Second Phagan Indictment Probable

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

The Atlanta Journal

Wednesday, July 16, 1913

*Editor’s Note: A small section of text is missing from the article due to scanning blur near a page fold.


New Grand Jury Will Take Up Case and Make an Effort to Get a True Bill Against Negro as Principal


Solicitor Dorsey Is Expected to Vigorously Oppose Jury’s Move—Negro Sweated Again by Detectives

It was learned Wednesday by The Journal, on reliable authority, that there is a strong probability of the Fulton county grand jury which was recently organized by the election of W.D. Beattie as foreman will take up the case of Jim Conley, negro sweeper at the National Pencil factory, and confessed accomplice to the murder of Mary Phagan, before the trial of Leo M. Frank, who is accused of the crime by the negro, is entered upon.

If the grand jury takes up the negro’s case, it is believed that a bill charging the negro with the crime as a principal will be considered and if an indictment is brought it seems probable that murder will be the charge.

The grand jury will take up Conley’s case over the vigorous protest of Solicitor Hugh M. Dorsey, who it is stated, has not changed his theory about the murder.

Solicitor Dorsey has from the beginning taken the position that Conley should be held as a material witness and that this was not the time for the grand jury to investigate his connection with the Phagan murder. If the grand jury takes up the negro’s case there seems little doubt that the solicitor will bitterly oppose its action.

An indictment of Conley prior to the trial of Frank as principal would undoubtedly greatly weaken the state’s case, and the solicitor is expected to use […] jury to persuade if not to consider an indictment.


A meeting of the grand jury will probably be called during the present week, its chief object being, it is said, to take up oCnley’s [sic] case. It is said that a number of the members of the jury are of the opinion that it is the grand jury’s duty to investigate Conley’s story and determine whether an indictment should not be returned against him.

In response to their requests it is said that the foreman, W.D. Beattie, has practically decided to call a meeting. Foreman Beattie was in conference with the solicitor Tuesday, but both of them declined to state what the subject of their conversation was.

It is believed that the probability of the grand jury taking up Conley’s case and considering an indictment was the cause of the sweating given to the negro Wednesday by the solicitor and Detectives Starnes and aCmpbell. [sic]

It is probable that the solicitor wanted to go over the negro’s story and make doubly sure that he had told everything that he knows in connection with the crime. Whatever the object, it is known that the negro was put through a gruelling examination, and that every effort was made to wring additional information from him.


James Conley, the negro was has confessed that he was an accessory in the Mary Phagan murder, was grilled again Wednesday by Detectives Starnes and Campbell, who have been working under the direction of the solicitor general.

While the solicitor maintains that the state’s theory of the crime has not been changed and he is going ahead with plans for the trial of Leo M. Frank on July 28, the continued sweating of the negro has occasioned much speculation.

Immediately after Conley made his three startling affidavits, in which he[…]

(Continued On Page 7, Col. 1)


(Continued from Page One.)

[…]said that Frank killed the girl and that he helped dispose of her body, he was cross-examined for hours at a time, the solicitor and the detectives making themselves thoroughly familiar with the case.

Then he was allowed to rest for several weeks, but now, almost on the eve of the Frank trial, the officers have commenced more vigorously than ever their cross-examination, and this occasioned the rumor that Conley has again changed his story, or that the detectives are expecting still another confession.

Solicitor Dorsey on Tuesday examined a new witness, a young woman, who made a lengthy statement, which the state considers of importance. The woman’s story had no direct bearing on the crime, it is said, and can only be used in event the defense puts Frank’s character in issue.

Preparations for the Frank trial, which will be held in the court room on the first floor of the old city hall, are now being made by Deputy Plennie Minor and other court attaches.

When the sweating of Conley was concluded shortly before 2 o’clock, it developed that Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey had been present at the questioning. He left the room in company with City Detectives Stares [sic] and Campbell, all of whom declined to give any intimation of what had transpired behind the closed doors. The negro was immediately led back to his cell.

* * *

The Atlanta Journal, July 16th 1913, “Second Phagan Indictment Probable,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)