State’s Case Against Frank As It Stands After Week’s Testimony Is Shown Here

Photo-diagram of court room in old city hall building, where Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the National Pencil factory, is on trial for his life charged with the murder of Mary Phagan. Although the available seats are taken soon after court convenes, the crowd waits without all day for some weary spectator to give up a seat. On the second floor the many witnesses await their turn for a grueling examination by attorneys on either side.

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

Atlanta Journal
August 3rd, 1913

Most Important Points State Sought to Prove Are That Mary Phagan Was Killed Shortly After Entering Factory—That Crime Was on Second Floor, and That Frank Was Not in His Office at the Time He Saw He Gave Her the Pay Envelope

An entire week has been given over to the trial of Leo M. Frank, charged with the murder of Mary Phagan, and so far the state has not shown or attempted to show any direct connection on the part of the defendant with the crime. Solicitor Dorsey has worked systematically to weave a chain of circumstantial evidence about Frank.

Those who have watched the progress of the trial day by day are impressed with the fact that he has endeavored by the introduction of circumstantial evidence to pave the way for the testimony of James Conley, the negro sweeper, who will be the climax witness for the state and upon whose evidence the case against Frank will largely stand or fall.

The state swore but twenty-six witnesses when the trial began Monday afternoon, but up to date it has called thirty and the indications are that still others are to be put upon the stand. The defense has not put up a single witness and can not do so until the state rests its case. However, Attorneys Rosser and Arnold, counsel for Frank, have administered severe cross-examinations to the more material of the state’s witnesses and in many instances have succeeded in minimizing the evidence given by them on their direct examination.

The state has sought to show by its witnesses:

First. That Mary Phagan was murdered within an hour after she left her home just before noon on April 26 to go to the pencil factory for her pay.

Second. That she was rendered unconscious by a blow upon the back of the head and that she died from strangulation.

Third. That she was murdered on the second or office floor of the factory and that her body was taken to the basement on the elevator.

Fourth. That no one saw her enter or leave the factory and that Frank was the only person who saw her while she was there.

Fifth. That at the exact hour Frank has stated that the girl came into his office he was himself absent from the office, although he claims not have left it from about 11 o’clock until 12:30 and 1 o’clock.

Sixth. That the girl was not criminally assaulted, although she had suffered some kind of violence five or ten minutes before her death.

Seventh. That about 1 o’clock, several minutes after the murder was committed, a negro was seen sitting on a box on the first floor near the foot of the stairs.

Eighth. That on Sunday morning Frank was very nervous and excited and that he would not look upon the face of the dead girl when he was taken to the undertaking establishment.


The most significant evidence so far offered by the state was the testimony of Dr. H. F. Harris, secretary of the state board of health, and Monteen Stover, a fourteen-year-old girl, who formerly worked at the pencil factory.

Dr. Harris made a post-mortem examination on the body of Mary Phagan a few days after her death. He testified that she had undoubtedly died from strangulation produced by the tightly-drawn cord around her neck; that the blow on the back of the head undoubtedly rendered her unconscious; that she had died within from a half to three-quarters of an hour after having eaten some cabbage and bread; that she had not been criminally assaulted but that she had suffered some kind of violence between five and ten minutes before death.

Dr. Harris explained that the cord had left a deep indentation in the girl’s neck which was badly contused and swollen; that the blow on the back of the head had caused a slight hemorrhage beneath the skull, but not sufficient to kill; that he had examined the contents of the stomach and found pieces of cabbage and bread which were almost totally undigested; that his examination of the organs of the body convinced him that no criminal assault had been made upon the child, but that the dilated and inflamed blood vessels satisfied him that external violence had been committed, and that the condition of the inflammation caused him to believe it occurred not more than ten minutes before her death.

A bottle containing the undigested cabbage taken from Mary Phagan’s stomach was tendered by Dr. Harris, as were two other bottles containing partially digested cabbage, which he said he had taken from the stomachs of two healthy normal men an hour after they had eaten it.

Dr. Harris was too ill to finish his testimony, and the defense had no opportunity to cross-examine him. He will doubtless be recalled this week.


Monteen Stover testified that she went to the pencil factory for her pay at 12:05 o’clock on Saturday, April 27; that she stepped into the outer office where she could have a good view of Frank’s private office; that she saw no one in either office; that she sat on a bench outside the office until 12:10, when she went back home.

A statement made by Frank to the detectives was read to the jury. In it Frank says Mary Phagan came to his office about 12:05 or 12:10; that he gave her her pay envelope and that she then went out.

In their cross-examination of several witnesses Attorneys Rosser and Arnold brought out the fact that it would be almost impossible for a person to see into Frank’s private office from the outer office when the safe door was open; that the door was so large that it practically cut off all view into the inner office. It is presumed that the defense will later attempt to show that the safe door was open at the hour the Stover girl says she looked into Frank’s office.


The testimony of Dr. J. W. Hurt, the coroner’s physician who performed the autopsy on Mary Phagan’s body, Sunday morning following the murder, differed in several important particulars from that of Dr. Harris in his testimony. He agreed with Dr. Harris that the girl came to her death by strangulation, but admitted on cross-examination that the only accurate way to prove this was by an examination of the lungs, which he had not made. He also agreed that the blow on the head was delivered before death and produced unconsciousness, but admitted on cross-examination that such blows frequently result in concussion of the brain and in death.

Dr. Hurt corroborated Dr. Harris in the latter’s statement that the girl had not been criminally assaulted, but differed with him as to her having undergone external violence. Dr. Hurt says he never found any indications of violence and that the dilated and inflamed blood vessels could have resulted from natural causes.

He would not attempt to estimate how long the cabbage had been in the stomach, but admitted that mastication had a great deal to do with digestion and that some persons digested food sooner than others.


Mrs. J. W. Coleman, mother of Mary, testified that the girl left her home at 11:45 to go to the factory, and just prior to leaving she partook of a meal consisting of cabbage and bread.

Attorney Rosser developed from Mrs. Coleman that it was two blocks to the car line from her home and that she had no way of knowing how soon Mary caught a car.

George Epps, a newsboy, swore that he boarded the car with the girl at Olive street and Bellwood avenue at 10 minutes to 12 and that they left the car at Marietta and Forsyth streets about 12:10. He was not sure of the latter time, as he judged it by the sun. The girl, he said, walked on across the Forsyth street viaduct toward the factory, two blocks away.

The presence of blood spots on the second floor of the factory, near the girl’s dressing room was testified to by R. P. Barrett, a machinist at the factory; Mell Stanford, another factory employe, Detectives Starnes and Black, Mrs. George W. Jefferson, also a factory employe, and Chief Beavers. Dr. Claude A. Smith, city bacteriologist and chemist, testified that he had made an analysis of the stain upon chips taken from the floor and found that it was blood.

Barrett swore that he had found hair upon the handle of his turning lathe in the metal room; that it was not there Friday when he stopped work, and that no girls worked in the factory on Saturday. He also testified to having found a pay envelope under Mary Phagan’s machine.

Attorneys Rosser and Arnold brought out from a number of witnesses that paint spots, both red and dark, could be found in all parts of the factory and that it was not an uncommon thing to find blood spots around the women’s dressing rooms and toilets of factories where large numbers of women were employed.


One of the State’s witnesses, N. V. Darley, general manager of the pencil factory, stated on cross-examination that about 175 pay envelopes were scattered over the factory on every pay day, and that lengths of cord, similar to that found around Mary Phagan’s neck, could also be found all over the factory; that it was frequently carried to the basement in the trash. He declared further that order blanks and tablet paper of the character upon which the notes found by the body were written, could be picked up in all parts of the factory, and that pencils were everywhere plentiful.

Both Darley and E. F. Holloway, the day watchman, testified that the switch box on the elevator was unlocked on Sunday morning, and Holloway recalled under cross-examination that he had left it unlocked the day before.

Mrs. J. Arthur White stated that she was at the pencil factory from 12:30 to about 1 o’clock on the day of the murder and that as she walked down the stairs to leave she saw a negro sitting on a box on the first floor a few feet from the staircase.

In his affidavit Conley claims that it was just before 1 o’clock that Frank called him up to aid in disposing of the body. Conley’s statement has not yet been produced in court.


Among the witnesses who swore that Frank was very nervous on Sunday morning when he was brought to the factory were Detective John Black, Detective J. N. Starnes, W. W. Rogers, a bailiff, and Darley.

Upon cross-examination practically all of these witnesses admitted that they had never seen Frank before and knew nothing about his natural demeanor. Some of them said he was not very much more nervous than others at the factory that Sunday, and Darley declared that on two former occasions he had seen Frank fully as nervous and excited—once just after he had seen a child run over by a street car and once after Frank and a pencil factory official had quarreled.

Detectives Black and Rogers did not think that Frank had looked upon the dead girl’s face when taken to the undertaking establishment, but neither would swear positively that he had not. Black admitted that Frank was between him and the body and that he had seen the face.

Pinkerton Detective Harry Scott testified that Frank had told him that he had not left his office from the time he returned from Montag Bros., about 11 o’clock, until about 1 o’clock, when he went upstairs to tell Mrs. White that he was going to lunch and lock the front door, and that she had better leave if she wished to get out before he returned at 3 o’clock.


A list of the witnesses so far introduced by the state follows: Mrs. J. W. Coleman, mother of Mary Phagan; George Epps, a newsboy; Newt Lee, the negro night watchman at the factory; Police Sergeant L. S. Dobbs, who found the notes in the basement beside the body; Detective J. N. Starnes, W. W. Rogers, a bailiff; Miss Grace Hix, an employe at the factory, who identified the dead girl; Detective John Black, J. M. Gantt, former ship[p]ing clerk at the factory, who testified that Frank was nervous and jumped when he encountered him at the factory door about 6 o’clock the day of the murder; Pinkerton Detective Harry Scott, Miss Monteen Sttover [sic], R. P. Barrett, Mell Stanford, Mrs. George W. Jefferson, who saw the blood on the metal room floor and who swore no paints were ever kept in the metal room; Detective B. B. Haslett, who said he saw Frank in his office on Monday morning and that he was nervously pacing back and forth; William A. Gheesling, the undertaker, who embalmed the body; Dr. Claude A. Smith, E. F. Holloway, Mrs. J. Arthur White, N. V. Darley, Call Officer W. F. Anderson, who responded to Newt Lee’s call for thhe [sic] police to come to the factory Sunday morning amout [sic] 3 o’clock; Dr. H. F. Harris, G. C. Febuary, stenographer tto [sic] Chief Lanford, who identified a statement made by Frank to the chief; Albert McKnight, husband of the cook at the Frank home, who swore Frank reached his home on the day of the murder about 1:30, remained but a few minutes and left without eating luncheon; Helen Ferguson, who testified that she asked Frank for Mary Phagan’s pay on the Friday before the murder, but that he didn’t give it to her; Detective R. L. Waggoner, who rode to police station in the automobile with Frank on Tuesday following the murder and who swore he was nervous; Dr. J. W. Hurt, Police Chief James L. Beavers and Patrolman Lassiter, who with some of the other officers, swore that he saw a trail in the basement, leading from the elevator to the body which indicated that the dead girl had been dragged.

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Atlanta Journal, August 3rd 1913, “State’s Case Against Frank As It Stands After Week’s Testimony Is Shown Here,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)