
he said he had seen it lying on Frank’s desk when he and
Frank returned from the cellar after disposing of the
body, and that Frank had put the purse in the safe.
Frank opened the safe in the presence of the officers
the next morning. Frank would have had no use for the
purse, the hat ribbon, or the hat flowers which were
stripped from the hat and never found. They are the
natural spoils of the savage. It is inconceivable that the
superintendent of the factory would escape from the back
door in the basement after prying the lock off. Conley


had $2.50 when he left the factory that day. Did he get
that from a cigarette box given him by Frank, as he testi-
fied, or did he take it out of Mary Phagan’s purse? No-
body would expect the factory entrance to be open on a
holiday. Why should Frank have asked Conley to
“watch” to see that nobody came in, instead of locking
the door? Conley could not, and would not, have pre-
vented any Southern white man from entering that fac-
tory that day. He would have been knocked down for
his pains. The very fact that Conley was attempting it
would arouse suspicion.
There was a substance found at the bottom of the ele-
vator shaft on Sunday which had been left there on Satur-
day morning. This is undisputed. It is Conley’s own
testimony. If the elevator cage had gone into the base-
ment that Saturday noon, it would have been crushed.
It was not crushed until the elevator was operated on
Sunday. This is a physical fact which cannot be argued
away, and which unimpeachably disproves Conley’s
story that the body was taken down into the cellar on
the elevator Saturday. The two silent workmen on the
fourth floor never heard the elevator run. The gearing
of the elevator was on the fourth floor, uninclosed, and
they could not have avoided hearing the noise and feel-
ing the vibration.
Mary Phagan was brutally man-handled. She bled
freely, not only from the wound in her head, but from
other parts of her body. Her physical condition when
found is utterly inconsistent with the theory of the State
that Frank killed her in a moment of anger due to her
There were cinders and saw-dust in Mary Phagan’s


nose and mouth, drawn in in the act of breathing, and
under her finger nails. Her face had been rubbed before
death in these cinders, evidently in the attempt to
smother her cries. Yet Conley swore she was dead when
he and Frank carried the body in a “crocus” sack into
the cellar and left it there. This “crocus ” sack, by the
way, was never found. The girl’s clothes were all soiled
in the cinders. There was not an ounce of cinders on the
second floor, where Conley said he found her dead. The
upper floors were swept clean every day.
Frank was convicted largely on the theory that he was
a degenerate. Detective Wm. J. Burns said publicly in
Atlanta that Frank was convicted on whispers. Nobody
has ever come forward to claim the reward of $5000
offered by Burns for evidence of any immorality on the
part of Frank. The police, after ruining Frank’s char-
acter and destroying his life with vile stories which
aroused the gorge of the entire community and were re-
flected in the verdict of the jury, now weakly protest that
they never did claim that Frank was a degenerate. What
restitution! But the charge that Conley is a degenerate
of the most debased type is now capable of proof, not
in the wings of rumor or in the slanders of foes, but in
his own handwriting. I challenge any fair-minded man
to read these lustful letters written by Conley to his
colored “sweetheart” in the jail, and not rise from their
perusal in the absolute conviction, taken in connection
with his own story on the witness stand, that he is the
murderer of Mary Phagan. The “murder notes” were
the key to the murder. The police so far ignored them
that they handed them over to a newspaper reporter.
“If they had found Conley’s knife by the body, as they


found his hand writing,” said Frank, “would the police
have said I committed the murder? If they had found
Conley’s pistol, would they have said I did it? If they
had found a piece of his clothing gripped in her fingers,
would they have said I did it ?”
The death of Mary Phagan and Frank’s subsequent
trouble has all come about because of a bottle of cheap
whisky purchased by one worthless negro from another
negro in a Southern city which prohibits the sale of
whisky. Conley, of course, did not buy this whisky
from a negro on the street, as he swore he did. He
bought it from a bar-tender in a low dive; but to have
admitted that would have been proof that his friends the
police were not enforcing the law; so he swore he pur-
chased it on the street. The verdict of the jury was the
echo of the clamor of the crowd.

To convince a certain element in any community of
a man’s guilt, it is only necessary for the police to arrest
him. We are apt to forget that Conley was testifying
to save his own life.
In telling this story, I have stripped it to the bone.
If I have been compelled for lack of space to leave out
many incidents, they are not those that upon investiga-
tion will be found to militate against Frank–on the
contrary, the light is what the Frank case most needs –
and what I seek for it.
Frank’s statement before Judge Ben H. Hill, when he
was sentenced the second time and asked if he had any-
thing to say:
“May it please Your Honor, I trust Your Honor will


understand that I speak impersonally, addressing my
words more to the bench as representing the majesty of
the law of Georgia than to the gentleman now on the
bench. I well know that Your Honor has naught to do
with the various vicissitudes of my case.
“In Your Honor’s presence, representing human law,
and in the presence of the Supreme Judge who at this
very moment is casting the light of His omnipotent and
omnipresent eye upon me from His throne on high, I
assert I am innocent of little Mary Phagan’s death, and
have no knowledge of how it occurred.
“Law, as we know it, Your Honor, is but the expres-
sion of man’s legal experience. It is but relative. It
tries to approximate justice, but being man-made, is
fallible. In the name of the law many grievous errors
have been committed – errors that were colossal and
irretrievable. I declare to Your Honor now that the
State of Georgia is about to make such an error.
” The law says that when one has lost his life through
violence of another, the perpetrator of the deed must
answer with his own. That may be just. But the law
does not say that where one is killed a blood-sacrifice
shall be made of the next convenient individual. If this
latter obtains, then the taking of such life is not justice.
It is but murder legalized. Oh, what a terrible thing
this is to contemplate!
” Your Honor is about to pronounce words that will
thrust me over the abyss that separates our earthly ex-
istence from the higher life, the life eternal. I may
shortly stand before the tribunal of the higher Judge, of
whom human minds have but the slightest conception.
Before this Tribunal I will be judged as I now am in-


nocent, and will receive the reward of those who suffer
wrongfully on this earth.
“Your Honor, an astounding and outrageous state of
affairs obtained previous to and during my trial. On
the streets rumor and gossip carried vile, vicious and
damning stories concerning me and my life. These
stories were absolutely false, and did me great harm, as
they beclouded and obsessed the public mind and out-
raged it against me. From a public in this state of mind
the jury that tried me was chosen. Not alone were these
stories circulated on the street, but to the shame of our
community, be it said, these vile insinuations crept into
my very trial in the court-room, creeping in insidiously,
like a thief in the night. The virus of these damning
insinuations entered the minds of the twelve men and
stole away their judicial frame of mind and their moral
courage. The issues at bar were lost. The poison of
unspeakable things took their place.
“Your Honor, in this presence and before God, I
earnestly ask that God in His mercy may deal lightly
with those who unwittingly, I trust, have erred against
me, and will deal with them according to His divine
judgment. If the State and the law wills that my life
be taken as a blood-atonement for the poor little child
who was ruthlessly killed by another, then it remains for
me only to die with whatever fortitude my manhood
may allow. But I am innocent of this crime, and the
future will prove it. I am now ready for Your Honor’s


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