Scott Put Conley’s Story in Strange Light

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 8th, 1913

Harry Scott, of the Pinkerton agency, showed up the “confessions” of Conley in a peculiar light when he was called to the stand by the Frank defense Thursday afternoon.

The detective, questioned by Luther Rosser, told the jury that Conley, when he “had told everything,” when he had accused Frank of the killing and had made himself an accessory after the fact by declaring that he assisted in the disposal of the body; when every motive for holding anything back had been swept away by his third affidavit, still denied to him (Scott) many of the alleged circumstances to which he testified, while he was on the stand the first three days of the week.

It will be the contention of the defense that these many additions to Conley’s tale, inasmuch as all reason for concealing them had passed after Conley had come out with his accusations against Frank and his confession of his own part in the crime, are pure fabrications of the black man’s imagination, as are the other details of his tale.

Scott said that he had grilled and badgered Conley repeatedly about seeing Mary Phagan enter the factory. Even after the negro had made all his incriminating statements, he steadfastly denied seeing the girl victim go up the stairs to the second floor.

Denied He Had Seen Purse.

He denied also to Scott, the detective said, that he ever had seen the girl’s mesh bag or parasol, of that he ever had heard a girl’s scream while he was sitting on the first floor. He told the detectives that he did not see Lemmie Quinn or Monteen Stover enter the factory, although he later declared he had seen them both and so testified on the stand.

Conley said on the stand when he was questioned by Rosser that he thought he had told all these things to Scott and John Black while he was making his third and final affidavit. Scott was called to testify that Conley not only had failed to tell them, but for the most part had made strenuous denials when asked about them. It was expected that Black would be called early Friday to testify on the same matter.

Rosser, in his examination of Detective Scott, sought to create in the minds of the jury the impression that Conley had been guided and directed by the detectives in the framing of his string of statements and affidavits.

Negro’s Story in Own Words.

Scott admitted that the improbabilities in the negro’s statements had been pointed out to him, and that, with these suggestions, Conley proceeded to doctor up his affidavits until they harmonized better with the circumstances of the day.

Solicitor Dorsey was loath to let any statement get into the record which indicated that Conley had been coached by the detectives, and he got Scott to say that no one had put the words in the negro’s mouth.

“But you would say,” shouted Rosser, “’That don’t fit, Jim,’ and Jim would get something that did fit; isn’t that so?”

Scott said that this was the truth.

The testimony of Scott and that of Dr. L. W. Childs, a physician and surgeon, marked the opening of the defense’s fight for the life of Leo Frank. The State rested its case against the factory superintendent at noon and Dr. Childs was called at once to testify in rebuttal of Dr. H. F. Harris, the State’s principal medical expert.

Childs Attacks Harris.

Dr. Childs declared boldly that Dr. Harris’ conclusions were the wildest sort of guesses. He said that Harris had made statements with no dependable data on which to base them.

Dr. Harri’s declaration that Mary Phagan came to her death within half or three-quarters of an hour after eating her dinner, an assumption he made because the cabbage in her stomach hardly had begun to digest, the expert of the defense characterized as nothing more than conjecture.

“I have seen cabbage that had been in person’s stomach twelve hours that was less changed than that,” he asserted.

Solicitor Dorsey, when he got hold of the witness, confined himself mainly in an attempt to discredit Dr. Childs as an expert. He brought to the attention of the jury that the physician was only 31 years old, that he had been graduated from a medical school only seven years and that he was a general practitioner, rather than a specialist or laboratory man like Dr. Harris.

Childs Not a Specialist.

The Solicitor then propounded a number of highly scientific medical questions to the witness—questions furnished by the Solicitor’s brother, Dr. R. T. Dorsey—and Dr. Childs was soon forced to reply that only a specialist could answer such a line of interrogation.

Those who expected some sensational testimony from C. B. Dalton, the first of the State’s witnesses Friday, were disappointed. Dalton’s story was made in the nature of a confession of his own derelictions than an expose of misconduct on the part of Frank. Dalton testified that he had seen women in Frank’s office on various occasions. Who they were he did not know. He had witnessed no compromising situations.

Dalton was mentioned in Conley’s story and to that extent corroborated the negro.

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Atlanta Georgian, August 8th 1913, “Scott Put Conley’s Story in Strange Light,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)