Ready to Indict Conley as an Accomplice

ready-to-indictAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, May 29th, 1913

Dorsey Ready to Act if Negro Sticks to Latest Story Accusing Frank.

Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey announced that if Conley persisted in his story he would take steps to have him indicted as an accessory after the fact and bring him to trial on this charge.

Conley was Friday afternoon removed to the Tower, on an order signed by Judge Roan.

Conley’s startling tale came late Thursday afternoon after he had been under a merciless sweating for nearly three hours. Noting the signs of weakening, Detective Harry Scott and Chief Lanford shot question after question at him in rapid succession.

Conley hesitated and then told the men who surrounded him that he had seen Mary Phagan on the day of the crime, but that she was dead when he saw her. When it became evident that he most important disclosures of the long investigation were to be made, G. C. February, secretary to Chief Lanford, was called in and took the negro’s statement.

Sticks to Note Story.

Conley stuck to his story that Frank had him write the notes that were found by the girl’s body and the detectives believe that there can be no doubt of this now.

He said that after the notes were written Frank took his arm and led him to the body. Frank’s hand was shaking, the negro declared. Together, they raised the limp form from the floor, Conley told the detectives, and took it into the basement.

Offering no explanation of the tragedy which had occurred, Frank ordered Conley to leave the building, according to the statement. Conley explained his long silence by saying that he thought Frank had plenty of money and that he would be able to get both of them free within a short time.

Chief Lanford and Detective Scott both declared after the third degree that they were confident that the negro at last was telling the truth. If he has any further knowledge of the crime, they said they would get it out of Friday when they put him through another grilling.

Admission of Conley’s statements into a court of justice is certain to be fought most bitterly. The fact that Conley has been discovered in a tangle of lies which he has been telling ever since his arrest three weeks ago is expected by the defense to go a long ways in shutting the doors against his affidavits.

In addition to the maze of conflicting stories in which he has been involved, Conley has signed three separate statements, no two of which agree in some essential points.

His first affidavit swore that he was not at the factory on the day Mary Phagan was murdered.

His second affidavit swore that he was at the factory on the Saturday the girl was brutally slain, but that he left immediately after he had written the notes at the direction of Frank. He saw Mary Phagan neither alive nor dead, according to this document.

His third affidavit, or statement, repudiated both of the other statements in many of their details, and declared that he did not leave the factory at the time stated in the other affidavits, but, instead, assisted Frank to carry the little girl’s body to the basement, where it was found by Newt Lee Sunday morning.

The fact that the negro has altered his statement in some important particular every succeeding time that he has been questioned has not served to throw suspicion on the negro in the eyes of the detective. [They have accepted at its face value each statement as it came, and each time announced themselves “satisfied.”

Think He is Merely a Tool.

They accept as true the explanation of Conley that he withheld much that he knew and lied about much that he did tell because he was afraid that if he told all he would be in danger of hanging. He was merely, a tool, they believe, and knew nothing about the actual murder of Mary Phagan.

Another effort will be made to confront Frank with the negro Friday. The detectives do not regard this as essential, but think it may serve further to strengthen the negro’s story if he can be made to repeat it before Frank, or if he breaks down, to inject the possibility that he has manufactured the whole story to protect himself.

The negro, on his own admission, was in the factory for a considerable time on Saturday and had an opportunity to commit the crime. The detectives declare they are not overlooking this fact in their questioning of Conley, although they are firmly convinced at present of his innocence.

During the sweating process Thursday they took copies of The Georgian into the office of Chief Lanford and went carefully over the discrepancies in the negro’s testimony with the apparent facts of the case. They made him give an explanation for every occurrence that had been overlooked on the day before and went over some of the same ground that had been covered before.

Lanford Mum on Developments.

At the close of the third degree Thursday night neither Chief Lanford nor Detective Harry Scott would admit that the negro had made the important admissions.

“Did Conley admit that he had seen Mary Phagan, alive or dead, on the day of the murder?” the Chief was asked.

“I have nothing to say,” replied Lanford.

“Did Conley make any admissions which indicated that he knew more about the murder than he divulged in his second affidavits?”

The reply was the same.

The Chief then was asked if there would be any statement of any sort to give out in regard to the testimony that had been obtained from the negro. He replied that all he had to say was that he was greatly pleased with the evidence that had been secured, and that he still held to his belief that Frank was the guilty man. — This portion was added from the following day of the same article — Ed.]

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Atlanta Georgian, May 29th 1913, “Ready to Indict Conley as an Accomplice,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)