Unable to Shake Conley’s Story Rosser Ends Cross-Examination

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 7th, 1913

On the opening of court Wednesday morning when Judge L. S. Roan announced that he would postpone his final decision in regard to the admissibility of Jim Conley’s evidence in regard to Leo Frank’s alleged misconduct and also to the negro’s acting on previous occasions as his “lookout,” Luther Rosser began his final effort to break the negro down.

Conley stayed on the stand until 10 o’clock and was then excused. He had been testifying for fifteen hours in all and of this thirteen hours had been under the merciless grilling of Attorney Rosser.

The negro stuck to the last to the main points of his story, and, while admitting that he had lied on previous occasions, swore that he had only tried to save himself and that about the murder he was telling the whole truth. No amount of effort could break him from this declaration.

Conley also added a new point to his story when under additional questioning from Solicitor Hugh Dorsey he swore that he had seen Frank hide Mary Phagan’s meshbag in his safe. Before that both sides had declared that they could not account for the disappearance of the pocketbook or bag in which the girl had carried her money.

Reads Black Affidavit.

Mr. Rosser opened the morning cross-examination by reading to the negro the second affidavit he made to Detective John R. Black and Harry Scott. It was in this that the darkey swore he had left home at about 9 o’clock and after visiting several saloons and poolrooms, among which was one bearing the name of the “Butt-In” saloon, he had won 90 cents at dice and then gone to the factory at about 1 o’clock. In it he had admitted to writing the murder notes, but made no mention of helping Frank dispose of the body.

Then the lawyer read the next affidavit in which the negro declared he had aided Frank in taking the dead girl’s body to the cellar in which, despite the fact that he had put into it the claim that he was telling the whole truth, he had not told certain things which he waited until he got on the stand to tell.

Mr. Rosser made Conley acknowledge to having made these affidavits and with particular emphasis called his attention to the various discrepancies between them and also between the final one and his sworn testimony.

Then the lawyer asked the witness about several conversations he is alleged by the defense to have had with various factory employees after the murder was discovered and before he was arrested.

“Jim,” began Mr. Rosser, “soon after the murder weren’t you working near where Miss Rebecca Carson was and did she say to you, ‘Jim, they ain’t got you yet for this,’ and didn’t you say, ‘No, and they ain’t goin’ to, ‘cause I ain’t done nothin’?’”

“No, sir,” replied Conley: “dat lady ain’t never said nothing like dat to me and I ain’t never said nothing like dat to her.”

“Didn’t she say, ‘Well, they’ve got Mr. Frank and he ain’t done nothing,’ and didn’t you then say, ‘Mr. Frank is ez innocent as you is and de Lord knows you ain’t guilty’?”

“No, sir,” replied Jim positively: “no, sir, Mr. Rosser, wasn’t nothing lak dat passed ‘tween us.”

Continue Reading →

Roan’s Ruling Heavy Blow to Defense

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 7th, 1913

Judge Roan administered a severe blow to the defense Wednesday when he ruled that all of Conley’s story should stand, although portions of it, he acknowledged, would have been inadmissible had objection been made at the time the testimony was offered.

Judge to Rule as Case Proceeds.

It was a particularly difficult allegation to combat. Unlike many allegations, it was exactly as hard to fight in the event it was false as in case it was founded on fact.

Judge Roan said in regard to the testimony of Dalton that he did not know what it was to be and that he would allow it to be presented so that he might rule on its admissibility as it came up.

Solicitor Dorsey put the final rivet in his case so far as it rested upon the testimony of Conley when at the close of his redirect examination of the negro he brought to light the State’s theory of the disposition that had been made of the Phagan girl’s mesh bag.

Practically no mention of the mesh bag had been made during the week and a half of the trial. The only reference made to it was in the examination of Mrs. J. W. Coleman, mother of the slain girl, and of the officers who visited the scene of the crime immediately after police headquarters was called by the negro nightwatchman, Newt Lee.

Tells of Mesh Bag.

Mrs. Coleman testified that Mary left home with the mesh bag in her hand. The detectives and policemen all testified that they were able to find no trace of it either the morning after the crime or in the search that had been conducted since then.

“Did you ever see the murdered girl’s mesh bag?” Dorsey asked Conley, just as it appeared that he had finished his questioning.

“Yes, sah, I see it,” Conley replied.

“Where was it?”
“It was right on Mr. Frank’s desk when I went in there to write the notes.”

“Did you see what became of it?”
“Yes, sah; Mr. Frank went and put it in his safe.”

Continue Reading →

Jim Conley, the Ebony Chevalier of Crime, is Darktown’s Own Hero

This shows the Solicitor in an argument at the Frank trial.

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 7th, 1913

By James B. Nevin

Now that James Conley has been dismissed from the Frank trial, now that he has stood safely the fire of Mr. Rosser’s most exhaustive grilling, what of him?

If Frank is convicted, Conley subsequently will be convicted, no doubt, of being an accessory after the fact of Mary Phagan’s murder—and that will mean three years, at most, in the penitentiary.

After that—when the Frank trial, more or less, has been forgotten—Conley will be a liberty to come back amongst the people of Atlanta.

Not far from Five Points, a little due east along one of the big thoroughfares meeting there, there is a negro bootblack who now and then, when he is on the job, which frequently he isn’t, gives me a “shine” so much to my liking that it brings me back on other days.

He is a sort of Jim Conley negro—at least, he has a smattering of education, an ingratiating air, and is polite, particularly when it pays him to be.

Quite without previous design, I stopped at this negro’s stand Wednesday afternoon, and it was not long before he mentioned the famous trial. He having started the conversation, I asked him a few questions—and his replies, given herein in part, rather set me to thinking.

Complimented on All Sides.”

“George,” I said—not that I know his name is George, but that it so happens I address negroes unknown of name that way—“what do your friends down on Decatur street think of Jim Conley’s story over yonder in the big court? Rather clever, negro, Jim, eh?” said I to this bootblack.

“Well, boss, dat Mr. Rosser ain’t made nothing on Jim yit, is he?” replied George.

I ventured the opinion that Mr. Rosser failed, at least, to make Jim out so many different kinds of a liar that his story might not stick in spots.

“Well, boss,” continued my bureau of information, “dem niggers down on Decatur street, dey ain’t talking of nothing but Jim Conley. He’s de most talked about nigger anywhere, I guess. I hears him complimented on all sides!”

“In other words, Jim’s a sort of hero along Decatur street nowadays?” said I.

“Yassir, dat’s it—Jim’s a hero. Niggers all talking about him. He done got de best of de smartest of ‘um. Nobody can’t fool er nigger like Jim!”

Continue Reading →

Defense Asks Judge Roan to Strike From Records Part of Conley Testimony

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 6th, 1913

At the opening of the afternoon session, Attorney Reuben Arnold arose, asking that the jury be sent from the room. When the twelve men had passed into their ro[o]m, he made a motion asking the court to exclude from Conley’s statement that testimony pertaining to Conley having watched previously for Frank and to an unprintable scene the negro said he had witnessed between the superintendent and a young girl in Frank’s office.

The motion was made on grounds of irrelevancy.

“First,” said Mr. Arnold, “I desire to ask the court to rule out that testimony of Jim Conley’s which pertains to his having watched for the defendant on occasions before the date on which the girl was killed. The defense proposes to withdraw all cross-examination on this point.

Asks Testimony Ruled Out.

“We also desire to withdraw from the records that part of Conley’s statement in which he tells of Frank having told him at the head of the stairway on the second floor of the pencil factory that ‘he was not built like other men,’ the answer Conley made to Dorsey’s question: ‘What did he mean by that?’ and the scene which the witness related.

“It is here in the court. I don’t want to read it aloud before these ladies present, so I will show it to your honor. This, I want ruled out. This scene which the negro alleges he witnessed was brought into the case purely to prejudice the court against the defendant.”

In reply, Attorney Frank Hooper, for the prosecution, said,

“On the first motion to rule out evidence pertaining to other cases of Conley’s having watched for Frank, it comes too late, and to rule it out would give counsel opportunity to tamper with the courts. They have crossed the witness and brought out both direct and indirect testimony bearing on the particular phase. It’s now too late for their objection.

Continue Reading →

Mincey Affidavit Is Denied By Conley During Afternoon

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 6th, 1913

SMITH ALLOWED ACCESS TO CLIENT

After Judge Roan had ruled out the Conley testimony relating to alleged previous actions of Frank, the jury was returned to the courtroom, and Attorney Rosser resumed his cross-examination of Conley.

“Jim, you took the body of that girl, you say, and wrapped her in a cloth, didn’t you?”
“Yes, sir.”

“Was the cloth all around her?”
“No, sir, it didn’t go over her whole body.”

“Did it cover her head?”
“No, sir.”

“Her feet?”
“No, sir.”

“How much of her body was projecting out of the cloth?”
“I don’t know, sir.”

“You tied the cloth in a bundle around the body and put her on your shoulder, didn’t you?”
“Yes, sir.”

“Didn’t her head stick out and lean back?”
“Yes, sir.”

Negro Answers Yes.

The attorney arose and stood before the negro, illustrating the manner in which the negro carried the body, asking if he were not correct. The witnessed answered yes.

Continue Reading →

Conley Remains Calm Under Grilling Cross-Examination

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 6th, 1913

ROSSER ADOPTS NEW TONE MONDAY

Jim Conley, upon whose story practically the entire result of the Frank case is believed to rest, went on the stand at 9:03 o’clock and when court adjourned for lunch at 12:30 he was still being cross-examined by Luther Rosser for the defense.

The lawyer had reached that point in his cross-fire of questions where he had begun to hector the witness and to take him up whenever he made a mistake, but it appeared that he was only about half through with his work. When the adjournment was taken Conley was still sticking to the main points of his story in a way that was considered remarkable, although he had admitted discrepancies in many of the minor points and had grown confused over them.

When Attorney Rosser started out Monday his manner was mild, but only throughout the afternoon he worked up to a slightly harsher manner. When he began Tuesday he was using his usual rather abrupt tone of voice.

Solicitor Hugh Dorsey and Frank A. Hooper, his colleague, made frequent objections to the manner in which the cross-examination was being conducted and did, to a certain extent, restrain the defense.

“Jim, you made your second statement to Mr. Black and Mr. Scott on a Saturday, didn’t you?” was the first question Mr. Rosser asked.

“I disremembers the day, boss,” replied Conley.

“You told them, though, that you wrote those notes on Friday?”
“Yes, sir, I tole ‘em dat.”

“They they [sic] told you that that wouldn’t do, didn’t they?”
“No, sir, dey didn’t say nothing about that.”

“Didn’t they tell you that it wouldn’t fit in?”
“They didn’t say them words.”

“Are you sure, Jim?”
“Yes, sir, I’m sure.”

Continue Reading →

Conley’s Main Story Still Remains Unshaken

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 6th, 1913

GRILLED 12 HOURS BY LUTHER ROSSER JIM CONLEY INSISTS FRANK GUILTY MAN

Declaring That “I Don’t Remember,” or, “No, Sir; I Didn’t Say That,” or Simply Affirming Blandly That He Had Lied on a Previous Occasion, Negro Sweeper Sticks to Story Told on the Witness Stand on Monday Morning Despite Most Rigid Cross-Examination of Trial.

AFFIDAVIT BY MINCEY OF CONLEY CONFESSION IS DENIED BY WITNESS

Apparently Despairing of Breaking the Negro, Attorneys for Defense Appeal to Judge Roan to Strike All Evidence Relating to Alleged Previous Conduct of Frank Before Day of Murder on Ground of Irrelevancy – State Vigorously Protests Against Such Action and Judge Roan Will Decide Today.

Twelve and one-half hours under the merciless cross-questioning of Luther Rosser, than whom no lawyer at the Atlanta bar has more terrors for the average witness; twelve and one-half hours saying, “I don’t remember,” “No, sir, I didn’t say ‘dat,’” or simply affirming blandly that he had lied on a previous occasion; twelve and one-half hours staring fixedly on a crowded court room; twelve and one-half hours during which time the perspiration or sweat—if you like that word better—failed to dot his brow—

That is the record of Jim Conley, former negro sweeper at the National Pencil factory.

No such record has ever been made in a criminal case in this county.

On Monday Conley was on the stand five hours and a half, and the able attorneys for the defense failed to break him down; failed to rattle him. On Tuesday, after a good night’s sleep at the Tower, Conley resumed the stand and Luther Rosser questioned him for seven hours. Still he did not shake him.

Conley may be telling the truth in the main or he may be lying altogether. He may be the real murderer or he may have been but the accomplice after the fact. Be these things as they may, he is one of the most remarkable negroes who has ever been seen in this section of the country. His nerve seems unshakable. His wit is ever ready.

Lawyers Work In Vain.

As stated in Tuesday’s Constitution, Luther Rosser managed to get Conley to admit he had lied in his previous affidavits; that he had been in jail seven or eight times—he could not tell how often; that he could not remember certain dates; that he tripped himself in regard to his ability to read and write, but that is about all the defense has succeeded in doing. His main story remains unshaken. Of course no one can tell what will come today or what effect Conley’s story and his admissions will have on the jury.

Fails to Break Him.

Apparently despairing of breaking the negro, the attorneys for the defense shortly after court had met for the afternoon session moved that all that part of Conley’s statement relating to the previous times he had watched for Frank and the incident of the young woman whom he claims to have seen in a compromising position with Frank be stricken out.

Luther Rosser had for hours cross-questioned Conley on the times he had watched out for Frank, and he failed to budge him. When this testimony for the state was introduced it was the big sensation of the trial, particularly that part relating to the young woman Conley claims to have discovered with Frank. Second only to the surprise this testimony created was the fact that the attorneys for the defense allowed to go in without any objection. Apparently they had taken the bridle off and were willing for him to go the limit, depending on breaking him down later on and discrediting the whole story.

Solicitor Hugh Dorsey shaped this part of the proceedings in a manner that was masterful. He knew that in allowing Conley to go ahead and tell of these various times he had “watched for Frank” he was paving the way for a possible breakdown of the negro—on that he was giving the defense an advantage which they accepted gladly, but were unable to make anything of.

Judge Roan reserved his ruling on this point until this morning, when he will decide whether the testimony shall go in or be stricken out.

Interest Is Keen.

Interest on this point is keen. The defense, by asking that the testimony be eliminated, virtually admit their failure to break down Conley. If it is left in it will be signal victory for the state, and Solicitor Dorsey will introduce several witnesses to prove the statements made by Conley. On this point he has already declared his intention.

When court adjourned Tuesday Conley was still on the stand and he will be on the stand today when court opens.

Just how long he will be kept on the stand is a matter of speculation. When adjournment hour came Tuesday Luther Rosser had gone all over Conley’s testimony time and again and was asking questions about his treatment at the jail and other matters having little bearing on his main story.

From present indications the trial will run for fully ten days, and possibly two weeks longer. The state will have other witnesses to introduce after Conley leaves the stand, and he may be on the stand for some days yet.

* * *

Atlanta Constitution, August 6th 1913, “Conley’s Main Story Still Remains Unshaken,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

“He Shore Goes After You” Says Conley of Mr. Rosser

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

Atlanta Journal
August 6th, 1913

Jim Made for a Newspaper and a Cigarette as Soon as He Left the Stand—He Is Interviewed Through Medium of His Attorney

Jim Conley wasn’t garrulous after he left the witness stand Wednesday morning, and that’s saying the least of it.

Perhaps Jim figured that he had done enough talking to last him a few weeks.

He went into the reporters’ room first and sat down and heaved a sort of sigh. Then he picked up an edition of The Journal and commenced to read about himself.

A reporter turned from the telephone and said something to him, and thereupon a deputy sheriff, standing [1 word illegible], gave an imitation of a balloon ascension.

About that time William M. Smith, Conley’s lawyer, stuck his head through the door. It was the first chance the lawyer had been allowed, since Conley went on the stand, to talk to him.

“Come over here, Jim,” said Attorney Smith, and led the negro across the hall into a little ante-room.

Jim shucked off his coat as he crossed the hall, and made for a chair, stretched out his legs, and heaved another sort of a sigh. He sat there, gazing out the window, his eyes on the face of a brick wall some distance away.

A reporter came in.

“How about it, Bill,” said he. “Let me talk to him.”

“Sorry, old man,” said the lawyer, “but you see they’re already trying to get some of you boys balled up about a story some time ago, when Conley was in jail. Jim, don’t you say a word to anybody, do you hear?”
“All right,” said the reporter. “Then you do the talking. Ask him what he thinks of Rosser.”

Attorney Smith, “What do you think of Rosser, Jim?”
Jim gave a combination of snicker and a laugh. He waged his head expressively.

“He shore does go after you, don’t he?” said Jim.

Continue Reading →

Mincey Ready to Swear to Conley Affidavit

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

Atlanta Journal
August 6th, 1913

Declares Negro Told Him He Had Killed a Girl—Waiting as Witness

W. H. Mincey, the man who has made an affidavit in which he swears that Jim Conley told him on April 26, the day Mary Phagan was murdered, that he had killed a girl that day, appeared at the court house Wednesday morning but did not go into the court room.

Mincey was seen by a Journal reporter as he stood across the street from the court house and watched the crowd seeking entrance. He declared that he was ready to take the witness stand and to back up his statement. When asked whether he had seen Conley since the day that he claimed the negro confessed to him, he declined to answer.

Mincey says that he has been teaching school at New Salem, near Rising Fawn, in Dade county, Ga., and that school adjourned in order to permit him to come to Atlanta to testify in the Frank case.

* * *

Atlanta Journal, August 6th 1913, “Mincey Ready to Swear to Conley Affidavit,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

Judge Roan Rules Out Most Damaging Testimony Given By Conley Against Leo Frank

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

Atlanta Journal
August 6th, 1913

Solicitor Dorsey in Vigorous Speech Protests Against Striking Evidence, Declaring He Has Witnesses to Corroborate the Negro and That Striking of Testimony Will Prevent His Getting Their Statements Before the Jury

Sustaining a motion made by the defense in the trial of Leo M. Frank, Judge L. S. Roan Tuesday afternoon announced that he would rule out all of Conley’s testimony charging the accused superintendent with perversion, and the negro’s testimony that he acted as a “lookout” for Frank on days previous to the murder. The judge ruled that Conley’s testimony that he watched for the accused on the day of the tragedy would remain in evidence.

Attorney Arnold entered the court about two minutes late. Mr. Rosser had not arrived. Mr. Arnold asked that the jury be sent out and stated that he had several motions to make. The jury went out. The first, he said, was a motion to exclude certain testimony from the record on the ground that it was wholly irrelevant, incompetent and inadmissible. Mr. Arnold held a long typewritten document in his hands.

“We move, first,” he said, “to exclude from the record all the testimony of Conley relative to watching for the defendant, and we withdraw our cross-examination on that subject.”

Second, Mr. Arnold moved that a portion of the negro’s testimony attacking Frank’s character, which was brought out through questions propounded by the solicitor, be ruled out.

Mr. Arnold concluded the argument by saying, “Before anything else is done, we move to exclude this from the record.”

Judge Roan spoke up, “As I understand it, Mr. Arnold, what you want to withdraw is testimony about watching on other occasions.”

Before this question was answered, Attorney Arnold turned to Mr. Hooper and showed him that part of Conley’s evidence which the defense wished to exclude.

Attorney Hooper took the floor saying, “To allow this motion would be to trifle with the court. When they did not object at the time this evidence was introduced I believe they lost any ground that they had for an objection. If their objection had been entered at the time of the introduction of this testimony, I should say that the objection was well taken, but I do not think that they have a right after letting it all go into the records without protest, now to move for its total exclusion.”

Continue Reading →

Judge Roan Reverses Decision on Conley Testimony

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

Atlanta Journal
August 6th, 1913

Conley’s Whole Testimony Will Be Allowed to Stay in Record of Frank Case

State Ready With Corroborating Witnesses, if Evidence Is Held to Be Admissible—Jim Conley Adds New and Sensational Feature to His Testimony, Declaring He Saw Frank Place Mary Phagan’s Pocketbook in the Factory Safe

SOLICITOR DORSEY APPLAUDED IN COURT WHEN SUSTAINED BY RECORDS AFTER DISPUTE WITH ROSSER

Those Responsible for Applause Were Immediately Ejected From the Court Room—Dr. H. F. Harris Expected to Resume Stand During Afternoon—State Will Furnish Presentation of Its Case by Thursday but Hardly Before

Judge L. S. Roan, presiding at the trial of Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the National Pencil factory, who is on trial charged with the murder of Mary Phagan, Wednesday afternoon reversed himself in his ruling made Tuesday striking out portions of Jim Conley’s testimony. The judge made his ruling Tuesday but withheld announcing it to the jury until Wednesday. His reversal means that Conley’s testimony that he acted in the capacity of a “lookout” for the accused superintendent on days prior to the day of the tragedy, and also his testimony accusing Frank of perversion remains in the testimony. It also means that Solicitor Dorsey will be allowed to present evidence corroborating the negro sweeper as to Frank’s attitude toward him and his conduct to the negro’s presence.

CONLEY ADDS NEW SENSATION.

Jim Conley, who left the witness stand at 11:10, after sixteen hours of direct and cross examination, added sensational feature to his testimony Wednesday by the declaration that he saw Frank take the mesh bag or pocket book carried by Mary Phagan from the desk in his office and placed it in the safe. So far as the public knows the mesh bag has never been found.

Over the protest of the attorneys for the defense, Solicitor Dorsey managed to get before the jury that Frank had refused to face his accuser, Jim Conley, when the detectives sought to arrange an interview at the tower.

For the first time since the trial has been in progress applause broke out in the court room when Solicitor Dorsey after a dispute with counsel for the defense over testimony given by Detective Scott, was sustained by the reading of the court stenographic notes. Dorsey had contended that Scott testified that Frank told him on April 28th about Mrs. White’s having seen a negro near the foot of the stairs on the day of the tragedy. Although the defendant had given this information to the Pinkerton detectives on April 28 declared the solicitor, it was May 7 before the state’s detectives knew about it. When the stenographer’s report of Scott’s testimony was read, sustaining the solicitor, applause broke forth in several parts of the court room at once. Those responsible for it were immediately ejected by the deputie [sic].

Dr. H. F. Harris is expected to take the stand Wednesday afternoon and finish his testimony. He will probably be under cross-examination for an hour or more. The state expects to finish the presentation of its case Thursday.

Continue Reading →

Judge Will Rule on Evidence Attacked by Defense at 2 P.M.

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 6th, 1913

As soon as court opened Mr. Rosser asked the judge if he was ready to hear argument on the proposition to eliminate parts of Conley testimony. He said he was prepared to support his motion with authorities.

Judge Roan replied that he would postpone this decision until 2 o’clock.

Solicitor Dorsey declared that he had witnesses he expects to put on the stand Wednesday morning to substantiate the part of the negro’s testimony in dispute. He said:

“I just want the court to understand that I am going to do this.”

Judge Roan replied:

“I’ll give you the benefit of whatever you bring out.”

Conley was then recalled to the stand for the conclusion of his cross-examination.

Jim Conley was the same cool, unafraid negro when he returned to the stand Wednesday morning in the trial of Leo Frank after almost two whole days under the cross-examination of Luther Rosser. He had passed through fire and didn’t seem to mind it. He had no fear of anything that was yet to come.

Mr. Rosser might threaten him or might joke with him; it was all the same to the negro. He had tried both and had established but one thing—that Conley is a liar, and Conley admits that.

Arnold might describe him as “that miserable wretch in the witness chair,” he could gaze calmly out the window as he had done before. He didn’t quite understand all those names they were calling him, anyway.

If, in all the time that Conley was under the raking fire of Rosser’s cross-examination, he was disturbed in the slightest degree it was when he was being asked about that mysterious affidavit of William H. Mincey.

Continue Reading →

Can Jury Obey if Told to Forget Base Charge?

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 6th, 1913

By James B. Nevin.

“Gentlemen of the jury, having heard from James Conley, the blackest, most damning story ever told in Atlanta by one human being against another, having sat there and listened as he smudged with unspeakable scandal the defendant in this case, Leo Frank, although it is irrelevant, immaterial, and has nothing to do with this case, you will kindly forget it, being on your oaths as jurymen to consider the evidence declared competent!”

And the jury, being like most other juries, in one way or another, and having heard all the things as aforesaid, will promptly proceed to do as instructed about forgetting it—NOT!

I have heard juries told too many times to “forget” things—such, for instance, as that there is no such thing as “unwritten law” in this land of the free and home of the brave—and I have seen too many times those very same juries proceed to “forget”—NOT!

Juries are, after all, composed of mere human beings, and things such as Conley said to the Frank jury can NOT be forgotten, and will NOT be disregarded by the average jury.

Merely Question of Belief.

It is merely a question of whether the jury BELIEVES the negro!

There was something infinitely pathetic in the situation Tuesday, when court met in the afternoon.

For one thing, it brought to the cheeks of the defendant’s wife, always and ever at his side, the first tears I yet have seen fall from her eyes.

She has borne herself with amazing fortitude thus far—the wonder is that she has not long ago collapsed.

When Reuben Arnold, moving to strike from the record the vile story of Jim Conley, paused a second before reading the exact words he desired expunged, looked a moment in the direction of the defendant’s wife, and said, with no show of the spectacular whatever, “Your honor, I would prefer not to read this in the presence of these two ladies, and I therefore pass it to your honor that you may read it in silence!” The moment was tense and tragic!

Continue Reading →

Conley Swears Frank Hid Purse

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 6th, 1913

Sweeper’s Grilling Ends After 151/2 Hours, His Main Story Unshaken

MYSTERY OF GIRL’S MESH BAG EXPLAINED BY NEGRO ON STAND

That Mary Phagan’s silver-plated mesh bag, mysteriously missing since the girl’s bruised and lifeless body was found the morning of April 27, was in Leo Frank’s office a few minutes after the attack and later was placed in the safe in Frank’s office was the startling statement made by the negro Conley Wednesday in the course of his re-direct examination by Solicitor Dorsey. At 11:10 the negro left the stand after being questioned for fifteen and one half hours.

This testimony was the sensation of the forenoon. Throughout the more than three months of the murder mystery an unavailing search was made for the mesh bag, the city and Pinkerton detectives being convinced that the finding of the bag would go a long distance toward pointing out the person guilty of the Phagan girl’s murder.

“Did you ever see a silver mesh bag that Mary Phagan carried?” inquired the Solicitor.

“Yes, sah,” replied Conley. “I see it right on Mr. Frank’s desk when I went in there.”

“What became of the mesh bag?” continued Dorsey.

“He went and put it in his safe,” the negro said.

First Word of Mysterious Bag.

It was the first information, authentic or otherwise, that had come to light regarding the disposal of the mesh bag. The homes of Newt Lee and Jim Conley had been searched high and low for the bag or any other clew to the perpetrator of the crime. Except for a vague rumor that a mesh bag had been found by a negro in a shop on Decatur street, a story which later was found to have no connection with the Phagan mystery, not the slightest clew ever was discovered to the whereabouts of the bag which so strangely had disappeared.

Attorney Rosser’s manner was angry and threatening when he arose for the re-cross examination. He began at once a vicious attack on Conley’s story of the mesh bag. He asked when Conley first told this remarkable tale. Conley said he couldn’t remember.

“Why didn’t you tell all this when you were telling ‘the whole truth’ to the detectives?” Rosser shouted.

The attorney apparently sought to create the impression that the mesh bag story was an afterthought and that it was manufactured by the negro when he heard of the search the detectives were making for the bag.

Continue Reading →

Women of Every Class and Age Listen With Morbid Curiosity To Testimony of Negro Conley

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 5th, 1913

By Britt Craig.

There was a chorus girl who sat next to an aged and withered woman who is undoubtedly a grandmother—a great-grandmother, maybe; there was a painted-cheeked girl with hollow eyes who bore the unmistakable stain of crimson, who sat between a mother who held in her lap an eager 13-year-old.

There was a wrinkled and worn old woman with the lines of care stamped indelibly, who hobbled into the room on a crutch and sat beside a man who chewed tobacco and whispered profanity. Over in a corner there was a graceful young woman with a wide hat and flowing plume and pretty features crowned with a wealth of auburn hair.

They all were at the Frank trial yesterday, listening intently to Jim Conley’s ugly story, many parts of which brought shame to the cheeks of the hardened court attaches. They sat throughout his tale, eager, expectant, apparently thrilled through and through and intent upon missing nothing.

Not a single one left the courtroom until adjournment time. On Friday afternoon, when Dr. Harris gave intimate testimony of details of his examination of Mary Phagan’s body a number of women arose from their seats, shielded their blushing cheeks with newspapers, and strode from the courtroom.

But Monday it was different. Jim Conley’s tale reeked at times and yet not a woman left the courtroom. Instead they leaned forward, bent upon escaping nothing of the odious details that came from the negro’s mouth. A mother held a child in knee dresses on a knee in a position in which the child could see and hear perfectly.

The mother held a fan, with which she fanned briskly at times. That is, at times when there was a lull in the story. But it stopped, the fan did, and was held poised in expectation, when Conley would resume relating his story.

Continue Reading →

Conley Is Mercilessly Grilled At Afternoon Session of Court

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 5th, 1913

ARRESTED 7 TIMES, HE ADMITS

Jim Conley remained on the stand throughout the afternoon session. Attorney Rosser continuting his cross-examination after the noon recess.

“Who saw you, Jim, at police headquarters?”

“Chief Beavers.”

“Who else?”
“Mr. Smith, my lawyer.”

“Was anybody else present?”
“Yes, Tawney.”

“Did he hear what was said?”
“I guess so. He could have heard.”

“You talked to no one else?”
“No, sir.”

Conley Doesn’t Remember.

“Did you watch for Mr. Frank since the time in January?”
“I think not.”

“What did you do the Saturday afternoon you watched for him?”
“I don’t remember.”

“What did you do the next Saturday?”
“I don’t remember, except that I watched for him. I missed one Saturday.”

“What did you do the Saturday before Thanksgiving and that afternoon?”
“I don’t remember.”

“How much money did you draw the first Saturday you watched for him?”
“I don’t remember.”

Continue Reading →

Amazing Testimony of Conley Marks Crucial Point of Trial; Says Frank Admitted Crime

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 5th, 1913

The crucial point of the entire case of the state versus Leo M. Frank, charged with the murder of little Mary Phagan, an employee in the National Pencil factory, of which he was superintendent, came Monday morning when after putting one or two witnesses back on the stand to bring out minor points, Solicitor Hugh Dorsey called out, “Bring in Jim Conley.”

The state had been gradually paving the way for the testimony of the negro sweeper who declares that Frank called on him to hide the body of the dead girl and told him that “he had struck her too hard,” and as the darkey’s name was called out a murmur ran through the crowded courtroom and several women spectators even clapped their hands together before the sheriff’s deputies could restore order.

Jim Conley came in after a short wait. Police Chief James L. Beavers had brought the negro from the station house in his automobile and the negro came slowly into the courtroom walking directly in front of the chief and with no handcuffs or other evidences of being a prisoner.

Conley on the Stand.

After the usual questions to establish his identity the solicitor asked: “Do you know Leo M. Frank?”
“Yes, sir.”

“Point him out.”

Continue Reading →

Conley Grilled Five Hours By Luther Rosser

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

Atlanta Constitution
August 5th, 1913

REMARKABLE STORY IS TOLD BY NEGRO IN ACCUSING FRANK OF PHAGAN MURDER

Chief Witness for State Admits, Under Cross-Examination, That He Has Been Under Arrest Seven or Eight Times, and That Many Statements Made in His Three Affidavits Are False. Hangs His Head and “Fools With His Fingers” When He Lies, He Says.

LOOPS MURDER NOOSE AROUND HIS OWN NECK TO ILLUSTRATE STORY

By Order of Judge the Court Is Cleared of Women and Children at Afternoon Session Owing to Revolting Testimony Given by Conley—Dr. Roy Harris, It Is Understood, Will Be Closing Witness Summoned by the Prosecution.

The long-looked-for sensation in the Leo M. Frank trial came Monday morning when Jim Conley, the negro sweeper formerly employed at the National Pencil factory, took the stand and told a revolting as well as dramatic story of what he claims to know of the murder of little Mary Phagan.

Following the telling of this story, parts of which can only be hinted at, Conley was placed under cross-examination by Luther Rosser. For five hours and a half the able attorney for the defense wheedled and coaxed and cajoled and used every tactic known to the legal profession to break down the fabric of the story and to tear the tale to tatters.

He succeeded in confusing the negro as to minor details only. He failed to shake the foundation of the main story—which was that, on Saturday, April 25, Leo M. Frank had asked him to “look out” for him while he “chatted” with a young woman; that later Frank had called to him and told him the girl had “refused him” and that he had struck her. He then described seeing the body of the girl lying on the floor near her machine with a cord and a piece of cloth around her neck. She was dead.

Continue Reading →

Negro Sweeper Remanded to Solitude in Jail Over Night

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

Atlanta Journal
August 5th, 1913

Jim Conley Grilled for Many Hours By Frank’s Attorney Who Fails to “Rattle” Him

Luther Rosser Makes Negro Admit Lies and Terms in Prison, but Sweeper Remains Good Witness for State—Women Excluded From Court Room During Afternoon Session, Numerous Tilts Between Opposing Counsel Marked With Bitterness.

The afternoon session of the Frank trial was marked by many tilts between the solicitor and his assistant with counsel for the defense and toward the end of the session much bitterness was injected into the remarks by various members of opposing counsel. Judge Roan decided with Frank’s counsel after vigorous protests by Solicitor Dorsey on the manner in which Attorney Rosser was questioning the witness, Jim Conley [illegible].

The jury was excused shortly before court adjourned for the day at 5:30 pm and Attorney Arnold, for the defense, asked the court to have Conley [illegible] in solitide where the prosecution could not talk with him. [Illegible] said that the examination of the negro is only half completed and that it would be unfair for the state’s agents to converse with him. To his request the solicitor acquiesced and stated to the court that he hoped the prisoner would be safeguarded from any others reaching him. Judge Roan remanded the prisoner to the custody of Sheriff Mangum and ordered a special guard put over the witness during the night, allowing none to talk with him.

The only important development during the afternoon was the admission by Conley under cross-examination, that he had served seven terms in jail.

During the cross-examination of the negro Jim Conley at the afternoon session, Attorney Rosser, for the defense, asked:

Continue Reading →

Lawyers on Both Sides Satisfied With Conley

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

Atlanta Journal
August 5th, 1913

They Haven’t Shaken Him a Particle,” Says Dorsey—“He Has Told About 240 Lies Already,” Declares Attorney Reuben Arnold

Both the state’s attorneys and the counsel for Leo M. Frank Tuesday at noon expressed satisfaction with the progress of the cross-examination of James Conley, the negro sweeper. The negro had been on the stand then for more than nine hours, during eight hours of which he had undergone a strenuous grilling at the hands of Attorney L. Z. Rosser.

“They have not shaken him a particle,” declared Solicitor Dorsey, “and that isn’t all. I don’t believe they will be able to do so.” Attorney Frank A. Hooper, who is assisting Mr. Dorsey in the prosecution of Frank said: “Mr. Rosser will go ahead and wear himself out, and Attorney Arnold will hurl questions at Conley until he, too, grows weary, and when it is all over the negro will still be there ready for more.”

Mr. Rosser was confident that he had made great headway in discredited Conley’s testimony. He smilingly commented upon how he had tangled up the negro when he got him away from his recited story, but said that when Conley got back into his well-drilled tale he ran along like a piece of well-oiled machinery. “I’ve caught him in a mass of lies,” asserted Mr. Rosser.

“Conley has lied both specifically and generally,” declared Reuben Arnold. “He has lied about material things and he has lied about immaterial things. He has told about 340 lies since he has been under cross-examination. I kept tab on him until he had told over 300 lies, and then they came so fast I couldn’t keep up with him.”

* * *

Atlanta Journal, August 5th 1913, “Lawyers on Both Sides Satisfied With Conley,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)