Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.
August 5th, 1913
The determined onslaught against Jim Conley, his string of affidavits and the story he told before the Frank jury had its real beginning Monday afternoon.
Luther Rosser, starting with the avowed purpose of breaking down the negro’s story and forcing from the negro’s lips a story more incriminating to himself than any he had uttered, went deeply into Conley’s past history, his home life, his prison record and everything that directly or remotely might have a bearing on the solution of the murder mystery.
Before taking up the events of the day that Mary Phagan was murdered, the attorney made Conley admit that he had been in jail seven times. The negro did not seem particularly loath to make this admission, but was inclined at first to let it go into the record that he had been behind the bars “five or six times.”
Rosser, however, seemed to have about as thorough an acquaintance with these circumstances of Conley’s life as did Conley himself, and he refreshed the negro’s memory until Conley was willing to agree that it probably was seven times.
Rosser’s manner of examination provoked recurrent wrangles among the attorneys all the afternoon. He was unmolested so long as he maintained his kindly, ingratiating attitude toward the negro, which he manifested several times by the remark: “Jim and I are the best of friends; we’re going to get along fine.”
As he departed from the inconsequential incidents of Conley’s career and began to to touch on the vital issues of the trial, the attorney’s benign manner vanished and his questions were rasped out in such rapid succession that many times the negro did not have time to complete his answer to one of them before Rosser had asked another.
Hooper protested vigorously and often against this.
The Solicitor protested strongly against the method which he declared Rosser was employing to impeach the witness. He asserted that the affidavits concerning which he said Rosser was questioning Conley should be read to the witness instead of Conley being asked about them with no reference being made to their wording.
Protests of Little Avail.
The protests were of little avail. The objections, for the most part, were overruled, and the cross-examination proceeded along the same line.
At one point late in the afternoon, Dorsey threw a law book down on the table with an expression of disgust when he failed to get a favorable ruling from Judge Roan.
Rosser began his interrogation in the afternoon by asking Conley in regard to the times he said he had watched at the street door of the factory when Frank had women upstairs in his office.
Conley said that the first time he remembered doing this was on Thanksgiving. The lawyer then proceeded to ask Conley about all of the times he had performed this office for Frank and couples, who, he said, made the factory a rendezvous. Rosser made the negro give dates, the evident purpose being to show later in the trial that Frank was not at the factory at the times mentioned in the negro’s testimony.
Dalton May Take Stand.
Conley related that he was given extra money each time that he watched at the door. Rosser forced him to tell the amount that he received on each occasion.
The names of Miss Daisy Hopkins and a Mr. Dalton figured frequently in the negro’s stories of the clandestine visits of couples to the factory. It was said that Dalton later would take the stand and corroborate Conley’s story.
Conley said that Daisy Hopkins worked at the factory in 1912, but he could not remember much in regard to her appearance.
Rosser tested Conley’s familiarity with various parts of the factory and questioned him in great detail in respect to his knowledge of the arrangement of Frank’s office, the outer office and all the rooms on the second floor.
It was when Rosser began questioning the negro about his many statements to the detectives that his manner began to arouse the objections of the attorneys for the prosecution.
Admits That He Lied.
“You told Harry Scott that you got up at 9:30 Saturday morning, didn’t you?” asked Rosser.
“I guess I did, sah,” the negro admitted.
“Well, it wasn’t so, was it?”
“No, it wasn’t so.”
“What time did you get up?”
“About 6 o’clock.”
“When you were telling Scott this lie, you looked him right in his face, didn’t you?”
“No, I kinda hung my head.
Rosser continued along this line, bringing out the differences between the stories he told the detectives and the testimony he gave on the stand in the forenoon. He called the negro’s attention to this accoutn of visiting numerous saloons, Saturday morning. Conley admitted that much of this was false.
“I told Mr. Scott and Mr. Black just part of the truth,” Conley explained, “so that Mr. Frank would get scared and send some one down to get me out.”
* * *