The Leo Frank Trial: Week One

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Originally published by the American Mercury on the 100th anniversary of the Leo Frank trial.

100 years ago today the trial of the 20th century ended its first week, shedding brilliant light on the greatest murder mystery of all time: the murder of Mary Phagan. And you are there.

by Bradford L. Huie

THE MOST IMPORTANT testimony in the first week of the trial of National Pencil Company superintendent Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan was that of the night watchman, Newt Lee (pictured, right, in custody), who had discovered 13-year-old Mary’s body in the basement of the pencil factory during his nightly rounds in the early morning darkness of April 27, 1913. Here at the Mercury we are following the events of this history-making trial as they unfolded exactly 100 years ago. We are fortunate indeed that Lee’s entire testimony has survived as part of the Leo Frank Trial Brief of Evidence, certified as accurate by both the defense and the prosecution during the appeal process. (For background on this case, read our introductory article and my exclusive summary of the evidence against Frank.) Continue Reading →

Investigation Just Begun Says Detective Lanford

Investigation Just BegunAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal

Friday, May 9th, 1913

General satisfaction was expressed Friday morning by the detectives working on the Phagan case at the action of the coroner’s jury.

Chief of Detectives Lanford, however, declares that the work of his department is just now getting under way.

“We are going to continue right on with the investigation,” said the officials, “and try to dig down to the truth of this matter.”

“We have a theory as to who committed the crime, but we are ready to change it if we can possibly unearth any evidence, which will prove that theory wrong. We are going to make an impartial investigation and we are not going to leave anything undone, which might tend towards the solution of the mystery.

“My men will not be so pushed for time now and they can make systematic and deliberate investigation of every point of importance in the case, and they have much hard work before them. Even if nothing new develops, we have enough work outlined on the case to keep half a dozen men busy for the next week.”

Detectives Campbell, Starnes, Black, Bullard and Bass Rosser, who have been working on the case, are still detailed to the investigation.

* * *

Atlanta Journal, May 9th 1913, “Investigation Just Begun Says Detective Lanford,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

Black Testifies Quinn Denied Visiting Factory

Black Testifies Quinn Denied Visiting Factory

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

Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, May 8th, 1913

John Black, city detective, followed Scott.

Q. Tell about the shirt.—A. Sergeant Bullard and I went out to the rear of 40 Henry Street and searched Newt Lee’s room.

Q. What did you find?—A. Lots of things.

Q. Tell about finding the shirt?—A. We found it in the bottom of an old barrel.

Q. Was the shirt on the top or in the bottom of the barrel?—A. In the bottom.

Q. When was this?—A. On Wednesday after the murder.

Q. Did you see the shirt Lee wore Sunday morning?—A. Yes. Continue Reading →

Lemmie Quinn Grilled by Coroner But He Sticks to His Statement

Lemmie Quinn Grilled by Coroner but he Sticks to his Statement

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

Atlanta Journal

Thursday, May 8th, 1913

L. A. Quinn was called to the stand. He lives at 31B Julliam street, he said, and is foreman of the metal department at the National Pencil factory. Mary Phagan worked in his department, he said. The last time he saw her was on the Monday preceding the murder, he said. She left the plant about 2 o’clock that Monday, said he. That was earlier than usual, but she left because the metal with which she worked had run out and she wanted to hurry to the matinee. He didn’t know any of her intimate friends, said he. She worked with Helen Ferguson and Grace Hix and Magnolia Kennedy, said he, and Henry Smith and John Ramey also worked in that department.

He worked on Friday, April 25, until 5:30 o’clock, said Quinn. He got his pay and left with the understanding that he would come to work on Monday.

The next morning, Saturday, he got up about 7 o’clock. Later he went uptown with his wife to get a picture made of their baby. Then they went back home. He came up town again, said he. He was stopped there, and questioned closely about hours and minutes.

He left home about 9:30 o’clock, he said. He and his wife and baby went straight to Kuhn’s photograph studio. They were there about ten minutes, he said. Continue Reading →

Inquest Scene is Dramatic in its Tenseness

Miss Hattie Hall, Superintendent Leo M. Frank's stenographer, who testified to-day at the Phagan inquest.

Miss Hattie Hall, Superintendent Leo M. Frank’s stenographer, who testified to-day at the Phagan inquest.

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

Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, May 8th, 1913

Crowd in Small, Smoke-Filled Room Breathlessly Follows the Phagan Slaying Inquiry.

FATHER WEEPS SILENTLY

Jurors, Officials and Detectives Manifest Intense Interest in Replies of Witnesses.

In a small, crowded and smoke-filled room at police  headquarters, Coroner Donehoo on Thursday morning began what it is thought will be the last session of the jury impaneled to inquire into the death of Mary Phagan, strangled to death in the basement of the National Pencil Factory April 26.

The situation was tense and pregnant with possibilities. The fact that the investigation of the case is rapidly drawing to a close, coupled with the admissions of officials that new and important evidence would develop the examination of the witnesses to-day, brought out a large and curious crowd.

At one end of the long table, heaped with notebooks and typewriters, sat Coroner Donehoo, flanked on each side by members of the jury. At the foot of the table sat the newspaper reporters and the official stenographers, four in number. Facing Coroner Donehoo and the jury sat the witness. Ranged along the wall were curious spectators, relatives of the dead girl and friends of the witnesses. Long before the inquest was called every available chair in the room was taken, and late comers ensconced themselves on the window ledges.

Dorsey Takes Active Part.

Prominent among the spectators were the attorneys for Frank, Pinkerton and city detectives and county and State officials. Solicitor Hugh Dorsey sat just behind Coroner Donehoo, and took an active part in the questioning of the witnesses. While Mr. Dorsey asked no questions himself, several times he conferred with the Coroner on the best manner in which to examine the witnesses. Continue Reading →

Phagan Inquest in Session; Six Witnesses are Examined Before Adjournment to 2:30

Lemmie Quinn, foreman, who testified that he visited the factory and talked to Mr. Frank just after Mary Phagan is supposed to have left with her pay envelope. He was given a searching examination by the coroner Thursday, but stuck to his statement.

Lemmie Quinn, foreman, who testified that he visited the factory and talked to Mr. Frank just after Mary Phagan is supposed to have left with her pay envelope. He was given a searching examination by the coroner Thursday, but stuck to his statement.

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

Atlanta Journal

Thursday, May 8th, 1913

Lemmie Quinn, the Factory Foreman, Was Put Through a Grilling Examination, but He Steadily Maintained That He Visited the Factory Shortly After the Time Mary Phagan is Supposed to Have Left With Her Pay Envelope

FRANK’S TREATMENT OF GIRLS IN FACTORY DESCRIBED AS UNIMPEACHABLE BY ONE YOUNG LADY EMPLOYEE

Mr. Frank’s Manner at the Time He Was Informed of the Tragedy by Officers at His Home on Sunday Morning is Told of by Former Policeman — Both Frank and the Negro Night Watchman Are Expected to Testify During Afternoon, When Inquest Will Be Concluded

The coroner’s inquest into the mysterious murder of Mary Phagan adjourned at 12:55 o’clock Thursday to meet again at 2:30. At the hour of adjournment, six witnesses had testified. They were “Boots” Rogers, former county policeman; Lemmie Quinn, foreman of the pencil factory; Miss Corinthia Hall, an employee of the factory; Miss Hattie Hall, stenographer; J. L. Watkins and Miss Daisy Jones. L. M. Frank and Newt Lee, the negro night watchman, were both present at headquarters during the morning session, but neither had been recalled to the stand when recess was ordered. Both are expected to testify during the afternoon, when an effort will be made to conclude the inquest and return a verdict.

Though put through a searching examination by the coroner in an effort to break down his statement that he had visited the factory on the day of the tragedy shortly after noon just after Mary Phagan is supposed to have received her pay envelope and left, Quinn stuck to his story. He declared that he had recalled his visit to Mr. Frank, and that Mr. Frank told him he was going to communicate the fact to his lawyers. Continue Reading →

Handwriting of Notes is Identified as Newt Lee’s

Handwriting of Notes is Identified as Newt Lee'sAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Wednesday April 30th, 1913

F. M. Berry, one of the most important witnesses of the afternoon, identified the handwriting on the notes found near Mary Phagan’s body as practically the same as that of Newt Lee, who wrote a test note for the detectives.

Mr. Berry said that he had been connected with the Fourth National Bank for 22 years and is at present assistant cashier. During these 22 years he said that he had studied handwriting continually. He was given both notes found by the body of the girl and was asked if they were written by the same person. He said they were.

He then was given another of other notes and asked to pick out the one written by the same person that had written the notes found by the body of the dead girl. He selected two and said that they had been written by the same person that had written those discovered beside the girl. Berry was dismissed and Detective Starnes called. Continue Reading →