State Calls More Witnesses; Defense Builds Up an Alibi

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 13th, 1913

In anticipation of the close of the defense’s case, the State Tuesday afternoon subpenaed a number of new witnesses to be called in the event that Frank’s character was put in issue. It was said that Solicitor Dorsey had prepared against this move by the defense by getting affidavits from many persons who claimed to know the defendant.

An effort by the State to obtain testimony reflecting on the morality of Frank was resisted strongly by the superintendent’s attorneys Tuesday. Solicitor Dorsey failed to get the answers he desired from the witness, Philip Chambers, a 15-year-old office boy, but Attorney Arnold moved that all of the testimony bearing on this matter be ruled out, although the boy had testified favorably to Frank.

The lawyer threatened that he would move for a mistrial if any further effort were made to introduce testimony of the sort which he branded as irrelevant and immaterial, as well as being defamatory, slanderous and highly prejudicial. He was sustained in his objection.

Alibi Being Established.

The defense had progressed considerably in establishing what it proposes to make an iron-clad alibi for Frank on the day of the murder when court adjourned Tuesday.

Mr. and Mrs. Emil Selig, Frank’s parents-in-law, with whom he lives, both testified that Frank arrived home Saturday afternoon for luncheon at 1:20 o’clock. Minola McKnight, negro cook, swore to the same statement. This would have made it impossible, according to the contention of the defense for Frank to have had any part in the crime as it is described by the negro, Jim Conley.

Allowing ten minutes for Frank to catch a car and get home, this would have necessitated Frank leaving the factory at 1:10 o’clock. Conley said it was four minutes before 1 o’clock when he got the cloth in which to wrap the body of Mary Phagan and carry it to the front of the factory and down the elevator. This gives but fourteen minutes for the disposal of the body, the writing of the four notes, two of which were found beside the body, and everything else that took place before Frank left for home, according to Conley.

Claims Conley’s Story Impossible.

The defense maintains that it would have been absolutely impossible for Frank to have accomplished all this in the short space of time. The negro’s own estimate of the time required to take the body downstairs and return to the office floor is five minutes. The defense brands this an absurdity. After this Frank washed his hands and told Conley to come into his office, according to the negro. This must have taken until 1:05, at least, Frank’s lawyers will assert. From experiments they have made in the factory they may declare that it would require even longer.

Conley said that after he got in the office some one approached and Frank locked him in a closet. He was in there seven or eight minutes, he testified, bringing the time to 1:12 or 1:13.

After this there were yet the notes to write. Conley said that he wrote them in a minute and a half or two minutes, but Harry Scott, Pinkerton detective, testified that it required the negro six or seven minutes to write one note dictated word by word. Assuming that Conley required only half the minimum time designated by Scott, it would have taken him twelve minutes to write the four notes at Frank’s dictation, bringing the time to 1:25.

Says He Was Interrupted.

The writing was not continuous, as Conley said Frank interrupted him to make some erasures. He also said there was considerable conversation about Frank’s wealthy folks in Brooklyn, about burning the body of the murdered girl, and other subjects. Conley also said that Frank gave him a roll of bills and then took them back.

The defense lawyers will be able to argue that this took at least an additional five minutes, bringing the time to 1:30—ten minutes after Frank arrived home, according to the alibi set up by the defense and at the same time he arrived home by the testimony of one of the state’s own witnesses, Albert McKnight.

Solicitor Dorsey sought to impeach both Mr. and Mrs. Selig by comparing their testimony with that they gave before the coroner’s jury. He found discrepancies which the witnesses laid to lapse of memory or to mistakes made at the inquest.

Mrs. Selig, for example, testified at the inquest that Frank wore the same suit of clothes Saturday, Sunday and Monday. She admitted to the solicitor that she was mistaken.

Cook Accuses Sleuths.

The detectives were given a torture-chamber reputation by Minola McKnight, the negro cook at the Selig home. The McKnight woman signed an affidavit telling of conversations she overheard that were extremely damaging to Frank.

Whens he got on the stand Tuesday she declared vehemently that the statements in the affidavit were all a “pack of lies,” which she said were invented by her husband, Albert McKnight.

She swore, to the amusement of the spectators, that the detectives took her to the police station in the “control wagon” and that they threatened to keep her in jail if she did not sign the papers.

“Ah signed ‘em to keep out of jail. Ah’d do mos’ anything to keep out of jail,” she said.

Other important developments of the day were the showing up of the court and chaingang record and reputation of C. B. Dalton, the witness who swore women frequently were in Frank’s office; the announcement by the State of its theory that Frank planned the attack on Mary Phagan the day before it took place, and the testimony of Miss Hattie Hall and Miss Magnolia Kennedy, which was intended to show that this theory was untenable.

State Charges Premeditation.

Attorney Frank Hooper declared it as the opinion of the State that the pay envelope of Mary Phagan was refused Helen Ferguson Friday night and that it was refused for the deliberate purpose of getting the Phagan girl to the factory the next day.

Magnolia Kennedy testified that she was with Helen Ferguson whens he drew her pay and that the girl did not ask for Mary Phagan’s pay.

Miss Hall asserted that Frank tried to get her to work for him Saturday afternoon and also asked Harry Gottheimer, a Montag Brothers salesman, to come over in the afternoon to talk over some business matters, indicating that he had planned no crime or wrongdoing of any sort for that afternoon.

Several pieces of testimony during the day struck at the story of Jim Conley. Miss Hall said that Lemmie Quinn did not arrive in the factory before she left at 12:02. Conley said that Quinn preceded Mary Phagan, whom he saw next, and Monteen Stover, who entered the factory at 12:05 o’clock.

Miss Corinthia Hall and Mrs. Emma Clark testified that they were not in the factory shortly after 1 o’clock when Conley said Frank exclaimed that these two women were coming.

Gordon Bailey, a negro at the factory, denied many of Conley’s stories in regard to incidents in which Frank was alleged to have a part.

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Atlanta Georgian, August 13th 1913, “State Calls More Witnesses; Defense Builds Up an Alibi,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)