Dr. Harris’ Testimony is Attacked by Defense Expert

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

Atlanta Journal
August 7th, 1913


Dr. Childs Characterizes Conclusions Similar to Those Made by Dr. H. F. Harris and Dr. J. W. Hurt as Remarkable Guesses—He Says Cabbage Is Most Indigestible of All Vegetables and Might Stay in Stomach for Many Hours


Dalton Swears He Has Visited Pencil Factory in Company With Women, That Frank Knew of His Presence and That Jim Conley, the Negro Sweeper, Was There—He Tells of Frank’s Visitors

When recess was ordered at 12:30 o’clock Wednesday in the trial of Leo M. Frank charged with the murder of little Mary Phagan, Dr. Leroy Childs, called by the defense as its first witness, was on the stand. Dr. Childs had already testified in answer to a hypothetical question framed by Attorney Reuben R. Arnold, that a post mortem examination nine days after death would not show whether a blow on the head, such as that described by Attorney Arnold, had produced unconsciousness, or whether it had been delivered before or after death. Dr. Childs declared that such a blow as that described by Mr. Arnold might even have produced death. He characterized any statement to the effect that such a blow procured unconsciousness and that it could not have produced death, as nothing short of a remarkable guess.

Dr. Harris also declared that cabbage was the most indigestible of all vegetables and that it might remain in the stomach as long as four hours and a half. Looking at the cabbage taken from the stomach of Mary Phagan and submitted as evidence at the Frank trial, Dr. Childs said that it was impossible to tell how long this food had remained in the stomach.

Dr. Childs followed Dr. H. F. Harris, secretary of the state board of health, who was the concluding witness for the state. At the close of Dr. Harris’ cross-examination, the state rested. Answering the questions of Attorney Arnold, Dr. Harris reaffirmed the testimony given by him previously, namely, that Mary Phagan was killed within less than an hour after eating the cabbage and bread found in her stoamch; that the cause of her death was strangulation; that the blow on her head produced unconsciousness but could not have produced death and that she had suffered violence immediately before she was killed.

It is the evident purpose of the defense as shown by the testimony already drawn from Dr. Childs to vigorously dispute the evidence of Dr. Harris fixing the time of the little girl’s death. Other medical experts, no doubt, will follow Dr. Childs.

It is now believed that the defense will put Frank’s character in evidence, as the state has already succeeded in making an attack upon it through the testimony of Jim Conley, the negro sweeper, and C. B. Dalton. Should the defense put up witnesses to prove Frank’s good character, the state will be permitted to rebut this testimony with any evidence it may have that is detrimental to Frank’s character.

Continue Reading →

Trial Experts Conflict on Time of Girl’s Death

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 7th, 1913

Here is a sample of the testimony of Dr. Harris, for the State, given Wednesday afternoon, and conflicting evidence given for the defense by Dr. Childs on Thursday:

Dr. Harris said:

“I want to state that the amount of secretive juice in this stomach was considerably less than would have collected in an hour. The hydrochloride acid had not been in long enough to become free. The amount of confined hydrochloric was 32 degrees. In a normal stomach, the amount would have been 55 or 60 degrees. It was just about the amount one would have supposed to have collected in half an hour or 35 to 40 minutes. I can say with absolute certainty that she was unconscious within 30 or 40 minutes after she ate the cabbage.”

Shortly after the defense opened Mr. Arnold held up a sample of cabbage taken from the Phagan girl’s stomach.

Q. Would you hazard a guess that this cabbage had only been in a stomach one half hour before death?—A. I would not.

Q. Why?—A. For the reasons I have stated. The cause of the psychic influences I know not of that might have been brought to bear and because of the varying effects of stomachs on such a substance.

Q. Do you think a doctor could give an accurate scientific opinion by making such a statement?—A. I do not.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, August 7th 1913, “Trial Experts Conflict on Time of Girl’s Death,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)